Oh, eyebrows. Does anyone else have a love-hate relationship with theirs? Mine are not exactly bushy, but I'd say they're spread out and never really seem to take on a shape. I'm also afraid to touch them at all. Even doing a simple "cleanup" is too daunting of a task for me. You can probably tell how my brows are faring during quarantine—the last time I got them professionally done was back in February! And it doesn't help that now people can only see the top part of your face when you go outside (if you're wearing a mask, of course, and I hope you are!).
I've always been in awe of people with amazing brows, but I'm even more envious at the moment. So I asked four brow experts and enthusiasts to share some of their tips on grooming, shaping, and tweezing in the hopes that maybe I can do something with the current state of my eyebrows. Spoiler alert: I learned a lot.
All of the experts said that if you can't get to a professional right now, it might be best to keep your brow routine low-maintenance—just limit it to a cleanup. "This is a great time to consider pressing pause on shaping and maintaining brows and simply letting them grow to their fullest potential so you can get the best shape at a later date," says Benefit Cosmetics' global brow expert Jared Bailey. "Unfortunately, brow shaping isn't something you can just test-drive. Once you remove the hair, you're pretty committed for the next six to eight weeks. However, if waiting isn't an option, make sure you tweeze and trim properly to preserve and protect your brows until you are able to see your trusted brow expert again!"
Associate beauty editor Courtney Higgs has a natural, low-maintenance shape that doesn't require much cleanup, so she says she just tweezes rogue hairs that might be giving her a unibrow, and that's about it. "Generally speaking, I try not to tweeze anything unless it's obviously not in line with the shape of my brows," she adds.
And if you feel like you really need some help, brow expert Joey Healy says you can try to set up a virtual appointment, where someone can walk you through it. He offers them through his website.
If you do decide to tweeze, Bailey says you should "brow map," which will help you personalize and tailor your brows. You take a brow pencil and make measurements to find the shape that best fits your face. Use your nose as the single point of origin to map out both brows—this will help you create symmetry and balance. Follow his steps:
1. Find the start: Measure straight from the dimple of the nose to the beginning of the brow and make a mark. This will create a slimming effect on the nose and balance the eyes.
2. Look for the arch: Beginning at the edge of the nose, we pass through the pupil to the highest portion of the brow and make a mark. This will give maximum lift to the eye area.
3. Identify the end: Measure from the outer edge of the nose past the outer corner of the eye and make a mark. This creates more of an oval illusion on the entire face.
Once you've finished, Bailey says you can use a microliner to connect each point and create a boundary for tweezing. Hairs outside of the lines should be tweezed, and those inside of the lines should stay. "If the hair falls on the line, leave it be. This is what we call the 'no zone' and should be entered by professionals only!" he adds.
"If you feel like you overwork your brows, set a time limit on how long you tweeze. Set a timer for maybe 10 minutes for your cleanup just so you know you're not taking it overboard," Healy says. "Also, do it when you're not rushing, when you have time to dedicate to the shaping—not like right before you go into an important Zoom meeting."
One of the most common mistakes people make when tweezing is removing the hair in the wrong direction, Bailey says. "Each hair is connected to a tiny blood vessel (derma vessel) that keeps it healthy and allows it to grow back when the hair is removed," he explains. "Once that vessel is ruptured, the hair never returns. Bummer, right? So to tweeze properly, you must hold the skin tight with one finger and then tweeze the hair in the direction it is growing. Typically, that direction is upward or toward the temple rather than straight out."
Both Bailey and Healy recommend saying no to those small magnifying mirrors. "Brows bring balance and proportion to your face and eyes, so it's important you use a mirror where you can see both of them at once," Bailey explains. "Using a tiny magnifying mirror should be illegal because you can only see a field of tiny hair versus the actual shape and what it's doing for your entire face."
Don't try to tweeze multiple hairs at once. You might think you'll be saving time, but it's a big no-no. "It's the quickest way to nearly guarantee you end up with a patch or hole in your brow shape," Bailey warns. "Proper brow tweezing takes time. Removing hairs one at a time is the best way to make sure the final result is 'oops-proof.'"
Isn't that saying always the case? Don't get too aggressive with the tweezing. Your cleanup should be pretty minimal. "Better safe than sorry," says beauty editor Erin Jahns. "I've learned that if you're waffling on whether or not to pluck a certain hair, it's almost always best to just let it be."
"Sometimes with trimming, people give themselves an eyebrow haircut," Healy says. "They trim the brows in a straight row across. It's best to trim your hairs one at a time on a diagonal angle. Overtrimming can lead to the brow being gap-y."
Bailey suggests taking a clear gel and brushing the brow hairs upward toward the hairline and out toward the temple. Let the gel dry and only trim the ends that are sticking out too far past your desired shape.
Healy says you can use product to define your shape so that you can keep hair removal at a minimum in-between your eyebrow appointments. "Sometimes, you can make a good compromise out of the brow length by using a clear brow gel," he says. "Instead of going scissor-happy, you have clear brow gel to tame them. Or if the line gets a little bit less distinct, you could have a pencil to sharpen it up. Or as the hair gets a little gray, you could use brow lacquer to coat it."
Higgs agrees and says it might be the best option for beginners: "If you're a beginner, do way less than you're inclined to do. Removing any hair yourself should be a last resort until you get comfortable with maintaining your shape."
1. Start in the arches: "Then, work toward the tails and then move toward the front," Healy says. "I like starting and concentrating the color more toward the center outward and then going really light on the front. This doesn't mean you have to do the ombre brow, where it fades into darkness, but just make sure that the front of the brow, again, isn't harsh the way it starts."
2. Use a light hand: "Go in and make tiny flicks in areas that have large spaces," Bailey says. "It's much easier to make thinner strokes with deeper pencils because they are more pigmented. By using a light amount of pressure, the result will leave you with an ultrathin, hair-like stroke. The lighter the shade, the more pressure you have to use to apply, and the strokes get much, much wider." He also recommends leaving pops of skin between each stroke, which creates a texturized effect.
3. Don't color it all in: Healy says a mistake people often make is outlining the brow and then filling it in like paint by numbers. "You just want to use the pencil in the places that you need it the most. If you do have a good color match, you can just use it in the front, just use it in the end, just use it on one little gap, but you don’t want to go and just fill in the whole thing like a crayon," he explains. Use a very light hand in the front.
4. Use a spoolie to blend: "Sometimes with pencils, people try to mimic hair-like strokes by drawing unblended lines in their brow," Healy says. "It doesn't look natural; make sure you use the spoolie on the other side to blend. That's another tip for buying a pencil: Make sure you have a spoolie and that it's retractable and triangular led."
Best Eyebrow Pencils
A must-have product for your brows is an eyebrow pencil. Bailey says they're great for everyone, from the novices to the pros. A good brow pencil will create a natural look and might even have a slimming or rounding effect for your face shape.
When choosing the right shade, Bailey says to think of the undertone of your hair (cool, warm, and neutral), and match it to the undertone of the product. "You want to be in the same range as your hair, but you don't have to match it exactly," Healy adds. "Some people like to go a little bit lighter. Say, they have black hair—they like to have a dark brown brow, but there's no rule of thumb." The great thing about the pencil is that the darkness of your brows depends on how much you put on and how much you blend it, so you can adjust accordingly.
Take a look at some expert- and editor-approved brow pencils to help you get started.
Bailey loves this microliner pencil. "It will be your best friend if you have sparse brows, as it allows you to create believable fullness by simply flicking the pencil in the same direction of your hair growth," he says. "Don't forget to leave spaces between each stroke—the pops of flesh make the flicks look like real hair."
Healy recommends his Brow Architect Stylo. He says to look for a pencil with a wedge shape to it. "It's easier to fill in because you can use it on three sides: the broad side, the line side, the point side," he says. "It's very intuitive. You want a retractable pencil, something you don't have to resharpen. Sharpening is a pain, and you often waste product."
"Anastasia Brow Wiz is the best brow pencil I've ever used," Higgs says. "The tip is superfine and makes it easy to fill in the brows with hair-like strokes that look really natural. Plus, there's a spoolie brush on the other end, so you have everything you need all in one."
Jahns says this is her all-time favorite because the texture and color are just perfect. "I never want my brows to look heavy or too aggressive, but they are naturally darker in color, which has made it difficult to find the right color option that doesn't lay things down too heavily," she explains. "I actually really embrace my super-light hair and dark brow look, but it can get too intense very quickly if the brow color is too dark! Typically, I have the best luck with any pencil that's more taupe."
"It is an easy-to-use brow pencil known for its custom, teardrop-shaped tip that allows you to fill and shape your brows in seconds with just a couple of strokes," Bailey says. "I love Goof Proof because it's functional and easy to use for everyone, from a beauty novice to a makeup maven… You literally can't goof it up!" And it comes in 12 different shades.
"Damone Roberts also makes another brow pencil that I love a lot," Higgs adds. "It's a little softer in texture, making it very user-friendly. While the tip isn't ultrafine like the Anastasia option, it's a traditional pencil that can be sharpened, so it doesn't ever have to get dull."
This retractable brow pencil is long-lasting, waterproof, and smudgeproof. It has a paddle brush attached for blending and styling. And you can easily find a shade that suits you perfectly—there are 14 hues.
It Cosmetics' best-selling eyebrow pencil creates a natural look. For a lighter look, go with soft pressure, and for more color, press harder. Reviewers like that it glides on smoothly and that it's easy to control how light or dark you want your brows to look.
Hourglass's pencil is another popular favorite. It's a mechanical product with a triangular-shaped tip. The formula has a consistency that combines powder, pencil, and wax, so you can really have it all. Many reviewers love that it's long-lasting.
You're going to love that this pencil gives you 16 hours of uninterrupted wear—it's sweat- and humidity-resistant and waterproof. With the slanted tip, you can use the flat edge for a soft look and the pointed tip for defined brows.
It's easy to achieve a soft, natural look with this pencil that comes with a spoolie. Reviewers say it doesn't smudge and glides on easily. It's available in five different shades and lasts for up to 24 hours.