Like most people, I have been on a brow ~journey.~ I started tweezing my brows when I was in the fifth grade. Not necessarily because I needed to but because I had read about it in a People magazine I was skimming in line at the grocery store and was fascinated by it. No one in my family tweezed their eyebrows. The fact that people groomed their brow hair was mesmerizing to me. Little did I know that brows would be a billion-dollar business in just a few years time.
I tweezed my own brow hair religiously from fifth grade until I was a freshman in high school, which was when I lost my waxing virginity. We took a trip to the local career center where I obviously spent my day shadowing the cosmetology students. Someone offered to wax my eyebrows and I reluctantly agreed. While it did seem to be a much quicker method of hair removal, I was maimed and spent the next few weeks looking perpetually perplexed until my brow hair grew back. I vowed to never let anyone else wax my brows again.
Fast forward a few years and I’m a freshman in college looking for a cheap way to indulge in a little self-care. Some people (probably men) might think it’s weird that having hot wax applied directly to your skin in order to pull your facial hair out by the root is considered self-care, but it is. If you know, you know. I ended up at the newly-opened Ulta Beauty in Okemos where a Benefit Brow Artist, who actually happened to be now-famous YouTuber Alex Garza, waxed my eyebrows. When I left I had amazing looking brows and felt like a million bucks.
TRIAL AND ERROR
The day that Alex Garza waxed my eyebrows was the first day I ever had any makeup in them. She filled them in with a Benefit powder and I remember thinking “I kind of like this but also maybe a little too bold?” At that time, bold brows were not the trend. I did, however, like how filling them in made them frame my face a little more clearly. And so began my years-long process of trial and error. I never remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “wow, those look terrible.” Quite the contrary, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “Wow. Those look great.” But they didn’t. Learn from my mistakes.
Dear God in heaven, what was I thinking?
START WITH THE SPARSE SPOTS
If you’ve never filled your brows in before, the best place to start is looking in the mirror and identifying the sparse places in your brows, filling those in and going from there. You can always add more product—taking it away is a little trickier.
USE HAIR LIKE STROKES
Even if you choose to use a pencil, filling your brows in shouldn’t be like coloring. It’s much more artful and intentional than that. Create short, hair-like strokes in the direction that your hair naturally grows by making a gentle flicking motion with your wrist. Practice makes perfect!
PAY ATTENTION TO THE TAIL
Whether you’ve overplucked or had a wax mishap like yours truly, extending your eyebrow a little bit can make a world of difference. Be careful when you do this though, because drawing it in a downward slant brings the focus of the eye down, making you look older, sad and kind of saggy. Try to draw it out in more of a straight line for a lifted effect.
SOFTEN ANY HARSH LINES/EDGES
I bared my soul (well at least an embarrassing picture) so you can all see what it looks like when you throw caution to the wind and don’t BLEND. Make sure that you brush through your brows with a spoolie after you’re done applying product to avoid looking boxy eyebrows like I had.
ACCENTUATE YOUR SHAPE
The point of filling in your brows is to accentuate the shape that you already have. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you want to alter the shape of your brow or change the arch, I highly suggest visiting a professional who can help you. In this case, we’re merely accentuating what we already have by following our brow shape.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT COLOR
Aside from haphazardly color blocking your brows, the quickest way to mess this up is to choose the wrong color. I always try to match my brows to my natural hair color, which is a dark, neutral brown shade. If you’re blonde, a taupe color will probably work best. Taupe is probably the best shade for redheads as well, although there are auburn pencils available!
HIGHLIGHT THAT BROW BONE
This isn’t technically a tip for filling in your brows, but throwing a pop of shimmery eyeshadow or highlighter on your brow bone directly under your arch gives a really pretty lifting effect.
There are a million different brow products on the market. From powders to pencils, pomades to fibers, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what product will help you achieve your desired look.
Let’s break it down:
Eyebrow gels are my favorite eyebrow product of all time because it’s the quickest and easiest way to add color, hold and fullness to the brow. After getting my eyebrows microbladed (you can read a detailed account of that process here), I sometimes just throw some gel in my eyebrows and call it a day.
In order to use a gel, the first thing you’re going to want to do is take the wand out and wipe off any excess product—the same way you would with mascara. Once you’ve done that, you just swipe the wand through your brow hair. I like to start at the front and brush the hairs up and then brush them in the direction of the natural hair growth once I reach the arch.
I use brow gel every single day, without question. Whether or not I use pencil, soap, pomade (or a combination of all three) beforehand, I always, always finish with a swipe of brow gel. It’s a great way to get your brows to stay in place all day.
PRO TIP: If you really want to pump up the volume of your brows, take the spoolie and brush AGAINST your natural hair growth. It picks up the hairs and coats each individual hair in product, making them fuller and fluffier.
MY GEL PICKS
Uoma Beauty Brow Fro Blow Out Gel*
Glossier Boy Brow
Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel
Benefit Gimme Brow
Milk Makeup Kush Fiber Gel
*my favorite gel
Brow pencils are probably the most common and easiest brow products you can use. Whether you already have full brows or are looking to fill in sparse areas or add definition to your tail, a pencil can help you achieve a soft, natural-looking brow.
The first step to using a pencil is to brush through your brows with a spoolie. Make sure that all your front brows hair are brushed up and then brush all the hairs after the arch down. Start by filling in any sparse patches with short, feather-like strokes and THEN go in and define the front of your brows.
I’ve tried every brow pencil under the sun and, honestly, most of them are very very similar. My favorite brow pencil is the Anastasia Brow Whiz but if you’re on a budget, I highly recommend this Morphe one.
PRO TIP: If you mess up and end up looking boxy, take a fluffy eyeshadow brush and blend out the product the same way you would eyeshadow.
MY PENCIL PICKS:
Anastasia Brow Wiz*
Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow Ultra Fine Shape & Define
Fenty Beauty Brow VMP
Morphe Micro Brow Pencil**
e.l.f Instant Lift Eyebrow Pencil
*my favorite pencil, **my drugstore favorite
The first time I ever filled my eyebrows in, I used a Benefit powder. Powders tend to result in a softer look, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go overboard. I am living proof of that.
Just like pencils, powders are used to fill in sparse areas of the brows. To use a powder, you’re also going to need an angled brush. I really like this brush from Anastasia Beverly Hills. Coat the brush with the powder and tap it on your hand to get off any excess product. Then, sweep it in the direction of your hair growth with a light hand. Once you’re done, be sure to comb through with a spoolie to soften the edges and avoid looking harsh.
PRO TIP: You can also use brow powder to set anything you’ve done with a different brow product. And, since the brow powder is probably going to match the color of your natural hair, you can use it to fill in any sparse spots on your hairline, too. This works especially well if you’re wearing your hair pulled back or in a ponytail. You’re welcome.
MY POWDER PICKS
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo*
Benefit Cosmetics Fool Proof Brow Powder
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12
*my favorite powder because it comes with two colors for a natural, gradient brow
You know the infamous “Instagram brows?” That’s pomade.
If you’re a beginner, I would skip pomade. It gives a dramatic, defined look and, of all the brow products discussed, this is the most difficult to work with and the easiest to screw up. However, if you have very, very sparse brow hair or you purposefully want a bold brow, then pomade is what you’re looking for.
My favorite pomade is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow. I have used this on and off for probably 7 years and have only had to repurchase it once—and that was only because it dried up. You really have to use such a small amount of this product.
Just like with powder, you’ll need a brush to apply this. I like to delicately dip my brush ever so daintily into the pot, and then wipe the excess off on the inside of the lid. Then, start with small, hair-like strokes at the arch of your brow. Fill in sparse spots, elongate your tail and then, once you’re almost done, go in and define the front of your brow. Finish by brushing out with a spoolie to soften the edges.
My POMADE PICKS
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade
NYX Tame and Frame Tinted Brow Pomade
You might be thinking to yourself, “WTF are soap brows?” You might be surprised to learn that it’s literally just soap in your brows. I started experimenting with soap brows during the early days of quarantine (remember when we thought it was only going to last for two weeks LOLOL). There are products specifically meant for this purpose and I did purchase one, but a good ‘ol 99 cent bar of glycerin soap will work just fine.
To start, you brush your brows out the way that you want them. For me, that’s brushing the front hairs up, and the hairs after the arch in the natural direction they grow in. Then you’re going to wet your product with some water or any kind of facial mist, twirl your brush so it’s coated with product and repeat the same steps you just did: brush the front hairs up and the rest in the direction of natural growth.
This creates a really full, fluffy and natural look—but you can definitely go for a more dramatic, editorial vibe if that’s your thing.
I follow by filling in any sparse patches with pomade or pencil, then set everything in place with a gel.
PRO TIP: Considering brow lamination? Try this first to see what your result will look like.
MY SOAP PICKS
ARTIFUN Clear Waterproof Long Lasting Shaping Soap
Pears Glycerin Soap 2-pack
Eyebrows are important and incredibly easy to mess up. Try different products and find what works for you. What are your fail-proof eyebrow tips?