23 August 2014


Semi-recently, someone on my Tumblr asked me to write a post about how to improve their eyebrow game, and who am I to deny a request like that? So I present to you my extremely long-winded guide to eyebrows.

Eyebrows are crucial to facial recognition and expressing emotion, and there is at least one study to prove it. This is a sort of generic, really tedious post about eyebrows and how to shape them, maintain them, and fill them in. Because it isn't illustrated, I highly suggest that you browse around on the internet for some helpful videos and pictorials, some of which I'll link at the end of this post.

  1. Trim your brows. This is sometimes the only step you need to take in order to tame unruly eyebrows. Invest in a pair of brow scissors--you can find them at any drugstore. Using a spoolie, brush your hairs up and away from your eyes. Any hairs that are long enough to stick out of your desired brow shape should be trimmed with the scissors.
    NOTE: If you are of Asian descent, you might have the curse of long, super-straight brow hairs. This is my plight and no matter how much brushing you do to try to get your brow hairs to stay up, they will always fall back down. Do your best. If you get frustrated, just trim them at the angle at which they grow.
    NOTE: If you're a lefty and you're looking for brow scissors, you're screwed. (Yay, both of these notes apply to me!)
  2. Pluck strays. If there are hairs growing outside your desired brow shape, take a good pair of tweezers to them. Remember that it is very easy to go overboard and sometimes one single hair can be a gateway to taking out an entire row of hairs and suddenly you have pencil-thin eyebrows that don't look good on anyone. Back away from the mirror every few hairs to make sure your brows don't get too crazy. And remember: your brows are sisters, not twins. It's okay if they aren't perfect mirror images of each other.
    THIS IS OPTIONAL! I've seen a lot of people who don't pluck their eyebrows and as long as it doesn't bother you, then there's no need to mess with what you're born with.

This is entirely up to you! Your answer might be never, or on special occasions, or always. (I fall into the last category.) At the very least, I encourage you to partake in eyebrow maintenance at least once every two weeks. I believe that everyone could benefit from filling in their eyebrows because it opens up the face and can often diminish the need for other makeup if you don't want to make the effort.

Like I said, my personal preference is filling in my eyebrows as long as I'm leaving the house, even if I'm not wearing any other makeup. At work, I usually don't bother with makeup on my face or eyes, just sunscreen, and I put on some sort of bright lipstick, but my brows are always done.

In terms of special occasions, I suggest filling in your brows if you plan on doing any of the following:
  • dyeing your hair a different colour, especially if you don't plan on dyeing your brows. (If you do dye or bleach your brows, DO NOT USE DRUGSTORE BOXED HAIR COLOUR OR BLEACH and DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF. See a professional, please--don't risk getting chemical burns around and/or in your eyes!)
  • wearing a smoky eye. If you don't do something with your brows, they will look sad and forlorn against awesome dark eyeshadow. Don't miss this opportunity. If you're also wearing any lip colour that isn't nude with smoky eyes, don't go too heavy with the brows or it'll be too much competition between each part of your makeup. If you're wearing a nude lip colour, feel free to go bold with your brows.
  • wearing a red or vampy lip. In general, makeup artists advise you to go easy on the eye makeup if you're wearing a bold lip colour, but the exception is your brows. Without a defined brow, your face will be out of balance and the upper half of your face will look washed out. This is one that I cannot stress often enough because so many people are trying out bold lip colours (a trend that I HIGHLY SUPPORT) but not enough of those people are paying attention to their eyebrows. It will change your entire look.
  • if you're going to be onstage. I'm a performer, both of music and of theatre, and anyone can tell you that expression is very important to performance. If people cannot see your eyebrows, expression is going to be so much more difficult.

The most common method of shaping your brows is the three-point method. Take a pencil and follow along.
  1. The first point is where your brow should start toward the center of your face. Press the pencil against the side of your nose, excluding your nostril, with the eraser at the base of your nose. The inner corner of your brow should start where this straight line is.
  2. The second point is where the arch of your brow should be. Stare straight ahead. Keeping the eraser at the base of your nose in line with where your brow should start, tilt the pencil until it crosses right over your pupil. The arch of your brow should be on this angle.
  3. The third point is where your brow should end toward your temple. Keeping the eraser in the same place as before, tilt the pencil until it reaches the outer edge of your eye. The end of your brow should be on this angle.

Now, this is just a general guideline, and it also assumes that you want an arch in your brow, which is totally optional. Straight brows and rounded brows are beautiful, too! If you want an arch, you can make it a small one or a very large one, or it can be slightly curved so that the arch isn't a noticeable angle. This is really up to your personal preference, though there is a guide about what brow shape goes with what face shape here.

Keep in mind that the three-point method is designed to give you the most flattering brow for your face. You can definitely play around with the location of each, but keep in mind the following:
  • The size of the gap between your brows can change the appearance of your nose's size. i.e.: If it's a small distance between your brows, your nose will appear smaller. If you have a wider gap, your nose will appear larger. Wayne Goss has a video about that here.
  • In general, the arch of your brow should be more toward your temple than the center of your eyes. If your arch is too far in, your brows might look a bit strange.
  • If your natural brow doesn't extend as far as the third point, you do not have to extend your brow with product. That is your choice entirely.

  1. Read the beginning of each section to see if it applies to you so you can pick the correct type of product to use.
    A) If you have very thick brows or are a beginner who doesn't want to venture into filling in your brows, read on. If this doesn't apply to you, skip to step 1B.
    Use a clear brow gel to tame your brows.
    Swipe the wand through them a few times so the hairs stay in place. If you want a little extra colour or for your brows to look a little thicker, use a tinted brow gel. No need to read on if you're not interested in other methods.
    B) If you are a beginner who wants to fill in your brows and you prefer the easiest method, read on. If you want to put more effort into it or you want control over shading your brows, skip to step 1C.
    Use an eyebrow pencil to define your brows.
    Take the pencil and follow your natural brow shape, making quick strokes to define and set your brows. When you're done, take a clean spoolie and run it through your brows to pick up excess product and make the shape look more natural. If you have a very thin pencil, you can mimic natural hair growth with a few well-placed lines.
    C) If you're practised at filling in your brows with a pencil and want to try a new method or you want to consider the ombre brow trend (explained later on in this post), read on. If you prefer a bolder brow look or need a long-lasting look, skip to step 1D.
    Use brow powder or a matte eyeshadow to fill in your brows.
    I would always advise priming your brows with either a bit of eyeshadow primer or a brow wax before proceeding with a powder so it can adhere to something and won't disappear from your face, especially if you have oily skin. If you have dry skin, priming is optional, but would help the longevity of your brows. Take a stiff angled brush (Anastasia Beverly Hills makes a wonderful one) and run it through your powder of choice and create two lines--one at the top of your brow and one at the bottom. This will give you an outline of where your powder should be, and you can subtly thicken the appearance of your brows if you'd like. Do the same from the arch of your brow out to the end. Fill in your brows with powder using short strokes. Take a spoolie and run it through your brows, blending carefully so there aren't harsh powder lines that might be noticeable at a distance.
    D) If you want a bold brow OR you're advanced with filling in your brows OR you have very oily skin and need a product that stays OR you want something waterproof in case you're going out for the night or might be near water, read on.
    Use a cream product to fill in your brows.
    Cream products are designed to last through basically everything except makeup remover. The tiniest bit of product is enough for both brows, but you can always use a bit more if you want a bolder look. You can also use a cream eyeliner if the formula works for you. Take a stiff angled brush and dip it in the product, brushing off excess on a tissue or the lid of the product if applicable. Outline the top and bottom of your brows and then fill them in. These products are buildable, so try using only the tiniest bit first and then adding more if you aren't satisfied with the intensity.
  2. Set your brows with a tinted brow gel. This will keep your hairs in place and give a little more dimension to the look. A clear brow gel works, too, as long as you take a clean spoolie and apply brow gel without putting it back into the tube later. This will contaminate your nice, clear gel and cause bacteria to run rampant in it, turning it cloudy. It will probably start smelling gross, too.

Please remember that you don't always have to stick to one method! My routine has changed many times just in the last year, but this is what I'm doing right now, and even then I have two options.

  1. Trim and pluck as needed. I trim my brows about every two weeks, and I pluck whenever I need to-- about every 1-2 days since my hair is dark and I'm a ghost. My brow growth is super noticeable. (I would advise not plucking this often if you can avoid it!)
  2. NATURAL Using Anastasia Beverly Hills Beauty Express brow kit in Brunette: Take the angled brush and some brow wax and prime the brows. Clean the brush, then load up the lighter of the two powders and fill in the inner half of the brow following step 1C of FILLING IN YOUR BROWS. Clean the brush again, then use the darker of the two powders to fill in the rest of the brow. Because my eyebrows are a bit on the short side, I extend the outer corner of my brow.BOLD Using Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW™ Pomade in Dark Brown: Take an angled brush and dip it into the pomade, making sure to use a light hand OR to wipe off excess product on the lid. Outline the top and bottom of the brow and fill them in following step 1D of FILLING IN YOUR BROWS.
  3. Set with Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel in Granite.

When I say ombre, I mean lighter toward your nose and darker toward your temples, which is supposed to be the natural gradient of brows. There are other ways of doing this, like focusing colour on the bottom edge of your brows and blending up!

This is easiest with a powder, so I'm going to explain this method using powders. Many brow powders include two shades, which makes this a really awesome option. You can also do this with cream products if you're advanced and good at blending!

In general, you want to use a lighter shade from the inner corner of the brow almost to the arch, but you can play with this as necessary. For example, when I do the ombre method, I often only use a lighter shade until two-thirds of the way to my arch and then fill in the rest of my brow with a darker shade. If I'm doing a brow with some sort of colour, I might just put the colour a third of the way into my brow or even just a hint at the inner corner and then use a natural shade to fill the rest in.

  1. Take a lighter powder and an angled brush and load it up. Follow step 1C under FILLING IN YOUR BROWS when it comes to outlining and filling in your brows. Take a darker powder and fill in the rest of your brow.
  2. Use a spoolie and comb through your brow to loosen up the colour and take out any rough patches.
  3. If your blending isn't so great from the first pass, take a clean brush and run it through the darker colour into the lighter colour right where the two meet. You want to create a gradient. Alternatively, use a powder somewhere in between the two original shades and use that to blend the two together.
  4. Finish with brow gel.

DO IT. If you've seen my beauty blog at all, you've probably noticed that I don't shy away from crazy colours. Purple, blue, green, red? If you feel confident about the idea, then try it. These are very much statement brows, particularly if your hair isn't dyed to match, and as long as you feel comfortable wearing them, then it's worth it. If you have lighter hair, using a bright cream liner or powder will be a little easier than someone with thick, dark hair like mine, but there's no need to try to cover up each hair with colour if you have dark hair. Just run with it.

Fill in your brows following the methods described in FILLING IN YOUR BROWS depending on the products you're using. I don't advise using pencil eyeliners to do this, mostly because they're often softer than brow pencils and will go on too thickly. Stick to powder or cream products and set with a clean, disposable spoolie and clear brow gel if needed. However, if you find an eyeliner that is matte and a bit on the dry side, you might be able to use it as a brow pencil.

Using a clear brow gel or brow wax as a base all over your brows, dust some loose powder and let that dry. Or you can use a primer and then a brow powder lighter than your natural shade. Really, anything goes as long as you give the powder something to stick to so it doesn't slip right off the hairs.

You can also use a cream product, but sometimes that doesn't stick to your hair and might create a contrast between hair colour and product that you don't want.

No shaving required! Beautylish has a wonderful tutorial here.

NOTE: I have tried this method and it works for the most part, but I find that with my hair texture, the glue doesn't fill in all the gaps between hairs and you can still tell where my eyebrows are after concealer and powder. You might want to test this out beforehand if you're planning to do this for an event of some sort.

After you've filled in your brows with the method of your choice, you'll want to find a good concealer, either your shade or one shade lighter depending on how much attention you want to draw to your brows.
Load a stiff brush with concealer and carefully trace over your brow (and under, if you want even more oomph). This will look hilarious at first--don't fret. Now, take a clean brush and blend the hell out of your concealer until there is no harsh line between it and the rest of your skin. This is also a very useful tip to clean up the appearance of your brow if you messed up somewhere.

The general guidelines say this: choose a shade that is 1-2 shades darker than your hair colour, unless you have very dark hair, in which case you should choose a shade 1-2 shades lighter than your hair colour. I think this is a pretty solid rule to follow. You can choose to fill in your brows in regard to your natural hair colour or your dyed hair colour. Always consider your undertones in both hair colour and skin colour! (Guides on how to find both are here.)

If you have red hair, sometimes it might help to go more brunette than red because redder eyebrows might feel out of place. If your red is natural, your brows might be blonde and nearly invisible. If your red is from a box or the salon, your brows might not match. If you want to lighten the appearance of your brows, scroll back up! If not, you might want to match your brows to your hair colour, which isn't for everyone, or you might want to try the universal shade.

The universal brow shade is taupe. What is taupe, you ask? It's a colour somewhere between grey and brown. Since grey is cool and brown is warm, this makes taupe a great default colour for anyone who is unsure where to start with colours. It will give definition to blonde brows while still leaving them natural, and it will provide a base for brunette and black hair without being harsh.

Remember, these are just guidelines that you don't need to follow. Do you want blue eyebrows but have brown hair? Go for it. Do you have blonde hair but want to do the dark eyebrow trend? Rock on. The sky's the limit here.

My only caveat to this is that true black brows might look unnatural on most people. If you're really attached to the idea of black brows, go for a softer black, or remember that it will look theatrical and not everyone is suited to it. If that's the look you're going for, then more power to you!

This just means matte vs. shimmer vs. satin vs. whatever else you can find out there, including glitter. In general, I think matte products are best for your brows because you don't want them to compete with any other part of your makeup or catch the light in a weird way.
Shimmer, if used heavily, can look out of place on your brow bone. Shimmer used in moderation, however, can give the brow a little extra dimension without being clownish, and since natural hairs usually catch the light, a bit of shimmer can help mimic that look. Anastasia's tinted brow gel is an excellent example.
Glitter is fun and can make for a really awesome brow in pictures and editorials, but be advised that trying to get glitter out of your eyebrows will never actually happen. It will be there for months.
Reminder: what works for me might not work for you! You might have to go through a few different products until you find something that you really like.

It Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil - This comes in a Universal Taupe shade, and despite how dark my brow hairs are, when I apply the pencil with a slightly heavy hand, the colour works really well. People with lighter hair should use a light hand and it will work just as well.
Benefit Cosmetics Instant Brow Pencil - Comes in 3 shades. Creamy without melting away immediately. This is a good place to start. I ran out of the pencil early this year and didn't repurchase because I didn't like using a pencil anymore and the brand isn't cruelty-free. (I used the shade Deep.)

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo - Comes in 11 shades. Each duo has one lighter and one darker powder in the same pan, so you can use each one separately or blend them together. These are really good for natural looking brows. (I use the shade Brunette but also own Ebony.)
Any powder eyeshadow - Look, I can't really discriminate against any brand here. I will use any matte shadow I can get my hands on and even some shimmers if I'm just taking pictures for the blog.

My favourite brand for bright mattes is Sugarpill, but Concrete Minerals has these Pro Matte loose eyeshadows that are I. Urban Decay's Faint eyeshadow (in the Naked Basics palette) is a good taupe shade. Laura Mercier eyeshadow in Plum Smoke and Sephora eyeshadow in Blueberry Muffin No 30 are my go-to shades for a subtle purple ombre brow.

Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW™ Pomade - Comes in 8 shades. This product only came out last year and already it's gaining a cult following for good reason. I love this stuff because it gives you a bold brow without too much work, and it comes off easily with makeup remover at night.
Even with my oily skin, it doesn't budge throughout the day. you want to be more light-handed with this product because it's very easy to go overboard, but it is buildable so you can start off with a very thin layer for a more natural brow and build up to a very bold brow that's perfect for photography. Consider going a shade lighter than what you would pick for any other brow product because of the intensity of pigment. (I use the shade Dark Brown, but also own Ebony.)
Inglot AMC Eyeliner Gel - These are great because they come in such a huge range of colours, so if you want turquoise brows that don't budge, try 87. If you're looking for a purple, consider 82 or 83. There's just so many options!

Brow gels
Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel - Comes in 7 shades. This is a really good product and keeps my brows in place all day, though it's not entirely waterproof. That's not much of an issue most of the time, though. It has some shimmer in it which gives the hair dimension and doesn't make the brow look flat. (I use the shade Granite.)
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel - Clear. This is a universal product!

This list is hardly inclusive of every possible product, but I hear about these products the most.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz - Comes in 9 shades. These are very thin and really good if you want to draw on individual hairs.

Urban Decay Brow Box - Comes in 2 shades. These sets come with 2 brow powders, a brow wax, mini tweezers, a mirror, and two mini angled brushes.

Make Up Forever Aqua Brow - Comes in 7 shades. This is a waterproof product and you only need the tiniest bit for both brows.
NYX Eyebrow Gel - Comes in 5 shades. A drugstore equivalent to the MUFE Aqua Brow about which I've heard a lot of rave reviews, so I went ahead and bought all 5 shades. Review to come!
Too Faced Bulletproof Brows - Comes in 2 shades. This is waterproof and claims to be a powder, gel, pencil, and setting wax in one.
Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse - Comes in 3 shades. This is a mousse, so the texture is quite different from the others mentioned here.

Brow gels
Benefit Cosmetics Gimme Brow - Comes in 2 shades. This contains fibers to help thicken up your brows if you so choose.

  • If you've slept strangely and wake up with brow hairs sticking up all over the place, take a drop of a facial oil and smooth it over your brows. This always works for me, especially if there are really wonky hairs that are bent because I slept on my arm or smashed my face into my pillow, but I can't guarantee this works for everyone. Please report back to me and let me know if this works for you! It might also be worthwhile to try experiments with coconut oil or olive oil, but do keep in mind that while coconut oil is awesome for your hair and great at removing makeup, using it as a moisturiser can cause acne because it is a rather comedogenic, or pore-clogging, oil.
  • If you accidentally get product outside of where you want your brows to be, take a cotton swab to the mistake as soon as possible and it should come off. If you're using a cream product that has already set, you might need a little makeup remover to correct a mistake. A little bit will do the trick! Too much makeup remover can escape your swab and drip into your eyebrows, ruining what you've already done.
THIS IS BY NO MEANS AN ALL-INCLUSIVE GUIDE! There are so many other wonderful tutorials out there and I really encourage you to look for them. Makeup how-to videos are incredibly valuable when you delve into them, but be warned: they are addicting! And this is also not meant to be me telling you that you need to do one of these aforementioned tasks for your eyebrows. If you are happy with your eyebrows, that is all that matters. However, if you want a place to start regarding your brows, I hope this was informative and helpful.

NOTE 1: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am not a licensed make-up artist or beautician. I am a beauty blogger and make-up enthusiast who happens to talk about eyebrows a lot. I am not condoning this post as some sort of be-all end-all handbook on brows, and I'm sure there are many of you who have your own methods. This is merely a collection of what I've read on the internet and watched in videos, with the addition of my own experience. I would love to read about what you do differently than what I've listed here, or product recommendations, or even brow horror stories.
You'll notice that most sections include me saying THE FINAL DECISION IS YOURS. (Paraphrasing a tiny bit.) I am of the firm belief that when it comes to makeup, as long as it makes you happy and you feel confident in it, do whatever you want. Makeup rules don't exist--they are always guidelines. They only exist so you have somewhere to start if you need it.

NOTE 2: The state of makeup and fashion in society is very eurocentric and quite misogynistic, and it feeds into capitalism. I personally use makeup as a form of self-expression, but I recognise that women are shamed into wearing makeup and women of colour are shamed into wearing makeup to emulate Western standards of beauty. Women of colour with naturally thick eyebrows have been subject to ridicule for years, but recent trends due to the emergence of white cis female models with bold eyebrows are simultaneously hypocritical yet a symbol of bastardised acceptance.
This is a superficial guide to eyebrow maintenance and makeup and I'm not an expert in the subject of the politics and social stigma surrounding makeup--please do some research if you're interested in the subject.

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