A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for almost 20 years.
This is a guide to shaping, defining, filling in, taming, coloring, and maintaining eyebrows at home. And if for whatever reason you don’t have brows, find out how to draw them on and get superbly natural-looking results.
Perfect Brows May Not Be Perfect for You
Perfectly proportioned eyebrows slope upwardly two thirds of their length from the bridge of the nose and downwardly for the last third, with their highest point being directly above the outer eye corner. But most people are not blessed with perfect brows, and they wouldn't look good if they were. Proportion and position are determined by bone structure and eye shape, which is why your natural brow form will always be perfect for you.
However, leaving brows exactly as nature intended probably won't do you any favors. Unless you're very lucky, their basic shape will need cleaning up and defining, and the color may also need adjusting, especially if your hair color is not your own.
Eyebrows that seem less than perfect usually only need tidying, which enhances not only grooming, but appeal in general. For example, if your brows tail off too far toward the temples, you'll look tired. Or if they seep too far toward the bridge of the nose, you'll appear sullen. In both cases, simply shortening them will make all the difference. To ascertain your ideal brow proportions, see below under the heading "How to Draw on Eyebrows."
Likewise, expanding the space between the brows can pull close-set eyes optically wider apart, making the face appear softer, while thinning the brows can brighten deep-set eyes to make the face seem clearer and generally more expressive. These are factors to bear in mind before adapting brows to the dictates of fashion.
Consider, too, the shape of your face. Keep brows nicely rounded to soften a square, diamond, or heart-shaped face, and you may want to shorten the tails if they make your forehead appear optically broader than it already is. Accentuating the arches can add definition and length to a round face, while a flatter brow can optically shorten a long face.
And you'll always find a stray hair or two sprouting from beneath the lower contour, or one that won't lie flat. These, of course, must be removed if impeccable grooming is to be maintained. The safest and most effective way to carry out such corrections is by plucking or waxing.
Plucking is the most convenient way of removing stray hairs and maintaining shape. But, unless you're very experienced, making initial corrections can prove more difficult, so work carefully; plucking one wrong hair could spoil all your efforts.
- Using tweezers, pluck in the direction of growth, extracting hairs from the lower contour.
- Always follow your natural brow shape—as already discussed, the idea is not to change basic shape and proportion, but to tidy up.
- Don't remove hair from the upper contour unless the brow forms a sharp point above the arch, which can make the face appear aggressive.
Plucking causes less pain if you use your free hand to draw the skin taut.
Because you can see more or less how your eyebrows will look before hairs are irrevocably removed, sugaring is the best way of making initial corrections. However, because all waxing methods need a certain amount of growth to be effective, it's unsuitable for daily or even weekly maintenance.
- First, comb your eyebrows into their natural shape.
- Spread the sugar mass (also called "halawa") over the hairs you want to remove, working in the direction of growth.
- Press on the supplied fabric strip.
- Hold the skin taut, and pull quickly against the direction of growth.
If preferred, hot wax can be used in exactly the same way.
Use waxing strips designed specifically for eyebrows. Anything else may ruin shape.
- Warm the strip between your palms for about 20 seconds.
- Peel off its backing and place over the hairs to be removed.
- Holding the skin taut, pull against the direction of growth.
Taming Unruly or Overgrown Brows
Keeping in Place
Tame unruly brows with eyebrow gel. Like mascara, this comes in a tube with a spiral brush, and is available in various shades of brown as well as clear. Just brush upwardly over your brows and you're done.
Or, if gel proves not quite strong enough, try extra hold hair lacquer. Spray a little onto your ring finger, smooth over your brow, then comb upwardly. Because it sets almost instantly, you must work quickly.
Trimming Longer Hairs
Trimming longer hairs is easy:
- To get the problem initially under control, brush the brows upwardly, fixing with gel, hairspray, petroleum jelly, or castor oil.
- Snip off hairs that poke above the upper contour.
- After that, you can check for longer hairs every couple of days by running your middle finger along the brow against the grain; hairs that are too long will be immediately noticeable.
How to Define Brows
Defining your brows will make your face seem brighter and generally more radiant.
- Begin by combing downwardly to expose irregularities along the upper contour.
- Then, using an eyebrow pencil in a shade as near to your own as possible, draw quick, downward, diagonal strokes, working outwardly toward the temples.
- When you comb up again, the upper contour should appear sharply defined, with the lower contour remaining soft.
If the tails of your brows are shorter than you'd like, use a pencil to lengthen them. But don’t just draw a line:
- Apply quick, light strokes that resemble individual hairs. Don't be too exact; you'll achieve a more natural effect if each "hair" isn’t perfectly placed.
- In case this causes your brows to appear heavy or to dominate your face, carefully stroke with a spiral brush to soften the effect.
Never use a kohl or eye liner pencil on brows. Only a proper eyebrow pencil is hard enough to give a natural-looking finish. For good results, make sure it's well sharpened.
How to Fill In Eyebrows
Brows that are sparse or tend to bald patches can be filled in with eyebrow powder, which should be a tad lighter than your own color. (If you don't have eyebrow powder at hand, use a matte powder eye shadow of an appropriate color instead.)
- Simply brush the powder in the direction of growth using an angled brush, which is usually supplied with the product.
- If your brows are not too sparse, finish by defining with pencil, as described above.
- If your brows are very sparse, defining probably won't have the desired effect. In this case, add quick, upward strokes with pencil in a color close to your own in much the same way you would when drawing on eyebrows from scratch (see below).
How to Draw on Eyebrows
Brows that are completely missing can be drawn on.
Before you begin, apply translucent powder to the brow bone. This provides a good surface upon which to draw.
Working outwardly toward the temple, create your chosen shape with eyebrow powder and an angled brush. You may find it easier to use a stencil for this.
If working freehand, measure as follows to find your natural brow proportions:
- Hold an eyebrow pencil upwardly from the outer side of the nostril. The spot at which it meets the brow bone is where the brow should begin.
- Line the pencil up from the nostril through the center of the eye. The spot at which it meets the brow bone is where the arch should be.
- Line the pencil up from the nostril to the outer eye corner. The spot at which it meets the brow bone is where the tail should end.
Draw two very thin lines according to these measurements—one from where the brow begins to the arch, the other from the arch to the end of the tail—and shape around them.
With a pencil slightly darker than the powder, imitate individual hairs by applying quick, upward strokes diagonally along the brow shape. Work quickly in order that your drawn on "hairs" are not perfectly placed. If they are, the overall look will seem contrived. A little artful disarray where the brow begins creates an even more natural effect.
For a soft finish, brush lightly with a spiral brush.
Choosing the Right Color
- If unsure between two shades when buying an eyebrow pencil or powder, choose the lightest. A little too light won't do any harm, but too dark may appear heavy and dominate your face.
- For close-set eyes, a subtle darkening of the brow tail can help to pull the eyes optically wider apart. Use tinted eyebrow gel or powder for this.
- If you’re blonde, you may find cool ash or beige tones more flattering than brown, which can have an aging effect.
If your eyebrows are very light or of a color no longer compatible with your hair, consider tinting them. Lash and brow dyes are available in easy-to-use kits for home use, so there’s no need to visit the salon. As with eyebrow pencils and powder, if unsure between two shades, choose the lightest. Having said that, the choice is often limited to black or brown.
If your brows are white, you may be able to tint them into shape instead of having to tweeze or wax. Look out for stencils designed for henna brows, which can be utilized for this purpose.
Make deep set eyes pop by bleaching brows two or three shades lighter. Do this with a bleaching product like Jolen Creme Bleach, which is formulated for use on facial hair. After applying, check the color every 30 seconds, and don’t go beyond lightest brown.
Bleaching is also the best remedy if your eyebrows appear too dark as a result of lightening your hair. The alternative would be to remove the brows completely and draw on with eyebrow powder and pencil, as described above.
Handle bleaching and tinting products with great care, following the enclosed instructions exactly. Products intended for the hair of the head are not suitable for the delicate eye area, since these may cause burns and other irritations, not to mention blindness. Should bleaching or tinting products come into direct contact with the eye, rinse with cold water and consult a medical practitioner immediately.
Conditioning can prevent and improve sparseness and is essential if your brows are bleached. It also helps soften and tame unruly brows, which tend to be coarse.
- Three or four nights a week, brush with lash and brow conditioner, castor oil, or petroleum jelly.
- Dab with a cotton pad drenched in green tea on nights when you're not using the above conditioning method. This helps to strengthen brows and can be used for lashes, too.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Jayne Lancer
cutepunk333 on January 13, 2011:
thank you for all the tips because i am in my early twenties and i am so tired of the way women my age try and do their makeup. these tips will make me shine and look the way i want
rose56 on December 09, 2010:
I enjoyed this hub. I have a hard time with my eyebrows.
Anjelica Rae on October 30, 2010:
Ah! I love this! I am always looking for great tips for shaping my eyebrows!! Thanks for posting such a great hub :)
Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on March 28, 2010:
I agree, Jenn. It doesn't take any of us much time to do at least something with our brows to make them look at least tidy.
I'm glad you like the series; it was a bit too much to take on, having to follow each Hub quickly with another. I should have written in advance. My family is beginning to think I've lost interest in them.
Anyway, a comment like yours makes the effort worthwhile.
Thank you for the compliment, and for coming by!
VeggieJenn on March 28, 2010:
Jayne, this whole series has been great! I am an eyebrow fanatic...I hate when people don't have theirs done, so i loved this post.