Is it just me, or was filling in your eyebrows kind of a dirty secret up until the not-so-distant past? I remember watching both my mom and my grandma perform the ritual in their respective bathrooms, simultaneously fascinated and kind of weirded out.
Maybe I thought eyebrows were like boobs, and that I would grow them during puberty. Unsurprisingly, this did not take place. Instead, I sheepishly experimented with waxy eyeliners at friends’ houses, or snuck my mom’s Lancome pencil and created oversized monstrosities hovering menacingly over my little teenage eyes.
Lucky for me, mom eventually took pity and got me my own Lancome pencil. This was my first foray into Serious Makeup. Somehow I felt way too adult filling in my fair, fine eyebrows before high school. I think this was also around the time I decided to just go whole hog and began wearing cat eyeliner and red lipstick every day. Needless to say, this was quite a look in small-town Minnesota back in the day. What can I say? I was born glamorous.
Thus began a journey spanning my adult life. I’ve experimented, gone without, waxed, let them grow, and for varying periods of time just forgot about my eyebrows entirely. This is easy to do when they don’t exactly jump out and announce themselves. Or really bother to exist. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, read on, as I will now share with you my sage-like wisdom. If you are Annie, go stroke your fabulous face-awnings and enjoy yourself.
The first rule of eyebrow fakery is not immediately obvious: WAX THEM! I know, this seems bizarre. You say you have nothing to wax! Why should I blow money on something no one can see? This is where you are wrong.
Having your brows professionally shaped gives them the definition they need to begin making themselves known, and provides the essential basis and template for the filing and cajoling to come. I never would have started myself if I hadn’t worked as a receptionist in a salon briefly. The nice part is that stray hairs won’t really be noticeable, so you can usually sneak in a couple extra weeks between waxings. Find someone good, who maybe has fair/fine brows herself, and she will show you the light.
Once you have a nice, defined shape to work with, you can go nuts! OK, don’t go too nuts. Overdone eyebrows, in my opinion, are one of the greatest beauty atrocities. (Unless that is your thing! Because there are exceptions to every rule, and experimental makeup looks are the best thing on earth.) But if you are going for a natural, my-colleagues-don’t-know-I-lack-eyebrows look, follow these guidelines.
First, start with a nice, taupe-y matte eye shadow. The industry favorite, which tends to work for just about anyone with a fair to medium complexion, is MAC matte shadow in Omega. It is a strange nonexistent neutral that somehow serves to create the perfect foundation for defining your brows. This shade is best if you are on the fair side, with lighter hair.
If you are more olive-skinned, or have dark hair and features (in which case you probably have eyebrows already but, who knows?), you can try MAC in Brun. This is another awesome, perfectly neutral dark brown. I do use it for my brows sometimes if I want to get extra dramatic, but if you are too fair, it will look a little orange-y or noticeable in bright light/camera flashes.
You’ll need an angled brush, and an eyebrow comb thing. Mine is Aveda and I’ve had it for a century. Just tap the end of the brush into your shadow, loading it lightly, and proceed to drag the shadow over your brow, starting at the outside edge, and going against the grain of your hair. I know this sounds weird, but through years and years of practice I’ve learned that this helps build more pigment at the base of each hair, getting it up in the follicle, which creates the illusion of more thickness.
Luckily, this step is pretty much a no-brainer and very hard to screw up. The hairs at the inside corner of your brow tend to grow in an upward direction, so follow suit and drag downward with the long edge of the brush horizontal.
Next comes the hard part. Learning to use an eyebrow pencil is not easy, and it takes patience and practice. I’m not saying this to discourage you, but to let you know that if you screw it up the first time, just keep practicing! I’m going to try to make it as painless as possible with my immense wisdom.
The first step is to make sure your pencil is made for eyebrows, and matches your complexion and hair color. Go to a makeup counter and ask the nice people to help you. I’m using Damon Roberts, Eyebrow King, which I bought from my waxing lady. Other brands people like that might be easier to find are Anastasia and Clinique, who both make really fine-tipped self-sharpening versions. Mine is a plain old pencil, since that’s what I’m used to. But the more modern self-sharpening ones help create the illusion that you are drawing individual little hairs.
This should give you an idea of the kind of technique used with eyebrow pencils: you want to do lots of tiny, feather light strokes, while making your way through the brow and following the shape you’ve already defined with powder. The powder is the color/thickness-enhancer, and the pencil is the definer. Thus it should be used sparingly. A light touch is extremely important.
I have a specific method I use for the pencil portion. I start on the bottom inner edge, and draw a very light line about halfway to my arch. This gives you a basis to work with. Then make the little hair-imitating strokes up and over, until you get to the beginning of your arch. You then want to switch and hold the pencil so it is at the same angle as the “tail” of your arch. Using the same little baby strokes, follow this angle down to the outside tip of your brow.
Now you can go back and spot-check any areas that look bare. Whatever you do, DO NOT draw harsh lines on the inner, upper corner of your brow. This is what makes them look crazy-fake. I like to use an extra-light, kind of circular motion to gently fill this area. Once you have everything all defined and even, take your comb and gently comb through your brows, in an up-and-out motion. This will help carve little lines through your brow, serving to further define them and create the illusion of individual hairs, rather than a weird solid clump. If you went overboard with pencil, this will also diffuse the lines a bit.
Now on to the super-fun-wacky portion of this article! My mom discovered this stuff called WUNDERBROW, which may or may not be German. It’s like turbo eyebrow mascara. This can give you the closest thing people like us can have to Brooke Shields brows.
Like all things eyebrow, it must be used with a very light hand. It’s weird and wet, and it has a paintbrush like thing on the end, and you just paint that right on top of your little baby hairs. Let it dry, give it a light combing, and voila, you have even more major brows.
It is also supposed to stay on through swimming, showers, sleep et cetera. I myself tested this theory on the very day these photos were taken. The glass of Champagne I’m holding led to another glass of Champagne, which turned into several glasses of wine, which resulted in skinny dipping and having mine and my friend’s clothes stolen by an evil boyfriend who was supposed to be guarding the shore. The audacity!
When I finally made it home, I threw my sandy duds on the floor and promptly passed out. AND WHEN I WOKE UP I STILL HAD BODACIOUS EYEBROWS! This stuff could be the greatest thing ever for romantic sleepovers. I totally used to pull a Marci and run to the bathroom to reapply eyebrows and concealer. But now I’m engaged, so too bad so sad, fiancé!
I really hope my eyebrow odyssey helped some poor souls like me! Now you have the option to play it up or go bare, as your whims demand. The nice thing is it really only takes two steps, so it’s not terribly painful in the morning. Please share your eyebrow mishaps in the comments, and let me know if you have any questions!