If eyes are the windows to the soul, that means brows are the valances. And never were pretty valances as important as they are today, when a mask covers most everything but your peepers. That’s why I’ve put together these eyebrow tips that will provide an easy upgrade to your masked look.
“Like your skin and hair, your brows can start to show their age,” says brow expert (actually, she’s more like a brow goddess) Anastasia Soare, owner of the eponymous Anastasia Beverly Hills Salon. On the plus side, this does not mean they start to sag or gain weight. On the minus side, it does mean they can thin out, become sparse, stop growing, get coarse, or turn grey.
Start by forgiving yourself for any over-plucking in your past.
Functionally speaking, brows serve a purpose: They filter any errant dust, dirt or sweat that might otherwise find its way into your eyes. But according to the folks at Yahoo Health, brows also play a strong role in delivering emotional expression and facial recognition. (My interpretation is that, without them, I wouldn’t be able to unlock my IPhone; an experiment I’m unwilling to test.)
So what do you do when this important, face-framing feature begins the big fade? Start by forgiving yourself for any over-plucking in your past. What’s done is done. I remember my Mom always saying, “I wouldn’t pluck those if I were you. One day, they just won’t grow back.” (I gave this the same attention I did the baby-oil-as-sunscreen admonishments.)
Turns out, Mom was right—she just didn’t know that about four decades later, a product called RevitaBrow would hit the beauty scene, and with the nightly swoop of a foam-tip applicator, you could grow those babies back in a matter of months. Mom now uses the stuff. So do I.
But let’s say you don’t use RevitaBrow (it comes at a cost—anywhere from $60 to $100 plus), or you do use it, and your brows need more color and definition. I’ve got you covered.
Problem 1: Your Tail is Lagging
The very end of your brow is where the first disappearing act takes place. (It’s also the biggest victim of over-plucking/no-regrowth). The problem is that a defined tail is the key to a strong brow arch—which should have a distinct beginning and end. It also cleverly prevents eyes from looking droopy.
The Answer: The Sharpest, Finest Brow Pencil You Can Find
Essentially, you’re going to draw that baby back in by sketching tiny, light, feathery strokes applied in the same direction as your hair growth. Blend the new with the old by brushing on a bit of brow gel with a very small applicator (so you can hit the tail only as it narrows). Try: Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil for its super precise point and Eyeko Brow Gel because the tip narrows, making it easier to nail your tail neatly.
Problem 2: You Want to Bulk Up
Sometimes, the basic frame of your brows is nicely intact, but what’s missing is that youthful fullness and heft that you had in years past .
The Answer: Something in a Pot with Dimensional Texture
A lot of gels and pomades promise to build brows where none exist, but to do that realistically, you need something that actually deposits fibers into your existing hairs, not unlike a little extension action. My favorite in this category is Adda Brow by Christi Harris (only available online), along with her dual-ended Definer Brush. Dip the stiff bristle side into the creamy/waxy product (it comes in one universal shade), and sweep onto your brows in little strokes; you will actually see the volume grow as you go along. Afterwards, you can powder-set your brows with the color of your choice.
Problem 3: You’re Tired of Fussing
There’s something to be said for finding a semi-permanent beauty solution that allows you to get up and go every day without a complex grooming routine. And while pencils, gels, powders, and pomades all work beautifully, they are just that—work.
The Answer: Microblading
Despite the creepy name, there’s no blade involved. But before I tell you what microblading is, let me tell you what it isn’t: eyebrow tattooing—and thank God for that. Traditional brow tats involve injecting pigment deep into the dermis to create a solid framework and shape; that very move means there’s a decent chance the ink will “spread” and give you an imprecise appearance. Plus, even if the artist uses individual strokes to build the brow, the results are not exactly “subtle.” Worse yet: Tat ink tends to morph over time—anywhere from blue-green to red-orange. And you’re stuck with it.
Microblading is not eyebrow tattooing—and thank God for that.
Microblading, on the other hand, is a semi-permanent solution that is sometimes known as “eyebrow embroidery.” It lasts from one to three years, with touch-ups every eight to 12 months. A super-fine sloped tool with 10 to 12 little needles on it is meticulously “scratched” onto your brow area—one tiny, precise stroke at a time—where it deposits color just under the surface of your skin, mimicking and joining your natural hairs. Unlike traditional tattoo ink, it doesn’t spread and offers utterly perfect, artistic results. It’s pricey, though—anywhere from $400 to $800, depending on location and who’s doing the service.
Problem 4: You’re a Slave to Mr. Grey
I’m not sure what’s worse: Finding your first grey pube … or finding your first grey eyebrow. I’m going with the latter, since you can’t hide it by turning off the lights at night.
The Answer: Brow Makeup with a Grey/Taupe Tone
I want my brows to match my grey hair, said no one ever. Which is why you need to choose a shade that still has the complexion-warming hit of brown but leans toward the grey spectrum so your brows don’t look Groucho-esque. IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil is the bomb; so is Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil in Ash, a grey/dark brown with cool undertones. If you’re simply dealing with a stray grey or two, consider plucking, but anything more than that is a good candidate for a cover up.
Problem 6: You Don’t Want to Spend a Shit Ton of Money
Normally, I’d say, you get what you pay for. Microblading is spendy but brilliant; professionally groomed and dyed brows don’t come cheap, either.
The Answer: The Game-Changing “Tattoo” Pen
With all the empty promises on the market, it takes something seriously great to turn my head these days, and Maybelline New York’s Tattoo Studio Brow Tint Pen is, quite simply, a game changer. This slanted, fork-tipped felt pen mimics the fine, multiple hair strokes of microblading, minus the needles and expense. It comes in four shades, lasts 24 hours, and takes a bit of practice at first (YouTube beauty vloggers are quite helpful); this includes learning to redirect the tip depending on which part of the brow you’re tinting. You’ll see some similar competitors out there, but priced substantially higher than Maybelline’s affordable under-$10 tag. In full disclosure, the more you use it, the duller the tip seems to get; so expect to invest in replacement pens even before the ink runs out. But if I’m buying curtains, this pen’s an open and shut case.
A version of this story was originally published in December 2018.
Hillary Quinn has worked as an editor at various magazines in New York and is a well-known beauty and lifestyle writer. Her work has appeared in Elle, Cosmo, Bride’s, Good Housekeeping, and many other publications and websites.
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