A Brow Beating: Reclaiming My Eyebrows

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natural eyebrows

Above, you can see my brows in their natural glory, never before waxed or plucked or powdered. I never did anything with my brows, they seemed fine to me.  Cut to Junior year of college when I went to visit my Sophomore-year roommate at her new apartment. She was always so stylish and well groomed and as soon as I walked in the door she exclaimed, “Those brows have GOT to go!” For an hour, we sat facing one another on the living room floor next to the sliding glass door for natural light as she tweezed by brows into oblivion. It was 1995, the era of the pencil-thin brows and she made me look modern and quite groomed. I’ll admit, I sobbed when I got home and saw 90% of my brows were gone, but within a week I felt tres chic and kept my brows waxed into crisp perfection for many years after.

And now it’s 2014 and everyone wants thick brows a la Cara Delevingne. For those who have only been waxing, threading, or tweezing for a couple years you likely have an easy time getting back to a more natural look. But for those of us who have been removing brow hair for decades may find it’s hard to change our brow style with the trends. Though I am only 39, I find the grow-out phase for my brows slow-going, and I will likely never regain the thick rectangles of brows seen in the photos above.

Therefore, I am working with what I have, and looking for products to enhance, groom, darken, and give the look of a fuller brow without looking painted-on crazypants. What I have tried, and what I have liked?

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (clear) and Brow Powder
In the past I swore by dark brown Maybelline brow powder; I can’t tell you the name because the lid is missing, the back label has faded away, and when on travel it’s wrapped in foil to prevent coating everything with brown dust. I’d apply it with a Trish McEvoy brow brush, which was stiff enough to give a natural look but soft enough to not have brow powder all over my face. Once applied, I’d hold the color and brows in place with Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in clear. I did this combination for over a decade; it filled in light spots, it made my brows look a bit longer on the outer edges, and it held up well enough. However, it wasn’t enough to get the very sculpted and thick brows that are hot this season and anyway I was ready to buy a new product and toss the ratty old powder compact!

Anastasia Beauty Express
This seemed like perfection – powder for color, wax to groom, a brush to do it all, stencils to help me have a crisp modern shape and even a shadow to enhance my brow bone! The Petite Arch stencil seemed like the best fit and even used it to know which stray hairs to tweeze but keep the fullness. I used this kit for a couple weeks. I asked friends what they thought of my brows and they said they looked fine, but I kept looking at myself in the mirror and feeling like a Muppet. So I asked the most honest person I know, Karl. He said he was glad I asked because he thought my brows looked fake and angry. I tried the other stencil shapes, I tried the product sans stencil, but without the stencils the powder wasn’t any different from my old Maybelline method. So I moved on.  But do know, this is a pretty spectacular product and a nice price; check it out somewhere like Sephora where you can try out the stencils before purchasing.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse
I read about it on one blog, found a beauty vlogger use it on YouTube, read online reviews and thought this may be just what I was looking for. It’s a creamy waxy product, sort of like a pot of liner, and it comes with its own spooly groomer/brush combo. No stencils, no fancy tips on creating perfect brows. I use the brush that comes with it, pat it into the pot and then start in the middle of my brow to draw the outer edge towards my hair. I then go to the inner half near my nose and do a combo of smooth line and feathering to add thickness and a natural look. The product sets after a couple of minutes and doesn’t budge all day, even if you wipe sweat off your brow or get caught in a rainstorm or anything else. I also find the color (I chose Medium Brown) to look quite natural.

What do you feel about the latest brow trend? What product/s are you using to groom and shape your brows?

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  1. I can’t STAND those black beetle brows now in fashion. I natually have Frida eyebrows – thick, black, unibrow, and have been plucking them for almost 50 years, since I was about 12. No way would I do the beetle brow look.

  2. I have quite fair eyebrows (albeit am happy with the shape) and started darkening them when I started dying my hair a little darker. I’ve always been scared of pencil (seen it used badly too many times perhaps!) but I find using a matt brown eyeshadow from M.A.C (they have a really wide range so easy to find one that matches) and angled eyeliner brush to fill in the brows is an easy way to add subtle definition.

  3. I also overplucked in the 90s and really regret it now. I bought the Anastasia kit at Sephora plus one of the really skinny pencils last fall. I am in love with it! The difference that properly-shaped brows make on my face is just astonishing. I don’t even like to go out now without having “done” my brows. My complaint about most brow pencils is that they are the size of regular eyeliners and have to be really sharp or you get a thick, poorly-defined line. I like that the Anastasia pencil is super-thin, so it’s easy to draw small, hair-like strokes. And like another commenter said, I use cuticle scissors to trim the brows as well. Otherwise I wind up looking like Peter Gallagher.

  4. Y’all make me so glad I’m oblivious to eyebrow trends. Granted, it helps that mine have a nice natural shape with the appropriate amount of thickness.

  5. I have pretty thin brows but their shape is good. I over plucked them back in the 90’s and luckily they’ve grown back. I use a Wet n’ Wild eyeliner pencil and Cover Girl eyeshadow with the brush slightly damp to do my brows. I lightly move the pencil back and forth over my brows. Then I smooth and fill in using the shadow. I’ve tried other methods and alway felt like my brows look fuzzy or drawn on.

  6. I haven’t jumped onto the super thick brown trend but I do fill in the thinner areas at the end with a brow pencil.

  7. I have naturally huge, black, bushy brows. They used to annoy me, but I never did anything about it until maybe 5 years ago. Plucking was too hard to do myself (esp. since I wear glasses; I can’t see what I’m doing!), & I didn’t know there were ppl you could pay to do this stuff for you until a friend mentioned it. Now I go to the Benefit Brow Bar at the nearby mall every few months for a wax & pluck — shaping, not too severe, bec. then they’ll grow out fast & look crazy. Which means I’m never in with any particular brow “trend,” I just stick with what looks good on me. For a touch of filling, I love Benefit’s Instant Brow Pencil, has a brush on one end & a soft yet waxy pencil on the other. Looks great, stays put all day.

  8. Forgot to mention….part of why this is such a great topic is that I find brows are the #1 trickiest makeup technique for most women! They report that they have no idea what to do, how to fill them in, what to use. Nearly everyone benefits from a little pencil or powder to refine and fill in sparse areas, so it’s great to share advice on techniques and products. : )

  9. I’m a makeup artist, so I use brow products on myself and others, in every color imaginable. My current fave product is the Senna Brow Book….brow powders to match any color, the powder is highly pigmented, stays put and adheres to your real hairs. They have individual colors for people who don’t need the selection like I do. Pencils are great for creating structure (a big empty spot, for example) but powder works well to create a more natural look. When I teach classes, I always preach a couple of things about brows…1. Brows should not be a trend, period. If yours are naturally thick, refine the shape and clean them up, but leave them thick. If they are naturally on the thin side, don’t go overboard drawing on cartoonish, thick ones if that’s in style. Brows work best when you work with your natural shape and just refine it. 2. Brows are sisters, not twins…don’t freak out if they don’t look exactly the same. Most of us have one with a slightly higher arch or some other difference…again, work with this and don’t stress to make them look exactly the same…the effect can actually look strange if you manage to achieve it. and 3. when magazines say never tweeze or shape the tops of your brows? That’s incorrect advice, especially for thick brows. Cleaning up the top line is just as important as the bottom/arched portion….have it done professionally at least once (waxing or threading) and then you can maintain strays yourself at home. Quick tip if you tweeze at home…apply light concealer to your browbone area…it makes it really easy to see the strays and snag them! Great topic Allie! #browfreak

  10. I really like the Lancôme brow grooming gel in brunette. A tiny bit of color and great control and not as gunky as mascara.
    I have insane, dark, CURLY, long, thick eyebrows that dominate my face if given the chance. They look like black caterpillars. I used to get teased about them as a kid. I’ve been waxing and trimming those suckers into submission for years and I think I’ve achieved the perfect shape for my face (with the help of a really good waxer). The shape is not 90s thin, but it’s not as thick as the current trend either, which I think would dominate my features. I think trends on something like brow shaping are best ignored. Do what makes your face look its very best. It will vary based on bone structure.

  11. I’m so glad thicker eyebrows are in style right now. Mine have progressively become thinner over the past few years of threading and tweezing, so I’m trying to survive the awkward growing out phase.

  12. My brows have been non-existent. I have been accused so many times of over-plucking when in fact, I do not pluck at all. I just don’t have a lot of eyebrow hair. So, I finally found the perfect pencil and it is Anastassia. Love it!

  13. Eyebrows thin naturally as you age, so bushy brows are youthful — something that would have been good to think about back in my teens and twenties.
    I haven’t done much with mine for several years now and they’re doing alright. I’ll probably never regain the uni-brow I once had, but they do extend to the ends of my eyelids so I’m happy. I sometimes run a little clear mascara over them and will brush them up then trim them with scissors. Don’t waste your money on scissors with the comb attached, it’s hard to use.

  14. i’m so glad that trend of very thin brows went away. I was a teenager in that time, and have very dark, thick, heavily arched brows, while most of the brows I saw were not very arched, and much thinner than mine. I plucked them quite thin and looking back on pictures, they are horrible – they almost disappear at the highest point of the arch – I had no idea what I was doing. I hated them though, they were my least favourite feature.

    Fast forward to today and they are one of my best features! Fortunately they mostly grew back though I have a bit of a bald patch on one of them – whether that was there before, or a result of overplucking, who can say. I get compliments on them all the time, and get them threaded every 3 weeks, which has saved my skin. I used to get them waxed with mixed results, and red rashes and pimples for a few days afterwards. Then I discovered threading and haven’t looked back.

    Sometimes if I want to play them up even more (they are quite prominent already) I fill them in a bit with MAC eyebrow pencil in Stud. Other than that I just comb them with an eyebrow brush that I spray hairspray on, to hold them in place.

  15. My brows are naturally black, and very thick and made up of really long hairs, but left to their own devices, they have no natural shape. I’ve got limited time/patience to deal with this stuff, so I’ve never followed trends with them–I’ve had them waxed (and now threaded) just into a natural, gently arched shape since my early 20s and don’t plan to stop. So, for a long time, they were thicker than was fashionable, and now they are a little thin for trendiness. But, it’s a classic shape that suits my face and frames my eyes nicely (which are clearly my best feature), so I roll with it.

    Sidenote: Was fun to see we have a mutual friend on FB yesterday! 🙂

  16. I’m guilty too of years of over-plucking and also giving threading a try a time or two. Now – I’m oh-so-lucky to have sparse brows that in my early 40s have minimal hope of ever growing back. After trying a few different products (including shadows and liners) that looked pretty ridiculous, I recently discovered the NYX Eyebrow Cake Powder at CVS – which I love. Worth a try and the price is awesome…http://www.nyxcosmetics.com/p-63-eyebrow-cake-powder.aspx

  17. I am a few years younger than you but I also took the eyebrow plunge in 1995. I was absolutely convinced that plucking my brows off would make me look like Pamela Anderson. I even shaved them up the middle. I had sperm brows for about a decade and have spent the last decade trying to get them to grow in. They have come back, but not as thick. I have to tweeze the strays every single night, it’s just part of my nightly routine now.

  18. I had a serious pluck when I was about 23, they went from thick to super thin. Funny thing is that like you, i never thought there was something off with my thick brows until someone pointed out that my brows were thick I felt old fashioned permitted her to plucked them. After that I realized that I should have never done it and never have again.

  19. I always had thick dark eyebrows as a child and I heard adults whisper “Brooke Shields” when they’d look at me. I wasn’t sure if that was a good for bad thing. When I was 12 my mother hauled me off to have electrolysis on my unibrow. For years I tweezed and waxed trying to improve the shape of my brows to make them more ‘feminine’. Unfortunately, all those years of messing with my brows have left me with very little to work with these days. I keep seeing younger women with overplucked brows and want to beg them to stop making themselves look older and warn them the results can sometimes be permanent. I’ve used the Tarte Brow Mousse but I struggle to get the shape just right using it, especially since my brows are still very dark, and I’m not sure stencils would be right for me.

    1. I have heard great things about Benefit stores, which do brow shaping and teach you how to use product. They don’t tweeze away but work to benefit your natural shape and color. It’s on my bucket list!

      1. I’ve always had thick dark brows and only started getting them cleaned up / shaped (waxed and tweezed) at various Benefit brow bars in the last five or so years. Everyone I’ve tried has done a great job and has kept them full and natural. About a year ago, the brow person suggested that I could use some definition in my brows, so I’ve been using Benefit’s Instant Brow in Medium. I love it. I fill in my brows lightly and then brush through with the little spoolie brush. It makes them look darker and fuller, but not fake. They also have another product called Gimme Brow, which I tried but didn’t like as much. Good luck with your brows!

  20. I remember plucking my eyebrows a little too much in high school and my mom completely freaked out. I’ve always pretty much left them alone since then, and just pluck the stray hairs here and there as needed. I’m personally not a fan of the overdone eyebrows many women favor now, with so much liner that you can’t see your actual brows. I think it’s a very heavy look, when eyebrows should gently frame the face. I’m all for naturally thick brows, but don’t try to fake it with brown liner. 😛 Yours look very natural and polished!

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