In case you somehow missed the memo, big, bushy brows are in and have been for a few years now. There are all manner of makeup products and procedures that can help someone with even the sparsest of facial hair achieve full, luxurious brows—or the illusion of them—but how do you even know where to begin? Let’s start small and work our way up to the big stuff—just like eyebrow trends have done over the past 20 years.
How to fill in your eyebrows with makeup
There is no shortage of brow products in the modern makeup market, but some are better than others. Certain brands, like Anastasia Beverly Hills and Benefit, are known for their brow enhancers, so you can start there in your quest for the perfect brow pencil, powder, pomade, or stamp.
I come to you today in the first person, living my truth as a natural blond with very little body hair. It rules—most of the time. When it comes to my legs, I’m thrilled, but my brows are another story. I’ve tried it all. My favorite brow pencil is from Gucci. My favorite powder is from NYX. Expensive does not always mean better (although it definitely sometimes does), so don’t be afraid to play around with brands from the low end to the high end of your budget.
My problem is a complete lack of hair on my brow, but if you have hair that’s just light or sparse, you might find that a brow gel like Benefit’s Give Me Brow or Glossier’s Boy Brow works well enough to define and puff up your hair. Many salons offer eyebrow tinting, too, which will temporarily dye your brows for three or so weeks. Check Groupon.
Some brands, like Almay and Etude House, sell at-home tints. These apply in a thick, almost gloopy layer, develop and deposit long-lasting pigment as they dry, and leave a soft color behind once peeled off. Sleep in them for extra oomph, but do not forget to peel off the dark, crusty layer before you leave the house.
No matter what makeup you choose, apply it in upward and outward strokes. Blocky “Instagram brows” aren’t in style anymore, so don’t treat your brows like a coloring book by filling them up with one solid stroke and cutting it with concealer underneath—blessedly, we left that behind in 2016. Instead, try to focus most of your pigment at the outer tail and keep it lighter toward your nose, mimicking hair strokes with a small pencil in that area.
Consider semi-permanent makeup
Don’t let the prospect of microblading frighten you. The procedure—which involves tattooing semi-permanent pigment onto your face—has really evolved in recent years. Maybe you have an aunt or old teacher who got some unnatural-looking microblading back in the day, and they looked perpetually surprised and noticeably tatted-up, and it scared you off of the process for life. Reconsider that fear.
Open up Instagram and search for the microblading hashtag. There is dimension to the final look. Depending on what you pay and how experienced your technician is, you can achieve a “3-D” (or even “6-D” or “7-D”) effect with hair strokes, or lines designed not to look like a blocky fill-in, but actual hairs. It’s key that you spend a lot of time looking up a prospective practitioner here, check their before-and-after photos, and understand that you will look crusty, swollen, and questionable for a few days to a week after the procedure. But I’ve been doing this for years and have noticed a huge difference in technician skill and procedural outcome since I started.
The process does hurt a little, although you’re typically left marinating in a topical numbing cream for a while before they get started. Your practitioner will map out your face and draw a proposed outline, show it to you for approval, and get to business. Depending on what process you opt for, the ink depositing could rely solely on a tattoo-style gun or could involve actual razor cuts. (The slicing doesn’t hurt much if you’re numbed up, but you’ll hear it and it can be stomach-turning. Buck up, kiddo!) You’ll receive a gel to rub on the markings as they heal and may need a touch-up appointment after your initial visit.
Or you could actually go under the knife
It might seem extreme, but if you’re really lacking eyebrow hair, don’t like applying makeup every morning, aren’t down to get microblading touched up every year or two, and have a spare $8,000 to $15,000 to spend, you can get an eyebrow transplant.
Dr. Marc Dauer, a Los Angeles-based specialist who’s been doing eyebrow transplants for 15 years and has completed more than 2,000 of the procedures, laid out what happens: “You come in in the morning and we come up with the shape, and then I mark the shape out. I take the hair from the back of your scalp using a technique called FUE, which stands for follicular unit extraction. I extract one by one, so there’s no stitches and no cutting … I numb you up in the back and do my extractions and when I’m done with my harvesting, I make little incisions in the eyebrow, and we place the grafts one by one.”
Anyone can be a good candidate for an eyebrow transplant, which simply relocates real hairs that actually grow right there on your face. Individuals with previous scarring from microblading or other facial trauma might retain less hair, but will still see results, the doctor said. Be warned, however, that the hair falls out gradually after the procedure, then grows back in, making the full results visible after about nine or 10 months.
Dauer did caution that you’ll get what you pay for here. He said there are “thousands and thousands of medical clinics, not even doctors, that are doing hair transplants.” Like with microblading, you need to take serious time to research your doctor, look at before and after photos, attend a consultation, and prepare to spend more for better results.
It’ll take you some time to figure out what works for you, your budget, your facial shape, and your schedule, but anyone can have beautiful brows—even if you’re starting with very little.