Eyebrows have been a subject of obsession for centuries. During the Tang dynasty in China, women painted their brows to resemble the wings of butterflies, and in the Middle Ages, Europeans plucked every last hair to achieve what was considered a youthful-looking bare forehead. Our arches are no less important today and indeed seem to have become newly conspicuous during the past several months, exposed above our face masks or reflected back at us during Zoom calls. “I consider eyebrow grooming to be an art, and there are many ways of going about it,” says Jimena Garcia, a brow sculptor and specialist at Atelier Beauté Chanel in New York City, who, along with many others in her field, has started offering virtual consultations for clients. But no matter how advanced your instruction, fine-tuning your brows at home requires a bit of firsthand experience — and restraint (the temptation to over-pluck is the greatest challenge, Garcia cautions). In the end, the result should be both an expression of your personal style and a shape that best complements your features, she says. Here, an expert guide to brow pruning.
Find Your Shape
Everyone’s eyebrows are unique and there’s no one perfect shape. But, in general, “brows should start just above the nostril line, have a slight arch above the far side of the pupil and end on an angle, slightly above the outer corner of the eye,” says Gina Daddona, an eyebrow specialist at Serge Normant at John Frieda salon in New York City who is also seeing clients by virtual appointment. You can play around within those loose rules, though, enhancing your natural shape to make it a bit thicker, thinner or more angled. The British makeup artist Hannah Murray is a fan of “full, handsome, brushed-up brows” that recall an ’80s-era Brooke Shields, while Garcia insists that a unibrow can look good on the right person. She suggests experimenting to find a shape you like by filling in your brows with a makeup pencil and using that outline as a guide.
Once you’ve decided on a shape, dip a spoolie (or a clean mascara wand) in soap or hair spray for hold, then brush your brows in an upward motion so you can see hairs that extend above your penciled-in outline. Working your way from the inside of the brow (the part closest to your nose) to the arch, trim these hairs carefully, using a pair of cuticle or brow scissors with sharp, pointed tips. Snip each hair individually on an angle to create a soft, not blunt, end (this will prevent over-cutting and patchy brows). Repeat this process by brushing your brows down and trimming hairs that hang below the lower edge of your outline. Leave most hairs from the arch to the end of your brow alone, so you have hair to work with later, says the Manhattan-based eyebrow and lash artist Soul Lee.
Next, remove any outlying hairs between your eyes or under your arch. For a brow-scaping novice, tweezing is the safest method, as wax or gel strips can rip off too much hair at once. Pluck in the direction of hair growth with slanted tweezers (Garcia is a fan of Tweezerman’s Ultra Precision Mini Slant Tweezer, $20), removing only a few hairs at a time. Then step back and consult a full-length mirror for perspective (small makeup mirrors can lead to tunnel vision). To finish, dab on cool rose water or antibacterial witch hazel to reduce redness and calm inflammation.
From here, you can sculpt and shade your brows to further refine the shape. Fill in any empty spaces with a hard-wax brow pencil in brown (it looks more natural even on dark brows), such as Hourglass’s Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil ($34), or a liquid pen, like Milk Makeup’s Kush Triple Brow Pen ($22). Apply with short, light strokes and blend with a brow brush, says Daddona. To create a fuller effect, sweep on a powder — Lee is a fan of Anastasia’s Brow Powder Duo ($23): “It has different shades you can blend to match your brow color,” she says. For a bolder, brushed-up effect or a feathery, side-swept style, consider gels: Garcia likes Chanel’s clear Le Gel Sourcils ($32), while Daddona is partial to Beautycounter’s Brilliant Brow Gel ($24) in tinted shades that also help conceal grays. To tame thick or super unruly brows, Murray likes a strong-hold pomade, such as Glossier’s Boy Brow ($16), along with a touch of concealer under the arch, which she says “creates more of a lift.”
Garcia recommends grooming brows every six to eight weeks. In between, care for them by lightly exfoliating with a gommage or facial scrub to remove dry flakes, patting on nourishing castor oil and using a facial roller (such as Skin Gym’s Rose Quartz Mini Eye Roller, $24) to stimulate circulation and encourage new hair growth. To keep the follicle healthy, Lee also brushes her brows nightly with a clean spoolie that she keeps next to her bed. “It’s like a little massage,” she says of the ritual. “I find it very relaxing.”