I know I’m not the only one who waxed my eyebrows into oblivion in high school. Seriously, the thought alone makes me want to cringe, and when I look back at old photos, I do cringe. That’s why I give my eyebrows all the TLC they need these days—partly to preserve what I have and partly to make amends for my past mistakes. I have a pretty solid brow routine that consists of a brow serum (if you find the right one, it can be life-changing), a set of scissors and tweezers for shaping, and a small hoard of brow-bolstering makeup products, including eyebrow pencils. While I love an eyebrow gel or pomade as much as the next person, it’s a pencil that really helps me shape and define my arches.
However, an eyebrow pencil alone isn’t enough. You also need to know how to use it and, actually, how to shape your brows in general. That’s why I reached out to not one but two sets of experts. The first is made up of friends and fellow beauty editors. They’re experts when it comes to choosing the best products and tools. The second is made up of brow artists. They’re experts when it comes to shaping and grooming. Ahead, see all of their product recommendations and tips and tricks!
1. Start in the arches: “Work toward the tails and then move toward the front,” brow expert Joey Healy says. “I like starting and concentrating the color more toward the center outward and then going really light on the front. This doesn’t mean you have to do the ombré brow where it fades into darkness, but just make sure that the front of the brow, again, isn’t harsh the way it starts.”
2. Use a light hand: “Go in and make tiny flicks in areas that have large spaces,” Benefit Cosmetics’ global brow expert Jared Bailey says. “It’s much easier to make thinner strokes with deeper pencils because they are more pigmented. By using a light amount of pressure, the result will leave you with an ultrathin, hair-like stroke. The lighter the shade, the more pressure you have to use to apply, and the strokes get much, much wider.” He also recommends leaving pops of skin between each stroke, which creates a texturized effect.
3. Don’t color it all in: Healy says a mistake people often make is outlining the brow and then filling it in like a paint-by-numbers canvas. “You just want to use the pencil in the places that you need it the most. If you do have a good color match, you can just use it in the front, just use it in the end, just use it on one little gap, but you don’t want to go and just fill in the whole thing like a crayon,” he explains. Use a very light hand in the front.
4. Use a spoolie to blend: “Sometimes with pencils, people try to mimic hair-like strokes by drawing unblended lines in their brow,” Healy says. “It doesn’t look natural. Make sure you use the spoolie on the other side to blend. That’s another tip for buying a pencil: Make sure you have a spoolie and that it’s retractable and triangular led.”
If you’re not seeing a brow professional or you’re in between appointments, the experts say to limit at-home maintenance to a simple “clean-up” only. “Unfortunately, brow shaping isn’t something you can just test-drive. Once you remove the hair, you’re pretty committed for the next six to eight weeks,” says Bailey. “Make sure you tweeze and trim properly to preserve and protect your brows until you are able to see your trusted brow expert again!”
If you feel like you really need some help, Healy says you can try to set up a virtual appointment, in which a pro can walk you through it.
If you decide to tweeze, Bailey says you should “brow-map,” which will help you personalize and tailor your brows. You take a brow pencil and make measurements to find the shape that best fits your face. Use your nose as the single point of origin to map out both brows—this will help you create symmetry and balance. Follow his steps:
1. Find the start: Measure straight from the dimple of the nose to the beginning of the brow and make a mark. This will create a slimming effect on the nose and balance the eyes.
2. Look for the arch: Beginning at the edge of the nose, we pass through the pupil to the highest portion of the brow and make a mark. This will give maximum lift to the eye area.
3. Identify the end: Measure from the outer edge of the nose past the outer corner of the eye and make a mark. This creates more of an oval illusion on the entire face.
Once you’ve finished, Bailey says you can use a microliner to connect each point and create a boundary for tweezing. Hairs outside of the lines should be tweezed, and those inside of the lines should stay. “If the hair falls on the line, leave it be. This is what we call the ‘no zone’ and should be entered by professionals only!” he adds.
One of the most common mistakes people make when tweezing is removing the hair in the wrong direction, Bailey says. “Each hair is connected to a tiny blood vessel (derma vessel) that keeps it healthy and allows it to grow back when the hair is removed,” he explains. “Once that vessel is ruptured, the hair never returns. Bummer, right? So to tweeze properly, you must hold the skin tight with one finger and then tweeze the hair in the direction it is growing. Typically, that direction is upward or toward the temple rather than straight out.”
Both Bailey and Healy recommend saying no to those small magnifying mirrors. “Brows bring balance and proportion to your face and eyes, so it’s important you use a mirror where you can see both of them at once,” Bailey explains. “Using a tiny magnifying mirror should be illegal because you can only see a field of tiny hair versus the actual shape and what it’s doing for your entire face.”
Oh, and tweeze your brows in a well-lit area. Both Bailey and Healy recommend working in a space with plenty of natural light so you can see exactly what you’re doing.
Don’t try to tweeze multiple hairs at once. You might think you’ll be saving time, but it’s a big no-no. “It’s the quickest way to nearly guarantee you end up with a patch or hole in your brow shape,” Bailey warns. “Proper brow tweezing takes time. Removing hairs one at a time is the best way to make sure the final result is ‘oops-proof.'”
“Sometimes with trimming, people give themselves an eyebrow haircut,” Healy says. “They trim the brows in a straight row across. It’s best to trim your hairs one at a time on a diagonal angle. Overtrimming can lead to the brow being gappy.”
Bailey suggests taking a clear gel and brushing the brow hairs upward toward the hairline and out toward the temple. Let the gel dry and only trim the ends that are sticking out too far past your desired shape.
Healy says you can use product to define your shape so that you can keep hair removal at a minimum between your eyebrow appointments. “Sometimes, you can make a good compromise out of the brow length by using a clear brow gel,” he says. “Instead of going scissor-happy, you have clear brow gel to tame them. If the line gets a little bit less distinct, you could have a pencil to sharpen it up. As the hair gets a little gray, you could use brow lacquer to coat it.”