While all the other girls in my 7th grade class were out pursuing short-lived trysts, I was busy having my life changed. In one December week, I got braces, my first period, and… permission to get my eyebrows waxed for the first time. Up until then, I was only allowed to tweeze. Huge, huge stuff, people!
My relationship with waxing lasted only a little longer than young love—a few years later my waxer, known only by her first name, might’ve taken too much off. It forever turned my most distinctive feature, the bushy brows I inherited from my Syrian grandfather, into a fixation. I became an expert brow-filler even before I graduated from clear mascara, and would forgo toothpaste if that meant I could keep all my brow products. And because of all my years of practice, you could say I’m a bit of an expert at eyebrow makeup. I’ve tried almost everything! But in an attempt to, ahem, fill in my gaps, I reached out to Kristie Streicher, the celebrity brow groomer behind most of Hollywood’s forehead caterpillars. Below, find the ultimate list of all the products and techniques to help you through your brow PTSD. I know I’m not the only one out there who needs ‘em.
Pros: A quick, efficient way to softly fill in your brows. It’s especially great for those with dry skin, as natural oils in skin can cause smudging.
Cons: Only adds color to skin, not hair.
Tips: For a soft and natural effect, start by brushing the brows down and lightly shading in the skin beneath the hair with soft, back and forth motions. This technique moves hair out of the way so you can draw directly on skin. Once you’re finished filling in, brush the brows up to help blend the product for a natural look. Streicher’s favorite pencil is The Expressioniste Brow Pencil from Surratt, which—bonus!—is refillable.
Pros: A super fine-tipped pen is ideal for creating realistic hair-strokes. It delivers the most natural-looking filled in brow, and is great for all skin and hair types.
Cons: Requires practice and a very precise, steady hand. Brow pens work best when applied directly to clean, dry skin, so you might have to wipe off extra moisturizer or makeup before you get started.
Tips: Since the look can get heavy real quick, start at the middle of your brow first, working towards the end as you get used to the flow of the ink. Place your pen where the root of a hair would be and flick upwards with soft, precise strokes. Use less pressure once you get to the front of the eyebrows so they don’t look too boxy or heavy. Streicher's top two are the Suqqu Eyebrow Liquid Pen and Lime Crime's Bushy Brow Pen, and she suggests storing them tip-down for best performance.
Pros: Great for all skin and hair types, and by far the easiest to use, a tinted gel adds color to brow hairs and softly shades the skin underneath. It’s Streicher’s favorite “one-and-done” brow product of choice.
Cons: Can sometimes not be enough for a full, filled-in look.
Tips: The key is to use small strokes, first brushing brows down, in the opposite direction of hair growth, to deposit color and add texture. After that, brush the brows in an upward motion, the way the hairs naturally grow, to instantly make them look fuller. A multi-bristle brush can tint even the smallest of new growth. "I like to use the Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel," says Streicher, "the microfiber-infused formula builds volume, and the multi-bristle brush tints even the smallest of new growth.”
Pros: Not to be confused with the gel above, this is a K-beauty product that tints the skin under your eyebrows for two to three days. Plus, it's cheap—Maybelline now makes a version.
Cons: It only lasts two to three days, bad news if you were expecting an actual tattoo. Plus, #maybellinetattoobrowgeltint has 12.7K views on TikTok—as I'd advise with many (most?) things trending over there, proceed with caution.
Tip: First, create an outline of your brows to use as a guide, then fill them in with a generous amount of tinting gel—enough to resemble a Disney villain. It will be dry enough to peel off after 20 minutes. Once the gel is off, brush the hair up for the hairs to blend.
Pros: Pomades allow you to be more artistic and flexible with your look. Because they’re typically smudge-free and waterproof, pomades are ideal for oily skin, warmer climates, and long affairs.
Cons: Requires makeup remover to get it off. It’s also easy to go overboard and end up with an Instagram brow.
Tips: Streicher recommends the Jacque Mgido Eyebrow Pomade Gel, just as long as you promise to never apply directly to the brow! To ensure you have the perfect amount of product needed for application, dip the stiff bristles of an angled brow brush into the pot and swipe or dab it on the back of your hand first. This will allow you to remove excess product and see how much has collected onto the brush.
Pros: Looking for something that won’t wash off? Microblading is a semi-permanent brow treatment that uses a small blade to create hair-like strokes of pigment into the skin. It’s a good option for those who fill in their brows daily and wish they didn’t.
Cons: The hefty price tag, for one—microblading can range from $500 to $2,500. A session can last up to two hours and, depending on your pain tolerance level, hurt. Plus, results vary. “The blade, pressure, and pigment used can all affect how your brows look, and a worst-case scenario leaves unwanted pigment in your skin that can change color over time,” Streicher advises.
Tips: Do as much research as you can before booking your appointment, even asking for IRL examples or photos of their clients, or what you can expect your brows to look like after a year. Also, remember that it isn’t totally permanent. Microblading lasts one to three years depending on your skin type (it fades faster on oilier skin).
Pros: Microfeathering utilizes soft strokes to fill in gaps and sparse areas of the brow for a more subtle and refined version of Microblading. It deposits pigment into more superficial skin layers than Microblading does.
Cons: All clients must follow a strategic tweezing growth plan before their appointment. That might take six months to a year of growing out your brows. The process can cost around $2,500.00. Plus, because the strokes of pigment are so subtle, Microfeathering rarely lasts for over a year.
Tips: The visual difference between a real eyebrow hair and a Microfeathered stroke of pigment is pretty much indecipherable. Streicher invented (and trademarked) this unique technique, so your best bet for getting it done right is visiting her at her LA salon Striiike.
Photo via ITG