I have a beauty confession to make—I take entirely too much time to fill in my eyebrows. When I say too much time, I’m talking roughly 15 minutes of my 45-minute commute to work on the train each morning (trust me, I’ve timed it out). The funny part is that whole time I’m trying to achieve that effortless, natural look. Oh, what we do for beauty!
I have no problem with my seven-plus-minute-per-side routine because by the time I step off that train, my brows are on point. But let me tell you, it took a long time for me to hone my current technique. Let’s just say, a lot of mistakes were made. To help you avoid the disastrous trial and error I went through, we’ve tapped a few experts to find out their tried-and-true methods to achieve a natural-looking brow—and their top tips on what not to do. (To be honest, I’m still guilty of some of these, like #7.)
Whether you’re a seasoned brow enthusiast or someone learning how to define your brows for the first time, you should know that brow makeup is an art, not a science. It can take a while to nail the look you want, so be patient, and be open to changing it up to see what works.
- You’re using the wrong type of product to fill in your brows.
Looking in the brow section of the beauty aisle, there are many different options for filling in: powders, pomades, pencils, waxes, gels. You have to find the product that fits your look and skill level best.
Giselle Soto of Giselle Soto Brows in Los Angeles typically recommends that her clients use a powder if they have sparse areas, or are new to filling in their brows. “Powder helps give brows a softer, more natural look as opposed to pencils or pomades, which can sometimes look too heavy or leave harsher lines,” she tells SELF.
Pencil is great for filling in a few hairs that might be missing. Pomades are good if you’re looking to create a bold brow look or darken brows. Waxes and gels are best for women with full brows because they have a light tint and are more for keeping unruly brow hairs in place.
- Your brow product isn’t the right shade.
Our experts suggest using brow products that are a shade lighter than your hair color. Using a tone that’s too dark may cause your makeup to look harsh or obvious, instead of natural and effortless. “Lighter tones look more natural and are more forgiving,” celebrity makeup artist Kimara Ahnert tells SELF.
“If you have dark brown hair, choose a light or medium brown powder—I feel that brows should complement the face, not overpower your features,” says Soto. For blondes and redheads, Soto uses a taupe or dark blonde color.
- You’re applying too much highlighter under your brows.
Adding a highlight under the arch of the brow is an easy way to add lift to the eye area, but using the wrong color or formula can take attention away from your eyebrows. “If you’re going to highlight underneath the brow, it needs to be a gentle highlight,” Mally Roncal, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Mally Beauty, tells SELF. “If you are doing a highlight with concealer, it can’t be too white. My general rule is that the concealer should be one shade lighter than your skin tone. Especially if you’re doing a strong highlight on the cheekbone, you don’t want that to compete with the brow bone.”
To achieve a seamless brow highlight, Soto advises using a flat brush to blend highlight powder in a windshield wiper motion directly underneath the brow, following its natural shape. Right now, her favorite product to use on her clients is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo ($23, ulta.com).
- You’re using too much product on your brush.
“One of the most common mistakes that people make is using way too much product when they don’t need to. I always like to say that less is more, and a little bit goes a long way with any product that you use,” says Soto. Even if you’re dealing with minimal eyebrow hair, you probably don’t need to use as much product to get flawless eyebrows as you think you do. Instead of covering the entire brow in product, concentrate your strokes on sparse areas only. To make sure your work doesn’t look too heavy-handed, Ahnert suggests brushing through the brow with a toothbrush, brow brush, or spoolie to soften any obvious brush strokes.
- You’re filling in your brows before they’re properly groomed.
“Sometimes people try to fill in their brows when they’re grown out which is really hard, even for me, because you don’t have that guideline,” says Soto. If it’s been months since you got your brows groomed, getting them waxed or threaded can make the entire filling in process so much easier—and faster—because the shape will be obvious. The exception: If there are just a few stray hairs, it’s actually easier to see which ones to pluck once product is already on the brow. That way you can don’t accidentally pluck a hair that helps the overall shape of the brow.
- You’re creating a new brow shape instead of just following your own.
Many of us are guilty of filling in our eyebrows in shapes that aren’t exactly natural— aka the boxy brow. “Some of us have a more boxy brow, but none of us really have rectangle brows. You want to be able to see space between the hairs, you want to be able to see skin between the hairs,” celebrity makeup artist, Tatiana Ward tells SELF. “Some girls really do have such dense brows, but with even some of the most dense eyebrows you can still see skin in between. By trying to fill in every little space, you’ll most likely get the look of an overwhelming brow.”
Ward recommends revisiting how your eyebrows looked in baby pictures (pre-plucking/waxing/threading, etc.) to figure out what they’re really supposed to look like, and staying within those unique parameters. In other words, work with what you already have!
- You’re trying to make your brows look too perfect.
Your brows don’t have to be perfect all the time. “I like brows when they’re a little unruly,” says Roncal. “They don’t have to be perfect—while I love makeup and I love the art of it, I think there’s something really great to be said about natural brows as well.” For quick, natural brows on the go, Roncal suggests brushing eyebrows upward with a light coat of gel to get as full of a brow as possible.
- You expect your brows to turn out right every time.
Filling in eyebrows is not necessarily a skill that is learned in a day. It took me a few YouTube tutorials and some trial and error to finally achieve a brow look that I felt comfortable wearing on a regular basis. Sometimes I still have days when I think, “That did not turn out like I planned.” But the more you use the beauty tools you’ve acquired, the easier it will be to master your own unique brow look. “Definitely practice makes perfect,” Roncal agrees. “The more you do it, the better you’ll get.”