How can I fake a good set of eyebrows?
August 2, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to enhance eyebrows with makeup in a natural looking way? Powder? Pencil? Give me your recommendations.

I've been blessed with what I call "the world's worst eyebrows." I long for lush, full brows or high arches but instead have two flat, pale lines so thin that people tell me to "just grow them out" when I've barely plucked them in my life.

The only thing that gives them some arch and expression is a little pencil enhancement, but I can never get it to look just right - I have trouble pencilling in both evenly, and more importantly the pencil just looks a little too heavy. I think the penciled-in brow is a good look with heavy eyeliner and a fully made-up face for a night out, but for an average day sometimes I'd just like to fake a decently shaped brow in a way that looks natural.

Is this possible? What are the best makeup tricks to fake a good brow? Should I get stencils? Powders? Special pencils? I'm willing to experiment!
posted by vanitas to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
For me it's been pencil in an oddly light color. My eyebrows are super dark, but using a light-medium brown pencil helps them. A "proper" color one makes them look way too heavy, no matter how light handed I am.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2012

super dark *brown* eyebrows. They aren't black.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2012

You should always use a powder that is a couple of shades lighter than your hair. I have dark brown hair, and I use an ashy brown powder. I dab that into blank spots, and then I pass over the actual hairs with a wax pencil. I use Anastasia products, purchased from Ulta.
posted by pickypicky at 5:00 PM on August 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Threading! A well-manicured brow is the best accessory. You won't need either powder or pencil.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 5:08 PM on August 2, 2012

I like powder and an angle brush.

One makeup-artist trick I learnt is to start in the middle of each eyebrow, do the outward side of each one and then the inward side-- it's easier to get them symmetrical that way.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:11 PM on August 2, 2012

I have relatively full eyebrows, but Anastasia brow powder duos are my absolute favorite product. They come in several shades - I use brunette, the lighter shade near my nose, and the darker shade near the outer edge of my brows. Powder looks more natural to me than pencil. Here is a photo of me where I did a good job filling them in; here is an explanation of the technique I use (both self-links to my blog).
posted by insectosaurus at 5:12 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The last time I had to be professionally made up, she used powder with a small angle brush, looked amazing.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:21 PM on August 2, 2012

FYI, Latisse grows brows as well as it does lashes (pretty darn well). So if you want to look into that, a dermatologist can prescribe it for you (off label, but they'll basically all do it for your brows as well as lashes). It's pricy, but an option.

I have pretty fat brows, but one of them has a hole (a scar) and the powers definitely work better than pencil in my experience.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:24 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can it grow brow where you didn't have brow before, though? I've seen a lot of people suggest Latisse or Rogaine for overplucked brows but I never had the hairs in the first place. It would be like inducing hair to grow out of your forehead.
posted by vanitas at 5:42 PM on August 2, 2012

Nthing using a powder or pencil that's lighter than you think you need. Your brows will look filled in but not severe. It's like magic.

I use the Milani Brow Fix set, and it's great for the price.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:45 PM on August 2, 2012

Warning about Latisse: I used it to try to grow my brows, which are sparse, and it discolored the area around there leaving brown blotches. If you notice any faint brown blotches, stop using it asap because they will get worse. Mine have not gone away entirely though it was about a year ago.

If you really have not enough eyebrow hair, you can get it transplanted in there for a few thousand dollars. The only issue with that is that you have to trim it because it will grow like regular hair. (Ewwies!)

I use a brow pencil and apply it where there is already hair, extending and darkening just a little bit, and it looks good. The key is to find the right color. I would suggest buying a few different brow pencils and asking a friend which looks the most natural.

I think that pencil vs. powder depends on your hair color. For my dark hair, powders don't last long enough during the day. They're wiped off by the end, and the pencils last all day.
posted by kellybird at 5:52 PM on August 2, 2012

Oh man, I wish I knew the answer to this one. I have the same problem as you-- weird and sparse and irregular. This is mostly genetics (thanks, Mom!) and a small bit of overplucking. It drives me crazy when people suggest threading, because there's nothing to shape.

The one lesson I learned the hard way is that you definitely want to go a shade or two lighter than your brow color. That's 100%. Same with starting at the midway point as suggested above.

I use generic Latisse ($15/bottle) and I use it on my brows too-- it works amazing on lashes but in my experience it only makes existing brow hairs more substantial. I've only seen a negligible amount of new growth.

In the past I've used pencils (Anastasia Brow Wiz is pretty good, kind of waxy and shapes well), brow tint pens (both Milani and Anastasia Brow Pen, which are very similar and both just okay), as well as various powders and tinted gels.

I've just purchased two new items [the Make Up For Ever Aqua Brow with brush (used to be called the "Waterproof Eyebrow Corrector") and the Anastasia express kit with the stencils, which I'm hoping give me some more guidance and a steadier hand]. I'll report back (Canadian shipping times, so it's gonna be a couple of weeks).

Anyhow, I hear you-- I wish there was one good answer (god knows I've spent a great deal of time online searching) but you might do well to hit up a number of department store counters and some different Sephora MUAs to get some different ideas about what works for you. I'm in the middle of nowhere, so I'm trying to figure it out one Sephora order at a time!
posted by mireille at 6:03 PM on August 2, 2012

I have a significant eyebrow scar and thinnish brows, and my favorite solution is Benefit's Instant Brow Pencil (in deep, for dark brown hair).

I've used powders in the past, but I found them more tedious to apply. Plus, I like to fill my brows in every day, and when I use powders I find my brows look very done up and then I require more makeup on the rest of my face.
posted by commander biscuit at 6:14 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get those babies tinted! I have weird patchy eyebrows with alternating areas of dark auburn and blonde hairs. They look ridiculous left to their own devices; simultaneously wild and sparse. Tinting is my saving grace. If you have even peach fuzz facial hairs in your general eyebrow area, the tint will darken them to eyebrow colors and BOOM, extra brow hairs! So awesome. It wont give you full luscious brows, but it WILL make the most of every little hair you do have. I go to a little locally owned salon to get my eyebrows and lashes tinted,but I've also had that done at a Benefit store a couple times with good results. They seem to train their people pretty well.

As for filling them in, when my tint starts to fade and my next appointment isn't for a few more days (or when I'm too broke to get it, ahem), I fill in my brows with a powder and a stiff angled brush, as others have mentioned. I too use a much lighter color than my hair, but that's what you want. If you have so few brow hairs that theres nothing to protect that powder from being wiped off accidentally, then I suggest rubbing (nude) eyeshadow primer into your brows and the skin around them. If you get a good primer that's intended to hold eyeshadow in place under hot performance lights or while sweating in a club, that brow powder ain't going nowhere.

And yeah, Latisse won't help grow hairs you never had. It will allow the ones you do have to grow a bit longer, though, so if your hairs are quite short that might be worth considering (though I think a $20 tint is a better investment).
posted by JuliaIglesias at 6:17 PM on August 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Urban Decay Brow Box. Especially if you're blonde. Gorgeous, gorgeous. It includes two shades of brow color (so you can blend) and brow wax.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:22 PM on August 2, 2012

The Shu Uemura brow pencil is the top rated brow pencil (minimum 100 reviews) on MakeupAlley. The color "Seal Brown" is universally beloved. It's a very hard pencil that doesn't transfer color to skin until it encounters the oil from hair follicles (or something like that). Therefore, each stroke goes on very light, and you build up color gradually, resulting in a very natural and non-clownish look. It's also significantly longer than most pencils and lasts most people 2-3 years. Shu Uemura stopped selling in the US (although it's still available online and in Europe/Asia) but I see you're in Canada, where they sell at Holt.
posted by acidic at 6:29 PM on August 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

A thin angled brush with matte eyeshadow.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:41 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read this article on the beauty department. Great advice and tools for fixing those brows!
posted by quietta at 6:55 PM on August 2, 2012

I used to do powders, pencils, tinting -- everything but Rogaine/Latisse -- to define my brows, and what eventually worked for me was getting permanent makeup.
posted by evoque at 7:10 PM on August 2, 2012

I think the secret here is, no matter if you are using a powder or a pencil, you need to use a stiff blending brush to even out the color and make sure it doesn't look too stark. Like you, I like to darken and fill in my brows a bit even when I'm not using any other makeup. I think it gives my eyes and face a more "finished" look. I use a pencil, but I've seen powders work quite well.

Good luck!
posted by blurker at 7:32 PM on August 2, 2012

Yes, get them tinted! I've been doing it for years and I'll never go back. Normally I appear to have a few sparse eyebrow hairs and no arch, but after tinting I practically have Brooke Shields eyebrows. Then after a little waxing they look perfect for 4-5 weeks. I have it done at a specialty salon and it's worth every penny.
posted by peep at 9:02 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trying to grow more eyebrows via medical science seems like such a fraught process. You can very subtly and effectively fill in whatever sort of brow shape you want with make-up. This tutorial is to me the holy grail of brow stuff, and this previously linked stencil tutorial is also really solid. A few years ago I got a brow kit from Anastasia that had stencils, powder, brushes, liners, etc, in it, and that was crazybananas good. (I've had nothing but A+ experiences with Anastasia brow products. They're not cheap, but they are really good.) I know a stencil seems sort of goofy, but that shit woooooorks. If you live near a Nordstrom, they have Anastasia events periodically, where some perfectly groomed specialist in a lab coat will hook you up and will probably fill your bags with promo products, too.
posted by Charity Garfein at 10:55 PM on August 2, 2012

I really like the Anastasia express kit with stencils. Very easy to use and looks natural. My eyebrows are quite light naturally as well and the stencils really help me fill them in without taking a crazy amount of time in the morning.
posted by Kurichina at 5:27 AM on August 3, 2012

Like many people upthread said, powder and an angle brush. I use brow wax as well when I want something more polished and dramatic, but for everyday the powder (matte eye shadow or brow powder) is fast and easy. I brush my brows down and fill in with the powder, then brush them into place and tough up anywhere needed.

I bough stencils from Sephora, but of three in the kit none fit my brows or face. I think if I was to buy stencils again I would buy them here, because they have dozens of shapes.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:59 PM on August 3, 2012

I have medium brown hair and very pale light brown eyebrows. I really like this Dior brow pencil. It's a pretty good "universal" color as long as you are going for a shade of brown. I just lightly pencil over my brows until it looks good.. the pencil point is really fine so it's hard to overdo it.
posted by gatorae at 10:18 PM on August 3, 2012

I have pale eyebrows and use MAC Brow Set. You lightly brush it on and the tinted gel subtly thickens the existing brow and brings out their natural shape.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 7:07 AM on August 4, 2012

Okay, I said I'd report back. I bought the Anastasia brow express kit (with stencils) as well as the Makeup For Ever Aqua Brow (and the recommended brush).

I first tried the stencils and powder-- there were two stencils that fit my brow/face shape, and I developed a preference for one. I watched a tutorial on YouTube and then used it-- the arch was amazing! After a couple of times practicing with and without the stencil, I was eventually able to free-hand the shape perfectly. Which of course rendered the stencil unnecessary. I then tried the shape with the Aqua Brow and brush and the result was exactly what I had been after for years-- the staying power of the Aqua Brow was way better than the wax/powder for my skin type. So I'm keeping the Aqua Brow but returning the Anastasia kit.

Secondly, I tried brow tinting (per Julia Iglesias' comment) at home (professional services are not available where I live). I used Godefroy Instant Eyebrow tint (purchased from eBay) based on reviews on Amazon and MakeupAlley. Game-changer! I now use even less of the Aqua Brow with an even more natural result.

So-- yay! This thread (and some practice) helped me for sure.
posted by mireille at 3:48 PM on September 9, 2012

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