While they make up just a small part of your face, your eyebrows have a big effect on your appearance. Which is why we reached out to celebrity stylist Kristie Streicher, whose clients include Emily Blunt and other A-listers, for tips to help you create the perfect shape for your face while minimizing the pain and discomfort of plucking. Here are her 10 do’s and don’ts.
DO: Give your brows a break
Give yourself three weeks between tweezes. “This lets you to see the natural growth pattern and shape of your eyebrows,” Streicher says. “ It also allows the hair to get on one growth cycle, which means less tweezing altogether.” When hairs are taken out at once, they will all grow in at once –putting them on one growth cycle rather than several.
DO: Let there be light
“It’s very important,” explains Streicher, “to tweeze in a well-lit, comfortable space, where you have a good view of both brows at the same time.” This enables you to see the fine hairs that you might miss otherwise. Streicher adds that tweezing all of the fine hairs serves to emphasize the shape of the brow and gives it a more defined look.
DO: Use good tweezers
Always select a good quality, sturdy pair of tweezers to get the job done. Streicher suggests using a tweezer with sharp slanted edges that closes down tightly and flush. This will enable you to very accurately target each individual hair and to select the exact one you want.
Tweezers that don’t clamp down evenly can cause you to tweeze unintended targets, so steer clear of them. “The better the quality tweezer, the cleaner the pull will be and the less opportunity to injure the follicle or cause inflammation,” Streicher says.
DO: Go with the flow
Always pull hairs in the direction of growth. This will prevent injury to the lid or hair follicle. The best way to insure a quick, comfortable tweeze, according to Streicher, “is to hold skin taut with one hand while you are tweezing and keep your grip on the tweezers firm.” If you tweeze against the grain, it can result in damage to the hair follicle, creating an opportunity for swelling, discomfort, or even infection.
DO: Ease the pain
If you are sensitive to pain, Streicher suggests using children’s teething gel to slightly numb the area. “If you tweeze your eyebrows after you get out of the shower,” Streicher adds, “the skin is softer and pores are open, making the hair easier to release and tweezing less painful.”
DO: Connect the dots
Not sure where your eyebrows should be? Streicher suggests running the fingers along the eyebrow bone. “That's exactly where the line of your eyebrow should be. If you try to arch your eyebrows too high above the bone, it will look unnatural. Stay with the natural arch that complements your bone structure.
By tweezing, we just want to enhance and define it.” When it comes to shape, Streicher recommends drawing an invisible line from the corner of the nose straight up towards the forehead, this is where the eyebrows should start. If there are hairs past that point, remove them. If hairs don’t extend there, you can fill that in with pencil or powder.
DO: Enhance rather than distract
If you draw on eyebrows that are too long and come too far down, you can make eyes look droopy. Be sure to feather ends outward, giving the eye a lift. And look at your bone structure and hair texture as a guideline for your eyebrows. Softer, more delicate facial features look best with a slightly thinner, more elegant eyebrow, while a stronger bone structure is the perfect face for a thicker, stronger eyebrow. Avoid making the brows slant upward; this has the potential to create an angry look.
DO: Be consistent with color
Many women dramatically color their hair and entirely forget about the eyebrow hair. Why not color the eyebrows to match? As Streicher explains, “If a client dyes their hair blonde, I often like to lighten the brows a little to soften them and complement the hair color.”
She also recommends warming up the brows. “Neutralizing ash and adding warmth to brows can really bring out green and blue eyes.” Use vegetable dyes to either lighten or darken the eyebrows. It’s the best way to soften a hard look or add fullness and definition to a lighter or sparse-looking eyebrow.
DO: Use a light touch
Gently layer color on. You can always add more and blend, but it’s more difficult to take color away. Start at the inside of the brow, and move towards the outer edges. Make short, feathery strokes and direct them slightly upward, especially at the ends of the brow. “This will give the appearance of a blended look and natural appearance, and will add a lift to the eye,” Streicher says.
DON’T: Go tweezer-crazy
Do not over-tweeze the area. According to Streicher, “A lot of clients come to me in need of brow rehab. It’s really a problem.” Over-tweezing mistakes can result in eyebrows that look unnatural and can even age the face, such as the “tadpole brow” (brows that have been thinned too much at the beginning) or the “straight brow” (where the arched shape has been tweezed away).
DON’T: Trim to death
You don’t go Edward Scissorhands on the length of your brow lashes, either. Those hairs perform an important function, keeping irritants out of your eyes. Plus, Streicher says those longer brow hairs can come in handy. “In some cases with thin or sparse eyebrows, the longer ones can help to fill in lighter areas.” It’s almost like a comb-over, but one that works way better. To trim appropriately, brush your eyebrows straight up and trim only the hairs that stick out too far, one at a time. Then do the same brushing the hair down.
DON’T: Triple tweeze
Never tweeze more than one hair at a time. This can result in a rushed job and botched eyebrows. Even worse, it can end up creating an unclean tweeze and cause inflammation. Streicher says it’s important to reevaluate what needs to be removed after pulling two or three hairs. “Step back and look at the entire face. Sometimes hairs that look like they need to be tweezed up close are actually necessary to the eyebrow shape and can make a hole if removed.”
DON’T: Magnify your mug
Using a magnifying mirror is not recommended. Why? If you can't see the hair in a regular mirror, than neither can anyone else. “Getting too up-close and personal can lead to over-tweezing and mistakes that you can’t correct,” Streicher says. “When you can’t see the entire face, and you don’t check the brows out from a distance, you can lose perspective on shape and symmetry.”
DON’T: Tweeze in a mini makeup mirror or dark space
Tweezing under these conditions won’t allow you to see the full shape of the brow or create symmetry between left and right. “You need to be able to take a step back and take inventory of your brows to make sure they match, and that you like how they balance with the rest of the face,” Streicher says. When filling in the brows with pencil or color, you need to be able to see how it complements the entire bone structure and hair color, to make sure it blends in evenly along the entire brow and into the skin.
DON’T: Be afraid to top tweeze
An old myth says you should never tweeze the top of the brow. “Every eyebrow is different,” Streicher says. “Some do not need this, but tweezing the top is often required to achieve the perfect shape.” She recommends doing this area last, to prevent making them too thin.
DON’T: Go crazy with the crayon
No one wants to look like Groucho Marx, so don’t overdo it with the pencil or the shadow. And don’t forget to blend. Aim to softly blend the color in with a brow comb or the sponge on the end of the pencil for the most natural effect. And sometimes, Streicher says, “one brow needs a little color or fill and the other doesn’t.” So don’t add just to add. Look at the brows as a pair and try to match them. You want to achieve symmetry, but you don’t want brows to look drawn on just to achieve perfection. According to Streicher, “your eyebrows need to be sisters, but not twins.”
DON’T: Follow trends
Brows can truly accentuate the face, bringing out bone structure and eye color, so they shouldn’t be an afterthought or subject to trends either. As Streicher explains, “You can change up the brows a little, but basically it’s important to choose a classic shape that complements your face.” Just because you read in a magazine that uber-bushy is in, doesn’t mean you should chase that look. It’s always best to simply enhance what you have and consider your features and face shape.
DON’T: Thin out the ends
As we age, the ends of our brows tend to get thinner, so the surest way to add age to your face is to over-tweeze the ends. “Leave the hairs alone on the edges,” advises Streicher. Instead, brush them out, and if you need to, extend them with your pencil or shadow. This will give the illusion of a more youthful eye and face.
DON’T: Be afraid to give your tweezers a vacation
Just because you’ve had pencil thin brows for a while doesn’t mean that you should always have them. As with our hair or our wardrobe, we can get stuck in a “brow rut,” tweezing our brows in the same fashion, not even aware that we might be doing something wrong, comfortable with seeing our brows in a certain style.
Streicher says, “It’s OK to give your brows a break. Don’t be afraid to let them grow out. So many of my clients don’t realize that if they allowed their brows to grow without tweezing for three to six months, they might actually have thicker, healthier brows, and more hairs to work with in the long term.”