I’ll never forget it. I was browsing at my suburban mall’s Bobbi Brown counter one day after high school, when an older woman across from me expertly drew on her eyebrows in three seconds flat. This was the halcyon days of 2009, in a world pre-eyebrow makeup boom. Brows were rarely talked about, much less marketed to, and the amount of help that the internet had to offer was basically none. Stunned, I remember saying, wow, she was so good at that. She brusquely replied that she’d done it enough, she should be. My compliment not received as intended, I was hurt. Nine years later, I get it—because it’s no longer my first rodeo, and I’ve likewise honed my brow makeup tricks.
I’ve gone in-depth about how I lost my brows, then got them back before, but the TL;DR version is that I had an eyebrow transplant while in college after a years-long battle with seborrheic dermatitis and the resulting side effects (OCD, hi). Even with the transplant, I still fill in my brows every day with some sort of eyebrow makeup. I’ve dabbled in pencils, powders, and pomades, and the latter is my longest-running favorite. These days, Lancôme’s Sourcils Gel and Sephora Collection’s Pro Brow Brush are a cemented-in part of my morning routine.
There’s no easy way to say this, but in my experience, it’s hard as hell to find your best brow shape. I followed those precise diagrams of where your arch should hit for years, only to realize in retrospect that it looked unnatural and obvious. In general, I think the best advice is to follow the lead of your natural brow shape. I’ve heard makeup artists say that you should stick to filling in the top of your brows versus the bottom, which can make your brows look heavy, but I don’t even think that’s hard-and-fast true, since sometimes I need to fill out a sparse bit in the bottom of my arch.
But along those lines, I have found one foolproof eyebrow trick. After I fill my brows in every morning, I step away from the mirror and come back with a Q-tip doused in micellar water. Bioderma, Garnier, Simple—the brand doesn’t matter so much as the Q-tip motion. Starting from my brow’s inner bottom edge, I run the Q-tip along my brow, and then slightly up into my arch and out through the tail. It’s similar to how pro makeup artists define celebrities’ brows with concealer, but where that highlights every spare hair I have, the micellar trick works like a brow lift.
Filling in the bottom of my arch is essential for keeping the innermost part flowing into the tail, but it’s hard to sketch in that area without throwing off my arch’s balance. Cleaning it up with a Q-tip from below creates this elegant, open brow shape that looks both natural and full. I only wish I could go back in time and tell my college self. In sum, save yourself.