How to Shape Your Eyebrows, According to a Brow Expert

Anyone who’s looked back on high school photos can tell you that eyebrow grooming completely changes your look. Most of us have graduated from the thin, tadpole brows of ’90s past, but even if you’ve achieved Brooke Shields-level perfect eyebrows, you probably don’t get there without a lot of work. No matter your current eyebrow situation, you can get beautiful and perfectly-shaped brows that complement your face — even if you don’t know where to begin.

“A little bit of filling in can make you look more awake,” says brow expert Sarah McQuarrie, Benefit Cosmetics’ National Brow Artist. Tending to your brows “can make you look more alert, a little bit younger, a little fresher, and you can do a little bit less makeup overall,” she says.

Below, you can learn exactly how to get your dream brows at home whether your eyebrows are a bit sparse due to over-plucking, or you need to do some strategic weed-whacking to find your best eyebrow shape again.

But before you even touch those tweezers, let’s dive into some eyebrow shaping FAQs:

Are my brows supposed to be identical?

Definitely not. “Nobody’s brows are perfectly even, and if they were, it would probably look weird,” says McQuarrie, so don’t stress if one brow is a bit unruly or difficult to maintain — it’s totally normal. “Brows are sisters, not twins, but we want them to look pretty closely related.”

Which eyebrow shape is best for me?

Start with brow mapping! “Don’t even try to do your brows without brow mapping, because that’s when we get in the disaster zone,” says McQuarrie. While it sounds intimidating, “mapping” actually just means identifying the three key parts of your brow, and marking them with brow makeup so that you can easily clean them up:

  1. Where your eyebrow should start: Use your brow pencil or finger to draw a straight line from the crook of your nose, up to the brow to see where it should start.
  2. Map out the arch in your eyebrow: Angle your brow pencil from the side of the nose through the iris of your eye to your brow to find the midpoint, which should be the peak of your arch.
  3. Where your eyebrow should end: Point your pencil from the side of the nose to the end of your brow, and mark the line where your brow’s tail should end.

Problem: Over-plucked, sparse brows → Solution: Brow make-up

First of all, don’t panic: Just because your brows aren’t as full as you’d like, patience and a good eyebrow pencil will get you through until your eyebrows grow back in fully (which can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year):

  1. Make sure your brow product is the right color. Whether you prefer a brow pencil, powder, or gel, McQuarrie says, “your brows are typically darker than the hair on your head.” Match accordingly for the best results.
  2. Hold the tool lightly to avoid overdrawn brows. (Pro tip: the further back you hold the pencil, the more featherlight and natural-looking your strokes will be!).
  3. Mimic the of direction hair growth with small, light strokes, being especially careful to work with a light hand toward the edges and inner corners: Otherwise, you risk an unnatural, blocky look.
  4. Think outside the box, and remember that you might need to draw in “some extra hairs, even though they [fall] outside of the natural brow line,” says McQuarrie.
  5. Keep a Q-Tip or spoolie (aka clean mascara wand) handy to blend lines and clean up mistakes. “Those are your BFFs,” McQuarrie says.
  6. When you’re satisfied with your shape, set with a brow conditioner to support growth. Repeat on your other brow.

Problem: Overgrown, shapeless brows → Solution: Tweeze and reshape

Having too much brow is more often better than having too little, and giving your thick brows a little shape is the best way to polish up your look. Without venturing outside of your brow mapping, clean up accordingly:

  1. After mapping your brows, take a spoolie and brush the hairs up, and trim any stray hairs along the top edge of your brows using a small, curved brow scissor with a rounded tip. “Don’t pull or push too much and just trim the ends,” advises McQuarrie.
  2. Using a good pair of tweezers, tackle any stray hairs that fall outside of your brow map, both below and above the brow.
  3. Set with gel or brow powder to set unruly brows in place and keep everything nice and symmetrical.
  4. Note: When reshaping, go slowly and tweeze one hair at a time: you can always take more away, but once you pull it, the hair is gone!

Problem: Long, unkempt brows → Solution: Trim brows with scissors

Love your brows, but feel like they have a mind of their own? In that case, you probably need to give them a good trim. The key, McQuarrie says, is to “just trim the ends” while being careful not to cut into the natural shape of the brow. Here’s how:

  1. Using a clean spoolie, brush the brows up and trim any excess hairs poking up. Then, brush the hairs downward and trim any super-long strays using brow shaping scissors.
  2. After you’ve trimmed up, use tweezers to nix any hairs that fall outside your brow map. Then, fill in with a brow pencil or powder for a polished look.
  3. Above all, McQuarrie encourages people to play with their brow shape to see how it impacts their looks. Plus, she says to remember to “have fun! It’s makeup, it comes off, it’s not permanent.”

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