Eyebrow Maintenance: A Painful Masterpost

I have my mother’s brows. Fair and fine with hairs that grow and arrange themselves in a downward fashion (a fact my first aesthetician found strange, but I admit to having no basis for comparison). I spent a lot of my life not caring about my eyebrows. Even after I started applying make-up extensively, I didn’t give my brows any attention. I balked at beauty gurus telling me that brows framed the face, that they were an integral part of any look. There was no way anyone was looking at my brows when I was wearing MAC’s Chrome Yellow eyeshadow with Lady Danger lips.

Then one day I got bored (which is the start of most of my beauty adventures), and with a series of brow tutorials playing on my computer, I set about plucking, trimming, and filling in my eyebrows.

And damn if all those beauty gurus weren’t right.

Look, if you rock a natural brow and that’s your jam, power to you. That goes double for those of you out there with naturally dark hair. We are living in a golden age of brows right now where basically anything goes because anything can be paired with a wash of rose gold soft glam eyeshadow and some mascara. Because we have taught ourselves to love any shape of frame on our face. However, if you are looking to up your beauty game a little bit, to play around with some of your natural features, than brow maintenance just might be what you are looking for.

Regardless of how fast and loose people have gotten with brows, there are some rules that still apply:

  • Thicker and flatter brows tend to look younger.
  • Thinner and more arched or rounded brows tend to look older.
  • Even if you don’t want to groom your brows, combing them with a spoolie or using an exfoliant on the area can help prevent ingrown hairs.
  • People’s brains tend to perceive faces as being symmetrical even if both sides are not identical. As a result, think of brows as sisters but not twins. They do not have to be exact; they just have to be similar.

The number of brow products that are available nowadays is astounding. Finding the right one can be a process of trial and error. I used to prefer using powder applied with a thin angled brush, because powder gave my brows a softer, fuller appearance. However, lately I’ve switched to a pencil, Anastacia’s Brow Wiz, because the hard tip allows me to apply in thin stroke, giving the illusion of thicker brows. I find gels tend to be too dark for my fair features, but if you like a stronger brow or have darker hair, they may be exactly what you’re looking for.

When it comes to shaping my brows, I have tried it all (excepting microblading), and all of it hurts (including microblading). I hope my suffering can help you find the best way to maintain your own brows:


Pain Scale: Ranges from a pinprick to a red hot poker in your eye socket. Repeatedly.
Lasts for: 1-2 weeks (depending on how fast your hair grows)

By far the most time consuming method of maintaining one’s brows, plucking is also the most cost effective. There are aestheticians who do it and do it well; however, it’s also a method that can be adopted easily for home use, particularly in conjunction with other brow treatments. I do recommend investing in a pair of good tweezers (Tweezerman tweezers seem like a ridiculous amount of money on a hair removal tool, but they are worth every penny). I think it’s also helpful to have brows professionally shaped at least once before committing to DIY. That’ll give any of you brow newbs out there a chance to see how your brows should be shaped.


Pain Scale: Like pouring molten lava over your brow bone.
Lasts for: 3-6 weeks (depending on how face your hair grows)

Waxing is by far the most efficient pain on this list. The wax itself doesn’t hurt when it’s applied, but it is not a pleasant experience to have wax ripped off your face. Listening to the hair zip out of your skin isn’t fun either. Waxing can also lead to redness and irritation. But waxing is an efficient way to have brows shaped. Like plucking, it can also be done at home, though again, I recommend having it done by a professional first or enlisting an experienced friend to help. Overplucking happens, but not to the extreme that overwaxing could.


Pain Scale: Like slashing the eyelid with a serrated knife. Repeatedly.
Lasts for: 3-6 weeks (depending on how fast your hair grows)

Less efficient than waxing but more efficient than plucking, threading involves taking a twisted piece of thread and using the twists to pull the brow hair out at the root. Threading can be done at home, but it takes some practice to get it right. It can be irritating for the skin, since the thread can nip at the flesh of your eyesocket (which is already very sensitive). I’ve noticed that I get small breakouts after having my eyebrows threaded. Nevertheless, I do notice that my skin is less red and stinging after threading than with waxing.

With each of these methods, it may be necessary for you to trim your brows. Simply comb the hairs up using a spoolie and trim the hairs to the edge of your eyebrow with a pair of manicure scissors (which are perfect curved for your brows). You can then comb the hairs down and trim to the bottom line of your brows as well. If you’re not in for that, buy a clear brow gel (most drugstore brands have one as part of their line) or a brow wax and pop it on to keep everything in place.

Brow maintenance is not the most important part of your make-up routine, but brows do frame your face for onlookers, and they are an easy feature to address with some simple steps (and some degree of pain, if that’s what you’re willing to invest). I’m happy to be living in a time where wild brow can grow free, and maybe someday I’ll get back to that. I’ll rock my unkempt, disheveled, down-turned brows once more. Until then, I’m going to continue paying an aesthetician to give my brows some shape. I’m going to pluck in between visits (when I feel like it). I’m going to keep them looking sharp so the rest of my make-up can look sharp too.

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