Brow Game? Strong.
Written by Jess Beech
7 Jul 2023
The science of great brows – everything you need to know from trends to shaping to what will work for you.
With great brows comes great responsibility – and a promise never to go back to the over-plucked, one-hair-thin brows of the late 90s and early 00s.
For the most part, dipping in and out of beauty trends is pretty low commitment. You can try a red lip one day, a bold blush the next and give it all up in favor of a barely-there, no-makeup-makeup look the day after that. Brow trends, on the other hand, aren’t so easy to flit between. If you’ve ever been guilty of plucking them down to a fine line or bleaching them until they’re barely visible, you’ll know that the process of regrowth is a lengthy one. Add to that the fact that brows become naturally sparser and grow at a slower rate as we age, and you really are in for the long haul to get back to ‘brow zero’.
Where it all began
Brow trends are as circular as fashion ones. They were narrow and drawn-on in the 30s, a little more natural in the 40s, groomed in the 50s, thick and straight in the 60s, narrow and arched in the 70s, bushy in the 80s, and back to pencil-thin by the 90s. Brows stayed relatively lean through the 00s before two key brow trends emerged in the 2010s.
Brows became either big and bushy (championed by low-maintenance, fluffy-browed celebrities like Cara Delevigne) or bold and powerful (inspired by makeup influencers and the Kardashians) meticulously created by an arsenal of pomades, gels, and pencils. Fast-forward to the 2020s and both of these looks have become slightly more diluted. Brows are for the most part less attention-grabbing, and more focused on enhancing what you have with added texture and fluffiness. It’s triggered a rise in brow lamination treatments – where the hairs are straightened to look longer and fuller.
What are the eyebrow trends now?
Just as not everything that hits the runways is practical for real life, not all of the new brow trends are entirely wearable. Alongside the aforementioned fluffy brow, which can either be groomed and glossy or purposely undone, there are some more extreme brow looks emerging. These include (brace yourself) bold tints and bleaching. Yes - instead of using tint in a traditional way to make brows look fuller, they’re being used to either add a vibrant hue or bleached to create the illusion that they’ve disappeared entirely – just look on TikTok if you don’t believe us.
The 90s are back in a big way too, with the return of combat trousers, crop tops, and low-slung jeans, and there are murmurings of the ultra-thin 90s brow having their own homecoming. (Our advice? If you did it last time, think twice before making the same mistake again.)
How to create your perfect brow shape now
Upping your brow game to create face-defining yet natural-looking brows at home is easy when you know how. Just take the following into consideration and you’re good to go.
Think about the shape
According to the experts, there is an exact science to the shape your brows should be. To do that math, all you need is a long eyebrow pencil and a mirror. Start by holding the brow pencil vertically on each side of your nose and making a mark where it meets the horizontal line of your brow. This is where your brow should start. Then, take the brow pencil and hold it at an angle from the outer corner of each nostril and across your brow in line with your pupil. Mark where this meets the brow, and this is where the arch should be.
Finally, take the pencil back to the edge of each nostril at a diagonal angle in line with the outer corner of your eye and mark where it hits the brow. This is where your brows should end. Having these three points to work with will give you a good guide for filling in and defining the shape.
Arch or no arch?
An arched brow can add definition to your face and make your eye area look wider and more lifted. It also has the benefit of suiting almost everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. If you want to make your brows look thicker, consider using your brow gel or pencil to soften and straighten any natural arch, bringing the brow downwards.
Mimic the natural hairs
To achieve a fluffy, natural brow you want to enhance what you have rather than making it look like you’ve borrowed your brows from someone else. Gels that come with a spiral brush are great for this as the curves of the wand will work to mimic the natural lines of brow hairs. With a pencil, you can create the same effect by working in short, sweeping strokes.
Fill in the gaps
Have some areas of your brows experienced more deforestation than others? It’s a common problem and can be caused by age, over-plucking, or even something as simple as sleeping on one side more than the other. Apply a bit more product or exert a bit more pressure where needed to even things up.
Remember though, brows are meant to be sisters, not twins, so don’t agonize over making them both exactly the right shape. Everyone’s brows are naturally slightly different.
Brows a bit straggly at the ends? Don’t feel the need to emphasize this. As we get older, the skin around our eyes starts to droop, and having brows that migrate downwards towards your ears is only going to make this more noticeable. Instead, finish defining your brows in line with the base of your inner brow and no lower.
Seek professional help if you need it
We would never recommend taking a full brow overhaul into your own hands, and if you want to go beyond defining with eyebrow pencils and gels, then it’s best to enlist the help of a brow technician. They will be able to advise you on the right shape to suit your face and features. Once you have that in place, it’s easier to maintain the shape at home.
As a general rule, your perfect brow shade is one or two shades darker than your hair.
How to choose the perfect brow shade
As a general rule, your perfect brow shade is one or two shades darker than your hair. But go too dark, you can run the risk of making your brows look severe. Selecting a much deeper shade also makes it trickier to build up the product (which you’ll want to do for filling in gaps and adding texture) without overdoing it. If your hair is a very light blonde or gray, then you’ll find that brows in these fair tones can get lost on your face. If this is the case, take the opposite approach with a brow color that’s two shades deeper than your hair.
What is brow lamination?
We touched on it earlier, but brow lamination is a salon treatment designed to give you fuller and thicker-looking brows. The process involves applying a chemical solution to your brows that will straighten the hair and lift them upwards. It’s essentially the reverse of a perm. The logic is that if your brows are super straight and lifted then they’ll look fuller, and it’s also possible to position them in such a way that you manage to cover any naturally sparse or over-plucked sections. On average, brow lamination will last between four and six weeks. If your brows are naturally very fair or have gone gray, then your beauty therapist may also recommend you have a tint to make the hairs stand out more.
Can you laminate your brows at home?
You won’t get the permanency of an in-salon treatment with brow makeup but it is possible to get the look of laminated brows just by using a transparent brow gel like Arch-Ology 2-in-1 Clear Brow Gel. Use the small, spiral-shaped brush to push your brows upwards towards your hairline, starting from the inner corners and working outwards. Depending on the look you prefer, as well as your brow shape and length, you can either brush them straight up for a stronger look or soften things by taking a more gentle angle towards your temples. Once you’ve persuaded the hairs into place, you can apply more gel to hold them there. Focus your attention mostly on the tops of the hairs, as these are the bits that will move.