Every three weeks, like clockwork, I walked from my office in midtown Manhattan to the Sephora on 5th Avenue and climbed the stairs for my waxing appointment with Sonia at the Anastasia outpost on the balcony. But a curious thing happened during one appointment a few years ago. “I don’t think I am going to charge you today,” she said. “There isn’t much I can do with your brows.” Truthfully, I never had the thickest brows, but they had historically grown unruly enough to lose their well-manicured shape and required regular maintenance. Then all of a sudden, they didn’t. In fact, they continued to get more sparse. And it seems that I am not alone. According to Amy McMichael, M.D., Chair and Professor of Dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina,
Body hair, eyelashes and eyebrows thin as we get older, so it’s something that comes with birthdays.
But genetics also plays a part. “If your mother or grandmother had that problem [thin brows], you may too,” McMichael says. Ramy Gafni, owner of Ramy Brow and Makeup Studio in New York City agrees, “Even if you’ve never touched them, your brows may change with age becoming sparse, unruly or longer.” Another culprit can be an unknown illness. You might be aware that cancer or alopecia can impact your eyebrows, but did you know that sudden loss of the tail of your brow could indicate thyroid issues? (If that happens, see your doctor.)
While I know that my case was genetic, the reason that I became interested in this subject is that eyebrows are important, they provide both a focal point and frame for the face. So I wanted to explore the best ways to bring back the brows. I talked to a few experts and here are their tips for everything from growth to long-lasting solutions. Even if your brows are still thick, their advice can assist you in keeping them looking their best for a long time to come:
1. Take a Break. In order to ascertain whether the scarcity of your brows is a long-term situation, it is important to stop shaping them, according to New York City makeup artist and brow expert Bob Scott. “Stop tweezing, stop waxing, stop threading until you start to see that growth return (not just the sparse hairs that pop up to remind you to make a brow appointment),” he points out.
“The only way to regrow those hairs and keep them to maintain thick brows is to let them all grow back (for at least six weeks, in some cases up to a year).” Chey James, National Brow Artist for Le Métier de Beauté notes that overplucking can cause the hair follicles to become dormant. “If you are using a magnifying mirror you are probably pulling out more brow hair than you should,” she says.
2. Try a Growth Treatment. Scott suggests trying a restorative treatment to aid in hair growth, his go-to choice is GrandeBROW ($79.95). I also know many women who swear by Jamaican Black Castor Oil ($8.50) for their edges and brows, but I have never had much success.
If you are under the care of a dermatologist, you can ask her to prescribe Latisse, which is commonly used to thicken lashes. “The good thing about Latisse is that you don’t need much,” McMichael explains “and you don’t need to use it daily.”
3. Use A Wax-Based Pencil. If your brows are on the thinner side, James suggests using a wax-based pencil because it can adhere directly to the skin. “If you use a wax-based pencil, it is not going to move around as much as a powder would,” she explains. The new Le Métier de Beauté Precision Brow Pencil ($42) has a fine tip that enables you to easily fill in any holes in the brows and is buildable allowing you to create a natural-looking brow.
Scott recommends keeping it simple when it comes to filling in your brows by limiting your arsenal to one or two products and refraining from altering the shape too much.
4. Refine Your Technique. The method you use to apply your brow product is especially important. Gafni notes that many of us go wrong by choosing the wrong color. “Pick a shade two shades lighter than your hair color. If you have dark skin and dark hair, choose a shade like Mahogany instead of Black,” he says. “If you go too dark, or too warm then it looks obvious like you’re wearing makeup.”
The most important step after filling in your brows is to always brush the product through with a brush with a spooled end like his Browtility Brush ($18). “It blends in the product and removes the excess, leaving you with a natural-looking brow,” Gafni says.
5. Test Out Tinting. If you are considering a solution that lasts longer like microblading, having your brows tinted first might be an economical choice since the cost is under $25 at Benefit Stores. “Tinting allows you to see what is it like to have your brows done all the time,” James, who is also an aesthetician, explains. “It is supposed to last about two weeks but because ethnic skin tends to be oiler it may break down faster.”
6. Do Your Research. None of the brow experts I spoke to were a fan of permanent brow tattooing. However, they all saw the benefits of microblading, a semi-permanent option that can last up to two years, especially for those who have experienced permanent eyebrow hair loss, with certain caveats.
Gafni cautions that this is not the time to rely solely on online reviews or use a Groupon (sessions can range from $300-$1,500 depending on the artist). And please, please, please don’t try to get the hook-up by a friend with no credentials. “Get a referral from a friend and make sure you see their work beforehand,” he says. Research your microblade brow artist the same way you would a tattoo artist and realize that each may use a different technique, so be specific about the outcome you are looking for, James notes. “I also don’t think microblading is the best choice for anyone who develops keloids on their skin,” James says. “Remember this is a form of tattooing.” Finally, Scott says, “If you get it done by the right person who has the right eye to only fix and fill in what you need, then you will probably get exactly what you want out of the procedure, but when it goes wrong it’s because the technician went too far (over-filled your brows, wrong color choice, et al…).”