Enhancing Eyebrows with Makeup

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
I’ve never submitted a question to anyone ever but I think you will be able to help me since you are a fellow fair-skinned blonde so here goes! (That whole washing your hair at night and waking up with an oily mop on your head thing that you have? I can TOTALLY RELATE!) I am on my last month of taking Acutane (best thing in the known universe for horrible acne that I hadn’t grown out of by the age of 33) and am finally ok with pictures of myself. I put a picture of me with my husband on my computer wallpaper recently and looking at it notice that my eyebrows are MISSING!
I wear makeup done (I hope) in an age-appropriate subtle to only enhance and not draw cartoon-like features on myself but I have never been an eyebrow-pencil user. I didn’t start plucking them until my mid twenties so eyebrows have always been an aftersight for me.
What do I do to make sure that my eyebrows show up a little more without looking like I have caterpillars crawling over my eyes which is what happens when I try to fill them in with an eyebrow pencil? I’m fair skinned and fair haired and while it might look like I have plucked my eyebrows into nothingness, I promise I haven’t. They’re just blonde and seem to be the same color as my skin. Or maybe I have over-plucked? Argh, please help me!

Oh my lands, let me tell you a funny story: I also suffer from extremely thin and light-colored brows. And yet they are still naturally shapeless and mildly unruly, so I do need to pluck them. And one time — ONE TIME! — I accidentally and drastically overplucked my right brow. And it never, ever grew back. (I was pregnant at the time, so let’s blame that? Maybe?) So my right brow has a damn bald spot right in the center, and is also too short. Sexy, indeed.
But also like you, I have always been dead afeared of eyebrow pencils, since every attempt with them left me looking freakish. I’d rather have patchy thin eyebrows than old lady drawn-on eyebrows, ya know?
But recently I decided to take the plunge and check out the latest in brow-replacement technology. (Cosmetically speaking, that is. I’m so not about dabbing Rogaine on my eyebrows or anything. Yikes.)
I tried three different techniques. First, I took one last stab at a traditional pencil with the Sue Devitt Eyebrow Enhancer in the lightest shade I could find. Next up was loose eyeshadow powder applied with an eyeliner brush. And finally, a fancy just-for-eyebrows compact from LORAC.
(I also tested — but did not buy — a bunch of different tinted gels and mascaras for eyebrows, but decided that these are not really meant for us sparsely-browed girls. They were all much too much and really obvious-looking, and you can’t really blend and shade them very well. If you have really prominent and unruly brows and are looking to lighten or darken them [to match your highlights, perhaps], the tinted brow gels might be what you’re looking for. But they’ll only really highlight what you’ve got and aren’t right for filling in bald patches or anything.)

Enhancing Eyebrows with an Eyebrow Pencil

suedevittpencil.jpgI think the key with an eyebrow pencil is to resist treating it like a crayon and scribbling all over the place. Like lipstick, you only want to color what is actually there and not go above and beyond the natural line of your brows. I really liked the color of the Sue Devitt pencil. Since my foundation comes from this line, I’m guessing they really know how to suit my coloring — it honestly never occurred to me to go with the same line instead of blindly picking a shade of light brown from the CoverGirl display. The pencil is very fine and firm and doesn’t smear on easily like an eyeliner pencil, which is nice and forgiving for us brow-pencil-challenged types. After filling in my brows I went over the pencil with a clean eyeshadow brush to blend a little bit and get rid of any obvious lines.
Verdict: When it comes to eyebrow pencils, the right shade is EVERYTHING. Look for something that matches your hair and not, say, your eyeliner. If you suck at picking out colors (me!), ask for help (preferably from someone of similar coloring who does NOT draw their brows on with a stencil). The final look with the Sue Devitt pencil was nothing dramatic, but was pretty darn natural-looking. While I boggled at the price at first ($18 for a PENCIL?), I’m confident that I won’t have to buy another one for a good five years or so — it’s pretty long and I’ve been using it for a week now and still haven’t needed to sharpen it once.
Enhancing Eyebrows with Powder Eyeshadow
The next technique is a little more MacGuyverish, as it’s just applying a neutral shade of loose powder eyeshadow on the roots of my brows with a thin eyeliner brush. And then blending, blending and brushing, brushing. If you are really, really paranoid about harsh lines and cannot find the right shade of pencil to save your life, try this! Pick out a shadow that matches the darkest shade in your hair. Since you’re basically going to blend the stuff so much, you can go a little darker — you’re not so much replacing your brows as you are creating a stronger shadow of the brows you do have.
Verdict: Possibly more trouble than it’s worth, particularly if you don’t already own a shade of shadow that works. I used Bare Escentuals shadow in Fashionista, which I also line my eyes with. I assumed it would be way too dark but it’s still neutral enough to work. If I had to go out and pick a color, I’m guessing I would have chosen something too light and ended up hating it. If you’ve got some neutral browns and earthtones in your collection, try experimenting. Just remember to give your brows a thorough going-over with a brow brush to get rid of any stray granules of powder afterwards (the shadow should only remain on your skin at the roots), lest you look like you’ve got brow dandruff or something.
Enhancing Eyebrows with Eyebrow Makeup
And finally, the oh-my-God-they-are-just-freaking-EYEBROWS-not-rocket-science portion of our experiment: the LORAC Take a Brow compact thing. I chose this one for two reasons: 1) the puny name annoyed me less than Benefit’s Brow Zings compact, and 2) the compact comes in dummy-proof shade names like BLONDE and AUBURN and BRUNETTE. Dummy likes!
The compact contains two haircolor-friendly shades for mixing and matching and a clear wax for keeping any wonky-growing hairs in line. And a teeny tiny little brush that actually, is pretty brilliant. The bristles are very stiff and don’t give, so a dab of shadow on the tip of it goes straight to where it’s supposed to go: right along the roots of your brow. It combs and coats at the same time, and it didn’t take me very long at all to get the hang of it. Also! The teeny-tininess of it makes it PERFECT for coloring extra-thin brows. I used my fingertip to apply the brow wax.
Verdict: Hey! Look at that! Amy likes the MOST EXPENSIVE OPTION the best! Are you shocked? I bet you are a little shocked. (Okay, it’s $22 and only four dollars more than the stinking pencil, but still.)
While I was leery of trying to blend two shades, it’s actually pretty easy. Most of the time I just use the lightest shade, but if I’m doing a more dramatic evening eye (with black eyeliner, say), the darker shade helps balance out my eyes and my brows. My brows have always been such an afterthought that I’m shocked at what a difference it makes to my entire face to have them not be so invisible. The brow wax keeps the color and the shape in place all day, and…yeah. I just like it all very much. If you don’t think the LORAC shades are right for you, I would still encourage you to check out the other brow compacts out there (and seriously, just wander the cosmetic aisles and you’ll see a ton of options). If you’re eyebrow-pencil challenged, shadow is SO the way to go, and these little hybrid browshadow deals just make the whole thing ridiculously easy.

Published January 28, 2008. Last updated January 28, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Stephanie

    January 28, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I have a similar problem with random sparseness (some just genetic, but admittedly some on my left eyebrow the result of overzealous, improper plucking that decided to never grow back), although I don’t have the same issues with lightness. (My eyebrows and lashes are naturally brown, even though my hair is naturally reddish blonde.) Anyway… I totally advocate the use of eyebrow compacts to fill out sparse brows. I think it looks much more natural than pencils. I’ve tried both the Benefit Brow Zings and the Vincent Longo Bi-Brow Power Pomade, and like both. The Brow Zings come with a nifty little brush and even a teeny, tiny (pretty much useless) pair of tweezers, whereas the Vincent Longo one comes with… nothing. I just use an angled brush (eyeliner brush, perhaps?) with that one and it works fine. I didn’t get much use out of the pomade from either though, but that’s because both contain tinted pomades which gave me too much color. I don’t have much problem with unruly brows, though, so I don’t find it necessary.

  • Olivia

    January 28, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I use a pencil from Avon. I like the ones that are sort of like refillable pencils, no sharpening required. I go over the brow, filling in the bare spots, then go over with a brow brush. I’m blonde, I use the blonde pencil…easy enough.

  • missbritt

    January 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Ugh, am blonde and fair with reddish tint. Any pencil I’ve ever tried to use ends up looking more brown and red than blonde.
    But the shadow trick? Miracles! If the compact is even better, I may just need to stop off at the Ulta before date night tonight.
    OMG, I have a problem.

  • jamimess

    January 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I thought it was just me! I waxed my eyebrows ONCE, in about 1994, and they never grew back either!
    My eyebrows are okay on shape and orneriness, but they kind of trickle off into nothingness on the outside edges. I use a stiff, angle brush and a MAC eyeshadow about the color of my hair. I’ve heard you should “feather it lightly” into your brows, which is probably the same effect as Amalah’s suggestion to blend and brush.
    I had a hard time with the wax Amalah tried; I recently tried it and found it too waxy. Maybe I used too much?
    Anything has to be better than the woman at the local drugstore who used to pluck hers completely off and redraw them in blue or green pencil, a good half-inch higher than the natural brows. Yikes!

  • sarawr

    January 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Try applying some clear mascara, too — when your brows are light but not sparse, clear mascara will usually darken them enough to be a bit more visible, with the added bonus of being really freaking easy to do.

  • Jenn Bo

    January 28, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    In general, I like the shape of my eyebrows, but they are very fair. My solution is the Lancome Brow Groomer (You would have to test to see if Brunet or Taupe are right for your face – I use Brunet). I find the brush can be a little heavy on product. I either rub some off onto the rim of the container (so it is pushed back down in), or wipe some off into a tissue (which seems wasteful). It takes a little practice, but not much. If I mess it up and get too much on, then a brow brush can blend in as needed (Q-tip in a pinch).
    Lancome Modele Sourcils ($21):
    Lash and Brow Comb (I have a collection from “free gifts”):

  • Kimmy

    January 28, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I do believe you now owe us a before and after picture of your brows… you know, just for reference sake. (!!!)

  • Mere_

    January 29, 2008 at 12:59 am

    I work for a day spa that also sells a lot of makeup. When I started working for the store three years ago, I didn’t even tweeze my brows. My new coworkers made it clear to me quickly that my unruly super blonde brows needed some love. I now religiously wax or thread my brows and get them tinted a few times a year. If you have light brows and you live near a really reputable spa, I can’t recommend brow tinting enough. I love it. You just have to find a really great esthetician because a bad brow shaping and tinting can be worse than a bad haircut.
    My brows are not thin at all but working at a spa, I see a lot of people trying to fix over-plucked brows. A product that I have seen work really well is Talika eye brow lipocils(http://www.talika.com/article-10071-en.html). It will help your brows grow back even if you have had bald spots for a long time.

  • mahina

    January 29, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I have dark hair and dark eyebrows. I plucked my eyebrows into oblivion until a couple of years ago. I was trying to compensate for some eyelid troubles, and in an attempt to “open up” my eyes, I made the tragic mistake of plucking them super-thin. Worse, I broke the cardinal eyebrow rule: instead of drawing a line out from the inner corner of my eye to start my brow, mine started a good half inch back. TERRIBLE. And, of course, after I got cosmetic surgery on my eyelids and realized the error of my plucking ways, that half inch grew in verrry sparsely.
    Despite the annoying name, Benefit’s Brow Zings have worked WONDERS. My brows recovered from the super-thinness, but have no shape of their own. Brow Zings shapes them, evens them out, AND fills in my otherwise very noticeable bald spots. I’ve used both light and medium, depending on how I’ve highlighted my hair. They’re definitely expensive, but Brow Zings is the one makeup item I will absolutely not leave the house without applying.

  • Tara

    January 30, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Well, I realize I’m about the only person here who uses and loves Bare Minerals, but I would recommend the Bare Minerals brow powder. I use the Brunette shade with my brown hair. Leslie, the CEO, has about the same shade of hair as I and she claims to use the Dark Blonde shade.
    I apply the powder using the eyeliner brush which sounds like the Lorac brush, only not as stiff. It’s much more natural looking than a heavy pencil look.