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Take it Easy, Tweezy

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

I searched your archives for an answer, but since I couldn’t find anything to answer my question I’m just going to ask you straight out: are there any special “numbing” techniques or something you do before you pluck your brows?

Now, before you go all “you effin’ loser!” on me, I have a reason for this. You know how when some people lose one sense, their other senses overcompensate to make up for it? I’m kinda that way. Like how a blind person can hear better. Except I can’t hear at all, and my eyesight kinda sucks anyways (I read alot to make up for the not-hearing). So to compensate, I can smell things way too easily (I live with two guys! TWO! I hate my nose!), can only eat bland foods because of my stellar sense of taste, and I have extremely sensitive skin (the sense of touch). Which makes me a total baby when I have to get shots and stuff. And pluck my eyebrows.

As a result, I never get around to plucking my brows, and being the perpetually broke college student that I am, I can rarely afford to get them waxed (that ten bucks just went towards my groceries because I have TWO! hungry college guys to feed). And, Amy: My mother, who has never worn makeup in the entire time she’s been my mother (21 years and counting) has commented on my brows! I’d really appreciate any help that you can give me here.

Thanks so much!

Wait, did you honestly think I would go all “you effin’ loser!” on you? Because I would never go all you effin’ loser on you. I freaking hate plucking my eyebrows. And I can’t even chalk it up to sensory issues (although Jason, in all his infinite “WHAT’S THAT SMELL? DO YOU SMELL THAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T SMELL THAT?” glory, would probably tell you that I am Hard of Smellling, but whatever). No, I’m just a big baby.

However, I will have you know I made it to almost nine centimeters dilation before asking for an epidural. So, uhhh, there.

I’ve numbed my brows with an ice cube (a la seekrit junior high sleepover ear piercings) before, when I’ve had some hardcore overgrowth to pluck. It works great, but I imagine the extreme cold might be on par with the plucking pain for you? I’ve also heard that baby teething gels (like Baby Orajel), OTC toothache gels or even something like Neosporin with Pain Relief can help numb your brows.

I don’t currently have any Orajel on hand (update: The FDA has issued a warning on homeopathic teething tablets and gels as a risk to infants and children; update #2: The FDA has also issued a warning on teething gels containing the drug benzocaine and telling parents to avoid use), but we did buy it once and I tested a tiny bit on my own gums. And I was promptly reduced to a drooling idiot with no control over my mouth, since I’d accidentally brushed my lower lip on the way to touch my gums. So yeah — that would probably work really well.

I did find some Neosporin with Pain Relief so I went and did a little head-to-head experiment — Neosporin vs. ice cube vs. nothing. As I expected, the ice cube numbed the best, but I will say the Neosporin was definitely better than nothing. EXCEPT (and I wonder if this would be true with the teething gels) that it made everything so gooey and sticky that it was really hard to get a grip on the hair or even see if I’d plucked everything.

So if you can stand the ice, I’d go for that, along with just a few standard tips for easier plucking. (Or, if any readers have tried the Orajel trick, maybe they can comment on whether it’s really a help or a hindrance.)

First, pluck your eyebrows right after your shower, so your pores will be open and the hair will come out easier. Use a good set of tweezers — they really do make a HUGE difference. And lastly, remember to pull your skin taut before plucking, and grab the hair as close to the root as possible.

(Oh, and this can totally be our little secret, but if one of your guy roommates has one of those little battery-powered nose-hair trimmers? Dip it in some rubbing alcohol and use it to keep your brows neat and lengthen the time between pluckings. Shh!!)

Published February 2, 2007. Last updated May 23, 2018.
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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