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How to Fill in Eyebrows

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Do you have a favorite way to fill in eyebrows? Do you prefer feathery and bushy eyebrows like in the eighties, or do you like your eyebrows groomed and trimmed? No matter your preference, we can all agree that filling in eyebrows correctly is super-important, especially for the makeup lover.

Eyebrows, after all, are the most important facial feature. They express our most complex emotions: surprise, anger, sadness, and confusion. We all remember how weird those photos are of celebrities without eyebrows! Eyebrows bring balance to the face, by framing our eyes and creating cohesion between our face and our hair.

Unfortunately, it’s really easy to mess up filling in eyebrows: getting that perfectly flattering shape, and looking symmetrical takes practice and a bit of know-how. In this article, I will help you figure out what kind of brow shape is right for you, how to actually fill in eyebrows, and which color you should use.

In this article:

How to Choose the Perfect Shape for Filling in Eyebrows

Before you actually start going at ‘em with your eyebrow pencil, it is important to map out your brows and decide what kind of shape you are aiming for. While some might tell you there are strict rules to how eyebrows must look, and where they should start, I strongly disagree.

The rules you normally hear for filling in eyebrows are the following:

  • The eyebrows should start directly above the nostrils.
  • The eyebrow arch should happen right along an imaginary diagonal line drawn from the nostrils, to the center of the iris, to the brow.
  • The eyebrows should end along an imaginary diagonal line drawn from the nostril, to the end of the eye, to the brow.

Now, to be fair, these rules will lead to an eyebrow shape that will be almost universally flattering, and if you are not sure where to start, it’s a great guideline.

However, there are other examples of eyebrow looks that are just as beautiful, that do not follow these guidelines, and instead lead to a unique and memorable look.

In order to pick the best shape for your eyebrows, first examine your face and your eyebrows. Do your eyebrows seem to overpower the rest of your features, or do they blend in? Is your face more broad or narrow? Are your features very angled, or more rounded?

Next, consider what kind of image you would like to portray with your eyebrows. Do you want to look softer and more feminine, or do you want a fiercer look? Do you love the boyish eyebrows of the ‘80s, or do you prefer an ultra-clean Instagram brow? Do you like a thick brow, a medium brow, or a thin brow? Look to your favorite celebrities for inspiration, as well.

The fun thing about filling in eyebrows is that you can make them thicker or thinner, rounder or sharper, darker or lighter, depending on your mood, the occasion, and the way the rest of your makeup is looking. Embrace the changes!

Now that you’ve clarified your desires, here are some different eyebrow shape ideas that will have a different impact on your face:

Medium Thickness

Of all of the eyebrow sizes, this one is the likeliest to flatter. It is balanced and will work with most makeup looks.

Thin Eyebrows

Thin eyebrows are not in style right now, and for a reason. They are not very flattering, since they do not effectively frame the face. Those with very narrow faces and small features are the exception, and thin eyebrows may suit them.

Thick Eyebrows

Going thicker when filling in eyebrows is very much in style right now. If you have big eyes, and a penchant for perfected makeup, feel free to opt for thicker brows. They tend to look more youthful, but not always in a good way. Those who have very little eyelid space should avoid thick brows, since they can create a shadowy look.

Bushy Brows

You too can achieve that Cara Delevingne brow, with an eyebrow spoolie and some clear mascara. This look is boyish and natural and is best suited as a contrast for very refined features.

On-Fleek Instabrows

These ultra-groomed brows can still be thick, but they’re brushed down, no hair out of place, with a rim of concealer all around keeping the edges sharp. This look says that you are meticulous, and is perfect with some sharp eyeliner wings.

Eyebrows with Short Ends

There is something boyish and a little elfen about eyebrows that cut off soon after they arch. This is a unique look that really stands out, and works better on those with narrow, delicate features. However, once you shorten your brows, you can’t guarantee they’ll grow back.

Straight Brows

This feminine and youthful eyebrow trend is big in Korea right now, but there are also some North American celebs rocking it (Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence, I’m looking at you!). If your eyebrows are naturally straight, feel free to embrace it, and you can also give it a spin by filling in the space below your arch.

Eyebrows with a Rounded Arch

I’m not talking about Ronald McDonald arches, but about rounded, softened arches. It’s a good look if you’re trying to soften very severe features, although for most people it is not very flattering.

Eyebrows with a Sharp Arch

Keep the haters away with a fierce glare, made all the more striking by sharp-arched eyebrows. Sharp arches look a little meaner, and they definitely age the face some. You can save filling in your eyebrows like this for your Halloween vampire costume, or for a situation when you have to intimidate your opposition.

Arch That Begins Further Back

To imagine what this looks like, look up a picture of Emma Watson. This twist on the softly arched brow has some of the femininity of a straight brow, but it still frames the face well.

Darker Brows

Filling your eyebrows in with a darker color will help balance out darker eye makeup and will call attention to your eyes. A darker brow ages a person, which may or may not be what you might be going for.

Lighter Brows

This softer choice is more youthful, but it can quickly veer towards the dreaded invisi-brow. It works better with lighter eye makeup.

Choosing the Perfect Brow Color for Filling in Eyebrows

Choosing the perfect shade for filling in eyebrows is more complicated than just choosing a “dark brown” or “light brown”. Too often, people fill in their eyebrows with a color that has a different undertone from their hair, and the effect is very jarring.

How to Choose the Best Brow Color for Filling in Eyebrows

The same way that we need to know our undertone when choosing face makeup, we must also know the undertone of our hair when choosing the best eyebrow products for us. What is almost universally true is that you should choose an eyebrow product that is about one shade lighter than your natural hair color, because it will create depth and prevent your brows from looking too dark or harsh.

If you want to create an ombre brow, simply choose two or three eyebrow products that have the same undertones, but are different levels of darkness. Apply the lightest in the front, the medium tone in the center, and the darkest just at the tip of the eyebrow.

Brow Colors for Black & Dark Brown Hair

Usually, darker hair colors have cooler undertones, so you want to choose a shade of brown that has very little red or yellow tones to it – in other words, a brown that is almost a dark gray. For dark brown hair, a neutral brown will likely also work.

Brow Colors for Strawberry Blonde, Auburn, & Red Hair

If there are a lot of red and orange tones to your hair, you also want to match them when filling in your brows. Even if you’re a redhead, avoid a straight up orange. Instead, opt for light browns (medium browns if your hair is auburn) that have a hint of an orange/ red tint. This will look more natural with your red hair, and will beautifully harmonize your face.

Brow Colors for Cool Blondes

If you’re a fan of purple toner, and have more platinum blonde hair, opt for a gray brown, also known as taupe, when filling in eyebrows.

Brow Colors for Dark Blonde & Light Brown Hair

Usually, light brown hair will have a bit of a yellow undertone. You can use both warmer browns that have a bit of a yellow tint, as well as very neutral browns, which are sometimes easier to find.

How to Fill in Eyebrows Correctly

How to Fill in Eyebrows: Steps

  • As always, start with a clean face. You may choose to fill in your eyebrows after already doing your foundation, or you can wait until after, especially if you like those pristine edges to your brows that you can create with concealer.
  • Start mapping out the outline of your eyebrows with your chosen product. If you are aiming for maximum longevity, begin with either a pencil or a pomade, to be set with powder later.
  • This is an optional step for a more precise brow, or for those who need to correct the symmetry of their eyebrows. Draw two clean lines, one on the top and the other along the bottom of your brow, starting at the arch and meeting in a point where you would like your eyebrows to end. Next, draw two similar lines on top and bottom that begin just above the tear duct, and reach the arch.
  • Check for symmetry, and ensure that your brows are of equal thickness.
  • Next, in light strokes that go in the same direction as your hair, fill in the space between the hairs along the rest of the brow.
  • Since the hairs at the front of the brow usually grow upwards, use light vertical strokes to fill in that area in a natural way. You want the front of the brows to be filled in more lightly than the rest of the eyebrow. You can use a lighter shade when filling in the front, to achieve an ombre eyebrow.
  • If you’ve used a less rigid product like an eyebrow pencil or powder, use a clean spoolie brush to blend out any harsh lines. Run it in the same direction of your hair growth as many times as necessary.
  • If necessary, fill in your eyebrows more until you reach desired opaqueness/intensity. You can also adjust the symmetry of the brow at this point.
  • To enhance an ombre brow, you can sharpen your ends with a thin point of a color one or two shades darker than the rest of your brow.
  • If you’ve used an eyebrow pencil or cream to fill in the brows, you can now set them with a powder. If you want to increase opacity, use an eyebrow powder that is the same shade as your first layer. To avoid changing the color, use a translucent powder, and to soften the brow use a lighter eyebrow powder.
  • Using a Q-tip or a brush dipped in concealer, you can clean up your edges and fix any mistakes.
  • Finish off with a layer of clear mascara or wax to set your eyebrow hairs in place. Brush the hairs sideways and downwards for a clean look, or brush them straight up to achieve ‘80s bushy brows.

Eyebrow Makeup Styles for Filling in

While the previous sections covered the basic way, there are also a lot of different styles for how to fill in eyebrows. In addition to determining your shape, you also need to settle on your favorite style for grooming and filling in the eyebrows.

From the highly Instagrammed ombre eyebrow to the high fashion boy brow, we cover the main styles, which can be paired with most eyebrow shapes.   

Easy Brow

I’m calling this the “easy brow” because it requires the least effort, and it’s also the most casual. You don’t need 3 or 4 different brow products, a steady hand, or 20 minutes to get it done. It takes just a minute or two and can be done with nearly any kind of brow product.

The secret to the easy brow is that it’s not meant to change the shape of the brow at all – just to slightly enhance it, so if your brows are extremely sparse or uneven (or if you just like drama), it might not be for you. It’s best for light or natural makeup days, and it’s a great choice for anyone who enjoys makeup casually.

With this technique, you just use whatever powder, pencil, or pomade you have on hand to very lightly fill in and thicken up the brows, using tiny strokes and focusing on sparse or light areas as well as on the arch and tail of the brow. The result should be somewhere between a micro stroke and shading.

After very lightly filling in only where necessary, you can blend the color and brush the brows with a clean spoolie. It’s quick, easy, timeless, and looks good even when you don’t have other makeup on. 

How to Reshape Eyebrows

Boy Brow

Boy brows are fluffy, fanned out, and oh-so-thick. The key detail of the boy brow is that the hairs are brushed upwards, which gives a fuzzy appearance to the top of the brow while also increasing their overall thickness.

Boy brows can be achieved with brow gel, eyebrow lamination, or even just a bit of soap. This technique is great when combined with micro strokes, and also works with the Easy Brow and a light Ombre Brow, though it doesn’t work with outlined brows.

Ombre Brow

The ombre brow is a very cool technique for filling in eyebrows that is especially popular in drag, although it’s also marvelous in real life. It’s a great way of avoiding blocky-looking brows while still filling the brows in more solidly. For this technique, the brows should be filled in with two or three shades, the lightest one at the front, the middle shade at the center (i.e. the arch), and the darker filling in the tail.

Brow powder is great for this, but pomades and pencils can work as well. The transition between the shades should be seamless, so the colors should be blended together with a cotton bud or a clean spoolie. This technique can be combined with micro strokes, an outline, or even with the boy brow grooming style.

The Outlined Brow

The outlined brow (sometimes referred to as a carved-out brow or Instagram brow) is a technique that focuses on creating a strong outline for the brows before filling them in. It can be done with nearly any eyebrow product, but pencils or pomades are usually best.

The steps are simple: first, you draw one line to carve out the bottom shape from the front of the brow all the way to the tail, then you draw another line along the top that starts out at the front and goes down to the tail where it connects with the bottom line in a point. Then the inner part of the brow can be filled in with a more shaded technique, while the front can be filled in with micro strokes or with an ombre shade.

Eyebrow Shaping Tips

The final step is to use a concealer or foundation along the perimeter to clean up the outline of the eyebrow, which results in a very crisp and stark look. This looks amazing in photos (especially eye makeup close-ups), but it can be a little over-the-top in real life.

Micro Stroke Brow 

Saving the best for last! This is by far the most popular technique for filling in eyebrows right now because it’s reminiscent of microblading and just looks fierce yet natural. The amazing thing about the micro stroke brow is that it allows for both filling in sparse areas and reshaping in a way that doesn’t look like makeup. The only drawback to it is that it requires more practice and work than the Easy Brow, Boy Brow, or even the Ombre Brow.

Micro strokes can be achieved with a pomade or dampened powder and a very thin brush, a fine-tipped pencil, or an eyebrow gel pen. The key to the technique is to create tiny strokes that go with the direction of the hair wherever you wish you had more hair.

It’s like trying to create a bunch of extra-small eyeliner wings all over your brow when it’s often difficult enough to create just those two bigger wings over the eyes! However, the impeccable results are totally worth it, so if you’re intrigued, then get practicing. 

Which is your eyebrow of choice? Do you like bushy brows, or precise brows? What is your favorite eyebrow product for filling in brows? Let us know!

Photos via @_divamaker, Instagram