I remember getting my makeup done in high school by a “professional.” Now, mind you, this was the ’80s, decades before K-beauty, ethnic skin tones or anything approaching multiculturalism in the beauty industry. So of course, the foundation she applied on me made me look like a ghost (with a pink undertone), my eyeshadow looked weirdly drawn on since I didn’t have the deep fold that my Caucasian peers had, and perhaps worst of all, my eyebrows were thick, black caterpillars hovering above my eyes. I think that’s why I, to this day, have an aversion to other people doing my makeup. (I even did my own makeup at my wedding.)
Today, I’m spoiled for choice in terms of foundation shades (Armani, Clinique, even Algenist make my current favorite shades and textures), and I’ve pretty much got my eye look down (neutral shadow, black liquid liner in a puppy eye downturn, whatever mascara’s around). I’ve even found a new lip look that I adore. But brows — that I’ve been struggling with for some time now.
I attribute it to that black hole in my brain — that same vacuum that has absconded with my abilities to remember driving directions, comprehend anything to do with economics, and do hair. In fact, one could argue that my ineptitude in hair extends to the hair on my brows.
After tons of practice, and many, many bad, bad looks (too straight, too thick, too dark), I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I watched the way some makeup pros do my brows (yes, I was that desperate), learned from some YouTube videos, and studied the brows of many a Korean celebrity. I think the keys for me — after all, everyone’s brows are different — are:
- Choosing products in a lighter brow color. Most brow pencils and gels look darker on dark eyebrows, so I usually stick to dark blonde or light brunette shades.
- Outlining the top of my brows. I know most American makeup artists advise outlining only the bottom of brows, but most Asian makeup artists seem to outline the entire brow, especially for thick, straight Asian brows.
- Not trying to achieve the perfectly straight Korean eyebrow. My brows just aren’t shaped that way, and trying to force them into that shape results in weird caterpillar brows. So I compromise — they’re not perfectly straight, but then, neither is Jeon Ji Hyun’s.
Makeup artist Archangela Chelsea — she of the brows always “on fleek” — also provided these tips on how to get your best brows:
- Best natural brow: I like to use a pencil to outline the eyebrow shape and then a powder to fill them in. Finish by brushing the very front of your eyebrows using a spoolie brush.
- Best shade: There are different preferences among my clients, but I personally like my eyebrows to be one shade lighter than my hair color so that my whole makeup look is more natural.
- Above the brow: For those who have really thin eyebrows and want to go thicker, you can draw along the top and bottom of the brows. I also pluck stray hairs above the brow. (She told me to do it, but I just can’t get myself to pluck my thinning brows, even a little bit.)
- Finishing touch: After shaping and filling in your brows, use a concealer or highlighter above and below your brows to make them look really polished and neat.
Sure, it’s shaped like a highlighter pen (twist the cap off, don’t pull), but this unique brow wand is easy to use once you get the hang of it. Use the triangular tip to fill in sparse areas, then set and shape with the spoolie. Chosungah 22 Dong Gong Minn Brow Maker, $22, sephora.com
Don’t be intimidated by its pen liner format — this brow liner goes on super subtly so you can’t mess up. Use it to fill in brows. Eyeko Liquid Brow Liner, $20, saks.com
A genius waterproof gel-to-powder formula in a convenient stick. One side has the angled brow brush, the other a little tub of gel. Touch In Sol Brow Gellin Gel Eyebrow Styler, $22, sephora.com
The triangular sponge tip deposits just the right amount of powder for a soft, filled-in look without any harsh lines. A convenient spoolie brush on the other end keeps brows neat. DHC Eyebrow Perfect Pro Powder, $7.50, dhccare.com
This chubby mechanical pencil offers buildable color in a wax and powder formula. M.A.C Big Brow Pencil in Coquette, $21, maccosmetics.com
Get natural looking color with two shades in one slanted, twist-up tip. Browfood Eco Precision 2-Tone Brow Pencil, $24, lashfood.com
This pomade-in-a-chubby-stick makes doing your eyebrows fun. Maybelline New York Eye Studio Brow Drama Pomade Crayon, $10, ulta.com
A gel that deposits hair-like fibers for fuller looking brows. Westmore Beauty Lasting Effects Brow Gel, $25, qvc.com
Originally published in Composure Magazine.