My Crazy Eyebrows (& Why I'll Never Give Them Up)



brittnee-mainPhoto: courtesy of Justin Hogan.
We knew that our resident R29 QA analyst, Brittnee Cann, had killer brows (along with some cutting-edge coding skills). But, when we asked her to tell her beauty tale, little did we know just how much her brows mean to her. Here, she shares how her brows became her signature look — and how to DIY 'em, too.

Some women rock a classic red lip every day. Me? My eyebrows are my beauty thing — my signature look. It's not that I have naturally beautiful, thick, shapely Cara Delevingne brows, either; it's that I have good motor skills. And, just like everything else, practice makes perfect.

I have been filling in my brows since late 2008, long before the look of bold brows became a trend within the industry. Not a week goes by without someone commenting on their stark appearance or asking about my maintenance routine. Last week, that person was Refinery29 editor-in-chief Christene Barberich, who asked me to write up this crazy story for the site. So, without further ado, here is how it all came to be.

In all other aspects of a beauty regimen, having thin hair makes things easy. I can go a week without shaving my legs and no one will even notice. My arm fuzz is barely visible even in direct sunlight, and it takes the hair on my head 10 minutes to air-dry after showering. But, in college, a friend had the kind of thick eyebrows that would make an American Apparel casting director swoon — and I was envious of her thick-hair genes. I suddenly noticed how thin and sparse my own brows were, and I became a girl obsessed.

I started first filling them in using Maybelline eyeshadow in a warm brown hue aptly named Nutmeg. I used the cotton-tip wand that comes with the palette. Basically, I was a heavy-handed novice with the wrong tools, so you can probably imagine how this turned out. I remember being a little hesitant to show up for classes and work with my new caterpillar brows, fearful they looked a little too crazy. Still, I needed to field-test the look.

"What's up with your eyebrows? You look like a mime," was all the feedback I needed from a male coworker to let me know I would have to work on my technique. I’ll admit that his snarky comment stung a little bit, but I made sure to tell him to get used to the look — because from that point on, Brittnee would come with capital-B Brows.

I kept up with the powder for a while, but upgraded to applying it with an angled brush. Things improved dramatically, but they were still inconsistent. Some days my brows were darker or more angled than others, but I remained dedicated to perfection. After maybe a year of this method, another bushy-browed friend turned me on to Revlon's Brow Fantasy, a double-tipped product that is a waxy pencil on one side and tinted gel on the other. It was life-changing. (I'm not kidding. I remember the exact Walgreens drugstore where I bought my first one.)

After I got the hang of using a pencil to even things out, this was now my look — and I was working it on a daily basis. Compliments from friends and strangers alike on the definition and shapeliness of my brows was all the validation I needed to keep this routine going. My brows and I had officially arrived.

Fast-forward to now, and I am still filling them in. Yes, every morning before work. Yes, on weekends to meet friends or run errands. Yes, even if I don't wear any other makeup. Yes...Every. Day. (Working out is actually the only time that I don't "wear" them, since they would just melt off with sweat, anyway. I am also a firm believer in washing off makeup before bed, so I don't sleep with them on, either.)

My filling-in routine has graduated and is much more high-maintenance: Urban Decay eyeshadow primer to start, Benefit Brow Zings to fill in, and Anastasia Brow Gel to set. But, having been doing it for so long, it's still quick for me to execute.

As for other upkeep, most people are surprised to learn that I've never had my eyebrows professionally waxed or threaded. (As a matter of fact, the recent R29 feature on dark lipstick was the first time I ever let another person groom them. Our lovely makeup artist, Kim Weber, showed me a trick to make them look a little more natural in the center by using a wiry mascara wand. While I didn’t hate the look, I most definitely felt vulnerable without my brows fully filled in!) I am strict about plucking them myself, tweezing errant hairs as they crop up. I pluck only after filling them in so that I have a guide to work around — an important trick I learned after getting too pluck-happy once.

Needless to say, I dread the day when the trend pendulum swings back the other way in favor of thin eyebrows. Then again, for me, it won't even matter. I'm set in my ways to a point where I don't feel quite complete without a strong brow. You'll have to pry the Benefit Brow Zings and angled brush out of my cold, dead hands — because there's no going back for this Brooke Shields wanna-be.

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