We’ve spent more hours than we care to admit putting together Pinterest boards, picking the brains of stylists, and thumbing through celebrity Instagram feeds all to land on the perfect haircut. But in our pursuit, we’ve overlooked another way to make us look our best, all through an entirely different type of hair cut that's far simpler — and definitely less expensive — than messing with the strands on our head: brow shaping.
“The brow shape has a major influence over other facial features,” says Joey Healy, a New York-based celebrity brow specialist. His rule of thumb for landing on the brow shape most likely to draw out your best features? “Play against the natural angles of your face,” he says, by looking to angled brow shapes to balance more rounded faces and more flowing brow shapes to soften faces with sharper features. “It's all about balance and overall facial harmony."
Of course, this is the 21st century, and we can have any brow shape we're after — no matter how our natural brows grow. For this, Benefit Cosmetics global brow expert Jared Bailey suggests a three-step method called brow mapping for the most flattering results when carving out your optimum shape.
First, find the perfect starting point for your brows by aligning it straight up from the sides of your nose. (Using a ruler helps.) To zero in on the arch, point a ruler from the corner of your nose to the center of the eye. Finally, land on your brows’ end by tilting that ruler from the corner of the nose to the outer corner of the eye. “Following these three measurements helps keep your brows in the right proportion with the rest of your face and features,” Bailey says.
Not sure which brow shape you want to tackle? Find both pros' breakdowns of what each can do to bring out your best side, ahead.
Straight Brow Shape
According to Bailey, a straight brow with low-to-no arch can make your eyes look bigger and brighter. "If you think about your face in three different planes, you have the forehead to the brows, brows to the lips, and lips to the chin. A straight brow will block out these proportions, and as a result, make the eye appear more open," he says.
2/3 Arch Brow Shape
It's tempting to want to take anything Beyoncé does and make it your own, but when it comes to brow shapes, Healy says that Bey's 2/3 arched brow may land best on those with oval face shapes. "With other features on the face being so balanced, a more bold look works for this face shape," he says. Bonus: The arched look can also feign the look of higher cheekbones.
When wearing a fuller brow, Healy also advocates for more thoughtful trimming, as brow hairs that may seem
too long can actually make the look. "Often the length of the existing hairs can prove to be a wonderful asset, allowing you to do a brow comb-over and direct them in a helpful way," he says. His go-to for guiding brow hairs and fixing them in place? Using a clear brow gel, like Joey Healy Brow Structure Clear Set
Tapered Brow Shape
There's a reason some of the world's most famous women with the sharpest cheekbones (see: Debbie Harry, Angelina Jolie, Kerry Washington) choose a brow shape that subtly narrows at the tail. "Tapered brows are great for people with heart-shaped faces who may have sharper features," like Gemma Chan, "because it softens them and makes your face look more delicate," Bailey says.
Curved Brow Shape
Sometimes called "S"-shaped brows, a curved brow shape very slightly dips down and up, like a comma on its side. "This is great for people who have a round or square face because it elongates the face shape," says Bailey. "Having these highs and lows in the brow actually creates the illusion of a longer face."
Thin Brow Shape
On some faces, thinly-plucked brows may feel like a '90s throwback — but according to Bailey, the shape looks right at home on those with delicate features, like Kate Mara. "The thickness of your brow should be proportional to your face," he says. "If you have smaller eyes and a smaller nose, thinner brows typically look better because they mirror the features you already have."
Thick & Short Brow Shape
"If you have a small face, a long brow can be overpowering," Bailey says. "Keeping them thick and a little shorter can help to fill out a small face. Thickness also creates a youthful appearance." The key to shaping a shorter brow is to find the right endpoint for your own face shape. To do this, Bailey suggests measuring the angled line from the outer portion of the nose across the outer corner of the eye.
Feathered & Textured Brow Shape
"Texture is something that everyone is looking for in their brows," Bailey says. "It’s about being able to see individual brow hairs." Even if your brow hairs don't naturally peacock on their own, the look can be achieved with some smart makeup application. "You can create a natural-looking feathered look by using multiple shades of micro-lining brow pencils like Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow Pencil
," he explains. "Pick pencil shades that fall into warm or cool tones depending on your hair color, and then alternate shades through the brow to make it look highly texturized."
Steep Arched Brow Shape
A well-done eye lift can work miracles in terms of making a face look more awake, but there's a far less pricey — and painful — way to accomplish the same thing: shape your brows with a steep arch. "It provides maximum lift to the face," Healy says.
Minimal Arched Brow Shape
Talk about brow shaping often focuses on finding and emphasizing an arch, but as Healy points out, some can benefit from downplaying the arches altogether. "If you have a smaller forehead, subtle arches allow for more forehead to show," he says, noting the shape can also work well on those who have strong angles in the face "because it plays against them."
Rounded Brow Shape
Healy singles out a rounded brow shape as a flattering option for those with stronger features who want to soften them. What's more, a rounded shape with a slight center arch also makes almond-shaped eyes look especially mesmerizing.
Exaggerated Tail Brow Shape
Disney villains may have the corner on brows shaped with an exaggerated tail, but there's an easy way to keep the look from feeling cartoonish IRL, according to Healy. "An exaggerated tail is great if the brow tail isn't very steep," he says. Thandie Newton's mild arch provides an elegant example of how to shape an exaggerated tail, as well as how the brow shape can add the illusion of width to a narrow face.