I Accidentally Changed My Eyebrows With “Brow Training” — Here Are The 5 Steps

Photographed by Myesha Evon Gardner.
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Up until last December, I was wholeheartedly dependent on my five-week brow appointment. It was a constant in my life; one I would make time for even if I were on vacation or travelling for work. “Your brows are the only makeup you’re always wearing” was, and is, a rotating phrase in my life, and luckily I have been blessed with great eyebrows. But after I kept hitting snooze on my calendar reminders and forgetting to make my regular appointment, I decided to see just how long I could go between them as a personal challenge to myself.  
What resulted was nearly a year without any form of brow modification, and, surprisingly, more compliments on how good my brows looked. It also culminated in a few therapy sessions on what it means to let go of something — I realised I was obsessed with my brow appointments. Though I was scared of seeing what my eyebrows really looked like, the reality is that my natural brows suit me perfectly. I had trained my eyebrows to be the way that I wanted them to be all along, and I did it purely by accident. 
As a good beauty writer, it made me wonder if my technique of just letting my brows do their thing and not touching them is really the right way, so I asked brow experts about all the best ways to retrain and regrow your brows from scratch.

What causes sparse brows?

There are plenty of reasons why your eyebrows might change in shape and fullness — grooming habits, age, injectables like Botox and filler, and ailments like thyroid issues, alopecia, or trichotillomania (the recurrent urge to pull out one’s hair) to name a few. Then there’s over-waxing, over-threading, and over-tweezing, which can weaken the hair follicle over time. Over-correcting to fix the over-tweezing isn’t good for us, either. While microblading and brow lamination allow people the chance to dramatically change what their brows look like, these treatments may put stress on the brows leading to brow misalignment, particularly when not performed by a qualified professional.
“Most trends are not good for brow growth,” explains celebrity eyebrow stylist Joey Healy. “Brow lamination involves chemicals; microblading can be difficult because there could be scarring in the brow if it's not done correctly.” The same goes for brow extensions, says Healy, which enlist glue on delicate eyebrow hairs. What I’ve learned from the last year of not touching my eyebrows, and as Healy confirmed, is that your eyebrows don’t want to be touched as much as you think they do. 

How do I re-train my brows, though?

So, you want to start from scratch, eh? Well, you can be like me, and do it inadvertently, or you can apply a strategy to maximize your results and get your brows to work for you, and not the other way around. But it’s gonna take a few steps.

Figure out your brow goals.

If you’re going to invest all this time into getting your brows back to where they started, it’s best to figure out what you ultimately want from all of this. Are you looking to change the actual shape of your brows, or are you trying to make them fuller? The best way to figure out how to find your most natural brow shape is to go into your photo albums, says Healy. “You can look at photos of yourself when you were younger, and sometimes you see how far they've gone off course.” Healy also says that your brow should sit right on your brow bone. “Chances are if it's drooping, or if it's higher, it’s misaligned because of something that was done to them,” he says.

Take your precious time.

Again, the big thing I’ve learned is that despite everything we’ve been taught, your eyebrows don’t want to be fiddled with that much. They just want a healthy growth environment, and things like hot waxes and lamination aren’t great for the brows or the sensitive skin around them. So really, the best thing for your brows is to just not touch them for as long as possible. Don’t touch them, don’t think about them, ignore them. Stop lying to yourself that you’re just “plucking the strays.” (That’s what I said when I pulled out my gray hairs.)
But neither Healy nor Kristie Streicher, celebrity brow artist, founder of KS&CO, and creator of The Nurtured Brow Philosophy, think you should go as long as I (accidentally) did. “I often hear clients say that they tried to grow their eyebrows to change the shape, or make them thicker by allowing them to grow untouched for a few months, but complain that they just don't grow,” says Streicher. “When you fully study the growth cycles of the brow hair, you begin to understand that only minimal regrowth and what I call ‘low-lying stragglers’ can be achieved during this time.” 
Those random compulsive tweezing sessions aren’t helping you in the long run, either: The hair grows according to hair growth cycles and tweezing affects the way the hair grows because it’s been pulled from the root rather than cut or trimmed like threading — meaning that if you’re often tweezing random stray hairs, you will see more frequent random growth, and might need to tweeze more frequently. It can take a few months for the hair to reset to learn to grow again. No need to go a full calendar year — 6 to 8 weeks without a touch-up is just fine, that’s just enough time to find a new hobby! 

Tweezers are friends, not foes. 

Streicher is an actual expert in re-training eyebrows for growth using a proprietary technique she calls “Strategic Tweezing”. The Strategic Tweezing process starts with allowing the brow hairs to grow untouched over 6-8 weeks. After those 8 weeks, you’ll go through  5-6 rounds — so basically, up to a year —of only tweezing specific follicles to train the brow to grow in areas nearest the brow, instead of away and down the eyelid. After you can expect to see less-to-no hairs growing down the lid and a more filled-in eyebrow. “Although it seems counterintuitive, tweezing certain hairs triggers regrowth. Even those that allow their eyebrows to grow untouched over an entire year, do not see the same amount of regrowth when they were "Strategically Tweezed” on a 6-8 week cycle,” she explains. Streicher pointed to a 2015 study by the University of Southern California that found plucking 200 hairs triggered the growth of up to 1,200 replacement hairs in mice, proving that plucked hair follicles ‘communicate’, causing an immune response that leads to regrowth. Of course, we aren't mice, but Streicher is convinced of the results following strategic tweezing — she's seen them firsthand.
Tweezing is the best option for regrowing a brow as opposed to trimming, waxing, or threading. Not only is it more controlled and precise, but the action of forcefully removing the hair can weaken the follicle itself. It’s important to tweeze in the best light possible  — daylight is ideal. You might also want to avoid magnifying mirrors, as they can warp your perspective. The beginning phases won’t be easy, either. You may notice a small, sporadic amount of hair growth more on the eyelid, rather than close to the brow line. This is when it’s time to trust the process that when this new hair is left alone and not tweezed, it will then start to fill in the brow by growing closer to the brow line. Streicher suggests tweezing the hairs around “buffer lines” that are closest to the eyelid and furthest from the brow bone. If you’re concerned about getting a bit tweezer-happy, you can always find a brow specialist that uses tweezers and trimmers rather than wax to help you discover a new shape.

Now is the time to use a brow serum, too.

Both Healy and Streicher encourage using a brow serum during your regrowth cycle. A brow growth serum, like Grande Cosmetics GrandeBROW Brow Enhancing Serum or Vegamour GRO Brow Serum, can improve the length, thickness and colour of brows. Some brow serums use prostaglandin analogs and prostamides, which have been clinically proven to enhance hair growth, but users report side effects such as excessive growth and pigmentation. If you’re keen to avoid these, formulas like Kosas GrowPotion, and The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Lash and Brow Serum, contain peptides that stimulate hair growth by mimicking prostaglandins. This is what you can do when you’re not tweezing, and even when you are!

Keep the brows tidy.

Colour cosmetics might be the secret hero in your brow journey. “I find that people who don't fill in their brows often look at them, and they think that they're unruly and messy — that makes it more tempting for them to go do their grooming,” says Healy. Whether it's a pomade, a tinted gel, a powder, or a pencil, keeping your brows filled in will distract from the little baby hairs creeping in. Streicher recommends using a brow pen and a bit of concealer to define underneath the brow bone and to cover hairs you don't want to be seen.
One thing that convinced me that I didn’t need to get my eyebrows done was tinting my eyebrows at home. Not only does it save me time and money (and allows me to channel my inner Groucho Marx) but it also gives just enough of a boost without having to get out all of my pens and gels; the sparse patches look a little more filled in because of the shade. Baebody Instant Tint! is a great at-home, semi-permanent option. But for those who are a little wary about a full process yourself, Hally Brow Pal lasts for three to five days, as opposed to the seven to 10 days of a traditional brow tint formulation. It comes in both brown and black, but also a cool navy tint for those who are a little daring. 
Some say a watched eyebrow never grows — and in my case, this is true. But if I've learned anything while writing this story, it's that scant brows certainly aren't a lost cause. 
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