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If TikTok how-tos are anything to go by, there isn't much you can't do with fake tan. I'm proof that it makes a brilliant semi-permanent lip liner, and it serves as a pretty convincing contouring product in place of bronzer. Next up on the list of unexpected ways to use self-tan: filling in your eyebrows.
If you don't have a steady enough hand for gloopy brow tint but you're keen to cover up sparse patches, you might want to take a leaf out of TikToker Michelle's book. In a video with tens of thousands of views and counting, Michelle makes a strong case for fake tanning your brows, filling in any scant areas with a fine, angled brush and cleaning up the edges. Michelle isn't the only one to hint that this might be the ultimate brow tutorial: TikTokers like Lily Fitzsimmons, Charly Anne and Rachel Rigler have all put the hack on trial, with pretty impressive results. So does it work IRL or is it simply camera trickery (and perhaps a little brow pomade)?
A caveat before I go any further: I have very thick, dark eyebrows. My hairs are long and coarse but I'm a serial over-plucker and this month I've gone overboard. Not only that, but the arch of my right brow has always featured a tiny hairless patch that I like to hide. You could say that I take my brows very seriously, which is why I'm currently using three brow makeup products combined: NYX Professional Makeup Lift And Snatch Brow Tint Pen, $25, which mimics natural hair strokes; Charlotte Tilbury Brow Lift, $42, to shade in the arch efficiently; and Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel, $42, to keep my long hairs in place.
Could fake tan take the chore out of my lengthy morning brow routine by tinting and filling them in at the same time? I couldn't let this trick pass me by so I picked up my trusty Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam Ultra Dark, $17.99. This is my go-to in the summer when I want to achieve a natural-looking glow to my skin. I decanted three pumps of foam into the lid and watched as it quickly melted down into a liquid, then reached for my angled brow brush (Vieve Angle Brush, $33.66, which has a handy spoolie on the end).
Before beginning, I made sure that the skin around my brows was entirely free from makeup and skincare with a swipe of Garnier Micellar Water Facial Cleanser Sensitive Skin, $7.50. I dipped the angled brush into the tanning liquid and tapped off the excess very carefully so as not to get tan on my hands or clothes (but I'm clumsy and I couldn't quite avoid it). Then I got to work filling in my brows just as I would if I were using this brush with brow pomade.
Self-tan is a lot more watery than pomade. It was easy to apply compared to brow tint, which I find too viscous and almost glue-like, but it was difficult to stop the tan from running and ending up in places I didn't need it to be, especially when applying it to the inner corner of my brow. But that's what cotton buds are for! I made sure I had a couple to hand alongside the micellar water for any emergency clean-ups. Filling in the arch was a doddle and the runny consistency of the tan actually sped things up here, as it dripped down into my sparse brow hairs. Using the same angled brush, and taking care not to get any in my eyes, I buffed the tan into my hairs and skin until it dried down completely, which was very fast. The stickiness of fake tan always makes my skin feel slightly prickly at first but this sensation quickly subsided.
The Bondi Sands website says that all its products are safe for the face but it recommends patch testing first. It is suggested to leave this tan on for up to six hours but considering this was the first time I'd used it on my brows, I settled on four. For the rest of the afternoon, I looked like I'd scribbled over my brows with a Sharpie. I totally forgot about it and opened the door for my grocery shop looking like Helga from Hey Arnold!. I'm certain that the delivery driver was seriously judging my makeup skills. I chose not to explain.
After four hours, I removed the tan with the same micellar water on a cotton round and was pleasantly surprised. The final result was very subtle but the obvious sparse patch in my right arch was less noticeable and my brows appeared quite a bit darker, as though I'd opted for a professional tint or shading. Brushing them up with a spoolie helped them look a lot thicker.
That said, up very close, the colour was ever so slightly off. The only thing I'd do differently next time is apply a little Vaseline or barrier cream to the top of each brow as I found that the tan bled upwards a little at the inner corners, leaving me with a tiny orange square on each side. Still, this was nothing a tiny dab of concealer didn't fix immediately.
The next day, I felt good enough to ditch the brow pen and pencil and opt for a simple slick of clear brow gel. My brows aren't totally symmetrical but are any? You know the saying by now: Brows are sisters, not twins. You're also probably thinking, Why not opt for a professional brow tint? I do rate them but the dye only ever latches onto the brow hairs and not the skin underneath. I love that self-tan is more efficient (and less costly).
What do the experts think? "In principle, this will work," says Jules Von Hep, founder of tanning brand Isle of Paradise. "Will it look natural, is a completely different question," he adds. "The finish will depend on the individual's eyebrow colour, skin tone and faux glow of choice." There's also the question of whether it's actually worth doing, says Jules, unlike some trends like facial contouring with self-tan (which he thinks has amazing time-saving benefits). Three days in and my brows are still going strong, though, so I see this as a mini triumph.
Jules might not think the effort involved warrants the short-lived results but he doesn't see a problem with applying tan to the eyebrows. "Many apply a light amount to eyelids, however, I do not recommend ever applying as eyeliner or applying a concentrated amount to the lids," says Jules. You might also want to avoid this hack if you have light skin and hair. "For those with paler skin and fair eyebrows, I absolutely do not recommend this trend," he warns, "and the same goes for those with red hair". Jules says that self-tan can stain brow hairs, especially if blonde.
"Those with fair to olive skin and dark eyebrows still need to tread with caution," he continues, "as this is self-tan being applied with a brush, not spread over the skin with a mitt, therefore it's a concentrated application." Jules says that for those with darker skin tones and dark eyebrows, there is a higher chance that this technique will work and lend a shaded brow.
So how would Jules do it? "Ensure your eyebrow area is clear from any eyebrow growth serum, excess moisturiser or cosmetic brow products," he advises. "Using an angled brow brush, dip into Isle of Paradise Self Tan Express Mousse, $42, and blot off the excess from the brush. Lightly sketch the self-tan mousse onto the brow area, using a clean spoolie to buff off any excess from the eyebrow hair follicles." Jules suggests leaving the tan on the skin for one to three hours. "The longer you leave the express mousse, the deeper the shading will be," he says. "I recommend two hours. Repeat as needed, which I predict will be every two to three days." Also try Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops, $42, which are specifically formulated for the face.
As a rule, Jules adds that the darker the shade of self-tan, the longer the tan will last, which is why I opted for something very dark. "But factors like skin hydration, skincare regime (i.e. if exfoliating acids and retinoids are in play), exercise (sweating can mean a tan fades quicker), hormone cycle and stress can all affect the final colour and longevity of a tan," he adds.
Would I tan my brows again? Absolutely, particularly ahead of something like a long beach holiday where I want to swerve any kind of brow makeup. I hate to say it but it works.