You Can Have Fuller Brows, Naturally

Photographed by Sarah Balch.
A few celebrities tend to get all the credit for the return of full brows. You know who we're talking about: Cara Delevingne, Lily Collins, Brooke Shields. But the fact of the matter is, beauty trends are cyclical. Simply click through this enlightening look at the history of the arch for proof.

While the comings and goings of various eyebrow shapes and sizes make for a mesmerizing slideshow, they're also a total drag for anyone who caught the tail end of the last fad (read: over-tweezed), only to wake up one day just as the Delevingnes of the world are ushering in the new, fuller look du jour. Where, you might ask, were they when we were all in our bathrooms with magnifying mirrors and sets of sharp tweezers?! Yes, as many of us learned a bit too late, over-tweezing is hard to undo.

Take heart. Having plucked your brows into near oblivion does not mean you can't beef them up. After all, this is 2016, people! The time of celebrity brow artists, specially formulated serums, and enough pro products to make the grow-in process a little less challenging — all of which you can read about ahead.

Who's ready for brow rehab?
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Before we start, it's important to get real. Rehabbing your brows can be incredibly effective, but it's not magic. (For instant results, you'll need brow transplants or permanent makeup.)

This process takes time, and you probably won't wake up with the fullest set of arches you've ever seen when all's said and done. You can, however, get back to (or close to) what you had before you discovered the shiny allure of a pair of Tweezermans. To manage your expectations, you'll simply need to experience a #TBT moment.

"Oftentimes, I will encourage clients to find an old photo of themselves in their teens to see what their natural brows looked like pre-tweezing," says Kristie Streicher, Hollywood brow artist and co-owner of Striiike salon. "This gives them an idea of their maximum growth potential."

Got your pic? Great, let's get started!
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Know that this process will take time. Streicher estimates that you can expect to see full results within eight to 12 months. Before you panic, realize that it likely took you years to train your brows where to stop growing, so it will take time to let them know it's safe to grow back.

"Prolonged and repetitive over-tweezing can traumatize the hair follicles, causing them to be dormant, and may weaken their ability to regrow," Streicher says. This is why you have to give the hair a really good reason to grow back.

Make note of the last time you did any brow maintenance. Now, no touching them for at least six to eight weeks from that date! Just like everything else in your body — from your hormones to your eyelashes — your brow hairs follow cycles.

"One should allow as much hair as possible to grow back in, and not tweeze any hair in-between," Streicher says. "This will allow the hair to be on one growth cycle, [which is] how you train the hair to grow where you want."

And never, ever, tweeze hairs from the outer thirds of the brows. Why? As you get older, brows naturally thin out, starting at the tails. "Brow-hair loss often causes hair to stop growing from the ends first, so make sure you are not over-tweezing those areas at any time," Streicher says.
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Remember when we said you have to give your MIA brows a really good reason to become active? A serum can be just the nudge they need. Just be sure you're looking at the ingredients first.

"Prostaglandin is the active ingredient in most growth serums, and is the main ingredient in Latisse," Streicher says. "Some serums have higher concentrates of prostaglandin than others, which can affect the performance of the product."

Streicher notes that while serums can be effective for many, it's not an exact science: "I have seen growth serums work differently on different clients," she says. She recommends Grande Brow, REvitabrow, and NuBrow, but her favorite is M2 Beaute's formula.

[Ed. Note: M2 has limited distribution stateside. It is sold at Striiike in Beverly Hills and can be ordered by emailing — and sometimes on various U.K. websites that ship to the U.S., like Selfridges.]

Streicher says that hydrating and nourishing ingredeints can also aid in efficacy, but the most important thing is to be diligent. "You must use it every night for at least six weeks," she says.
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Has it been six to eight weeks? Only at this point can you enlist a pro for help. But make sure to explain up front that you're in brow rehab. Show the pros your #tbt so they know the look you're after, and don't let them remove anything more than is absolutely necessary to achieve a flattering shape. (Remember, you can fill in sparse areas, but more on that later.)

Streicher tweezes exclusively to maintain a soft line, but the method is really all about the artist's personal preference. "Whatever the technique that works best for you is fine,"says Damone Roberts, celebrity brow artist and owner of Damone Roberts Beverly Hills. "What matters is that they don’t take off too much. Less is more when it comes to eyebrows." Translation: You and your artist need to be on the same page, or you'll be right back where you started. Then, make sure not to see your pro more often than every six to eight weeks for clean-ups.

[Ed. Note: I went through my own brow rehab a few years ago, and I am so happy that I did; my brows are even fuller and thicker than they were when I was a child, and I only have to have them cleaned up twice a year or so. However, I did not go in for regular appointments. Instead, I simply gave up all brow grooming for nine months. As you can expect, it was not fun, but I'm not made of money, so it made more sense for me to let them grow to their full potential sans salon visits. When I finally went in, I saw Streicher for the first time, and I have been obsessed with her work ever since.

My message to you? Don't feel like you need to see a pro every eight weeks for nine months. It might be better to save your dough for the best pro you can find, and wait until the brows are grown in. Just keep reminding yourself that nine months of patchy brows is a small price to pay for fuller arches for life.]
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If there is one thing that will dramatically improve the look of your brows before, during, and after this process, it's tinting them! Streicher and Roberts both opt to tint their clients' brows — which is really just a fancy word for using temporary hair dye, often vegetable-based, to define your brow hairs.

"Tinting can do wonders," Streicher says, and it's not just for blondes. "Sometimes, a shade lighter can soften the harshness of an overly-waxed or tweezed brow. More often, darkening the new growth and blonde hairs that grow in between the brow hairs can fill in the brow like a pencil would."

Tinting normally lasts a few weeks and can both beef up and help add shape to all brows, even dark ones, if there are sparse areas. Tinting is fairly ubiquitous, but if you don't have access or want to DIY the grow-out process, opt for a tinted brow gel.

We like MAC's Brow Set for its smaller, and therefore more precise, brush. Just make sure you heed Robert's advice. "I always tell people to let the brush kiss the hair, " he says. "The goal is to get the tint on your hair and not on your skin."
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At this point in the game, there's a chance that your brows are looking a little more, er, wild than you're used to. Luckily, a good brow gel will keep errant hairs in place during this process. Just remember these rules: Brush up and out for a natural look; gel your brows at the end of your makeup routine, since product can fall onto your arches and gunk up the results; only gel dry brows, or the results won't last as long. And, finally, brush through with a clean spoolie after applying to keep the results light and fresh.

Brow gels are all different strengths, so it's about personal preference. Streicher recommends Mary Kay's clear gel because "it provides the best hold without feeling sticky or stiff and doesn’t flake — I love this product!" she says.

If your brows are truly wiry and difficult to keep in place, opt for Make Up For Ever's Brow Seal. It's the strongest gel on the market, and your brows won't budge (that does mean a stiff touch, though). For something right in the middle, we like Nars' Brow Gel, which has a strong hold that won't flake.
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While you're growing in your brows, you will likely notice patchy areas lacking hair, which you might have remedied in the past by tweezing around. Instead, just fill 'em in with your product of choice.

Roberts suggests lightly defining the bottom of the natural brow line, then the top, and only then lightly filling them in. "It's like a coloring book," he says. That means keep the color between the lines.

Roberts also suggests striving for an ombre look. "Start off lightly in the forefront, and go deeper towards the ends," he explains. "It’s more natural because no one’s brows grow really strong in the front; they get deeper as you get to the end. The goal is to keep them looking like eyebrows, versus makeup."

You can opt for whatever formula you feel most comfortable using (pencils, powders, gels, etc.), but finding a color well-suited to you can be tricky. That's why Roberts recently partnered with MAC to help produce 30 (!) hues for the brand's new brow line. To find the best shade, no matter where you're shopping, he recommends testing it in your brows instead of on the back of your hand. "You have a lot more blood flowing through your face than your hands," he says, which means your hand won't give you the most accurate idea of what you'll be getting.

Streicher also recommends filling in your arches during this process. She does so by mimicking actual hairs; she selects a pencil with a super-fine tip and then uses it to color tiny strokes. She prefers Troy Surratt's formula or NYX's formula, which is a great option if you're on a budget.
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Once you fully commit to not tweezing, apply your serum nightly, and find products to make the grow-in more bearable, it's all about patience.

We already know it could take between eight months and a year to reach your brows' full potential, but what is the max you should wait before knowing you've hit peak brow? "At least two years," Streicher says. Translation: No one said this was going to be easy, but we truly believe the end justifies the means.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments if you're planning to embark on this brow program!
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