We are a society obsessed with eyebrows. Ever since Peaches Monroee uttered the immortal words "my eyebrows on fleek" in a Vine clip (RIP) back in 2014, we've become fixated on plucking, threading, shaping, tinting, and otherwise manipulating the hair above our eyes. Blame Cara Delevingne and her bushy set, a brow situation so iconic you could remove all her other facial features from a photo and still recognize her. The related memes are endless: "Don't let anyone with bad eyebrows tell you anything about life." "Right brow: does yoga, goes to the farmer's market. Left brow: turned up since 8 a.m." There are more powders, pomades, and pencils on the market than a person could count; BBROWBAR even offers a brow-exfoliating pen.
The thing is that, while these products are marketed toward women who ostensibly have sparse brows (or have been bamboozled into thinking they do), people with conditions like trichotillomania or alopecia are left out of the equation. "Boosting" or "thickening" the brows is one thing, but what do you do when you don't have much to work with in the first place?
Hair growth, on your head or otherwise, is a tricky topic. There isn't much you can do to speed up your natural rate of hair growth, but you can at least make sure your brows are in good condition to grow. You'll find that a lot of aspiring Caras swear by castor oil, and London-based brow expert Suman Jalaf agrees, with one caveat: It just doesn't work for everyone. There is a school of thought that the ricinoleic acid found in castor oil can increase production of something called prostaglandin, which spurs hair growth. That said, more studies are needed to confirm whether the science is actually that straightforward.
"The results won't be instant, and will vary from person to person," Jalaf says of the castor-oil approach. "Try a high-strength one like Pukka's and use it every evening if you want a home remedy." Based on reviews, RapidLash's RapidBrow is also worth a try; it's rich in biotin and keratin, both of which are essential for the growth of healthy hair and nails.
There's one other option that practically guarantees the look of fuller brows: microblading. "Microblading is a type of eyebrow architecture, the next generation of brow tattooing," Jalaf explains. "It's all about creating the best shape for the face — a totally bespoke approach for each client." She uses a super-precise tool that's effectively like a pen, but the nib is a sloped blade with little needles at the end that don't penetrate the skin, only delicately scratching the surface. "The needle very softly lays featherweight strokes with medical-grade pigment on the skin, creating fine, realistic, natural-looking hair strokes," Jalaf says.
Eyebrow tattooing has a bad rap, but microblading is nothing like the garish semi-permanent makeup of years gone by. The tiny pen used gives a graduated, natural effect, not harsh, blocky color. There's no denying it's expensive — a session with Jalaf will run you £500 (around $700), including one follow-up retouch, with touch-ups costing £250 (around $350) after that — but the results can last years. It's the perfect technique for people who, for one reason or another, don't have or can't grow brow natural hair.
“The effect of microblading will give the illusion of full brows, which is why I would recommend it for anyone suffering from hair loss," Jalaf says. She works with clients who have issues like alopecia or compulsive hair-pulling, as well as cancer patients. But if microblading seems daunting, Jalaf says you can achieve a similar effect with tinting: "By leaving the tint on for longer, it tints the skin a little, giving the illusion of fuller brows while covering up patches," she explains.
There are, of course, plenty of products you can use at home in terms of makeup, too. Jalaf recommends Glossier's Boy Brow, which gives a perfectly natural, buildable finish. You can also invest in brow fibers, which cling to your existing brow hairs and add density — Eyeko and Wunderbrow both make popular formulas.
There's just one thing to be wary of: However you choose to continue your brow adventure, always remember that less is more. A light hand is essential, because what's worse than sparse brows is eyebrows that look like you drew them on with a black Sharpie.