Finding it difficult to keep up with the makeup trends and conflicting techniques splashed all over social media? Us too. So, we went straight to the experts! We recruited two gracious models and headed to The Cosmetic Market in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood to learn from some of the best — makeup artist Leslie Moore and Mary Kathryn Yeiser Hudson, Regional Sales Director for Therapy Systems, The Cosmetic Market’s parent company.
The two shared a wealth of makeup tips (stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!), but one recurring theme was, you guessed it: Brows! The pair echoed that eyebrows are an absolutely essential, face-framing element of your makeup routine, never to be skipped. We picked their brains on brow trends, application advice, product recommendations, and more. Read on for their totally doable tips for achieving killer brows for any occasion!
Before we begin … meet our lovely models, who we convinced to meet us bright and early on a weekday morning, totally fresh-faced and makeup-free. For that, we owe them our thanks!
5 Essential Eyebrow Rules from a Makeup Artist
*You’ll find a handy list of all the products used at the end of this article!
Rule #1: Never neglect the brows.
“Brows are such a framing feature to your face,” says Mary Kathryn. “If I don’t do any other makeup, I always do my brows. If you’re in a really big hurry, don’t skip that step.” She adds that even if she’s going for an early morning workout, she’ll at least do her brows, as a groomed brow can have an instant eye-lifting effect, making you look more put-together and awake.
Leslie wholeheartedly agrees. “When I’m working on my face or any other face, I think two things are absolutely key: flawless skin and a nice, polished brow. It doesn’t have to be a drawn-on brow, but something that’s very groomed will give a very put-together look, very polished. Everything else beyond that is kind of gravy.”
Rule #2: Listen to your natural brow.
While we’re relieved to see over-plucked ’90s brows fading into the rearview, at a certain point, the scales may have tipped a little too far towards the opposite extreme. But luckily, brow trends have evolved to become much more approachable.
“I think a lot of the trends that are kind of out the door are the overly glammed-up looks — things that are super structured, super heavily contoured,” says Leslie. “I feel like we’re in more of a lived-in kind of state, especially after COVID. I think people are leaning into more of what they truly want to look and feel like, and I think that’s just the best version of themselves. I think we’re moving away from the insta-brow, the insta-glam. We’re in a less-is-more approach, just a little bit more strategic. Always about skin, always about good brows, and things that pop.”
Where to Start
“The trick is to brush the hair up in the direction that the hair is growing, and only fill in the spaces you see. That’s going to lead to the most natural-looking brow,” says Leslie. “And then, if you want something more elevated, you can get a little bit more elaborate. You use more pressure and more detail when you want to elevate a brow.”
Simply brushing your brows creates a more polished look — and depending on the day, you may want to stop there. A groomed brow is what Leslie refers to as a ‘Level One’ natural look. Brushing the brow up and away serves to highlight the natural shape of the brow but also exposes areas that would benefit from filling in.
Beyond shape, the texture of your brow hairs will play an important role in product selection and application. “Brows will often mimic the hair on your head. If you have fine hair, brows will typically be fine. If you have curly, thick hair, chances are you have thick, bushy brows, which could be stubborn to lie down,” adds Leslie. For more textured brows, you’ll likely need products with sharper pigment and a stronger hold.
Rule #3: Think of your eyebrows as part of your wardrobe.
We all know about taking our looks from ‘day to night’ — but have you applied that principle to your eyebrow game? “I feel like brows need to be wardrobe, depending on what you’re wearing and where you’re going and what the rest of the makeup is doing. So if it’s not a black-tie look, I want the brow to be a little more lived-in,” says Leslie.
With bolder features and hair, you can more easily go with a bolder, more dramatic brow, even for your everyday look, so the importance of embracing your natural brow shape and hair type (rule #2!) can’t be understated. But where your day will take you plays a huge role, too. Before you go to work on your brows, appraise your features and your mood, but also the occasion.
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Rule #4: Choose the right products.
For brow-shaping beginners, Leslie recommends a traditional eyebrow pencil (the kind you have to sharpen) with a medium point, for easy shaping and blending. Or, try starting slow with a clear mascara-like gel, which will allow you to groom and set the brows in one go. But for a fully-done brow, Leslie recommends three basic products: a pencil, a shadow or pomade, and a gel.
When you’re shopping for products (or choosing from your own arsenal), consider the following: “The trick is using more than one product for the brow,” says Leslie. “The pencil for structure, shadow or pomade for the fill, and gel is what’s going to help set the brow.”
- Pencils are meant to define the structure of the brow.
- Shadows are used for a softer “fill” for the brows — less about shape, more about volume and depth.
- If you have thicker brows, pomade can be used for a sharper, more dramatic fill, while also offering light hold.
“The more textured your hair is, the more blended the brow has to be,” says Leslie. “More textured hair will want to grip the product, which is great and means it’s gonna stay, but also means it’s got to be more blended.”
Beyond curating a lineup of products for different purposes, don’t be afraid to play around with different shades. “I like using different shades to give the brow natural dimension,” says Leslie. “Don’t be afraid to dip it even into an eye shadow. I love using a shimmery eye shadow in the brow because it gives the brow more dimension.”
Finally, remember that when it comes to filling in your brow, size does matter. If your brows are less full, pencils and brushes with finer tips will likely be most effective overall. But even for those with fuller brows, finer-tip products will allow for more precision in many cases — when creating hair-like strokes, for example.
Rule #5: Set your brows.
As mentioned, your final product should be one to set the brow. You want to preserve the look, after all! “I do think everyone needs a setting product,” says Mary Kathryn. “Hair moves whether we realize it or not, and this will keep your brows in place all day. It also gives a great overall polished look to your brows.”
There are a variety of products available for this, and by now, you won’t be surprised to hear that your selection will depend largely on your hair’s texture and the overall makeup look you’re trying to achieve.
“I would say that most people could benefit from a setting product,” agrees Leslie. “But all are not created equal, so go with something light in hold for a more casual look versus something very strong-hold for a more dramatic look. The thicker and coarser the hair, the more hold you will need to set the brows in the style you want them.”
As far as choosing a setting product goes, both Leslie and Mary Kathryn call it a matter of preference. “You can set brows with several different types of product — a clear gel, wax, or pomade,” says Mary Kathryn. “It can be personal preference, but someone with thicker brows is going to need more hold. Probably the quickest and easiest to use are either a brow gel, which is like a brow mascara (Anastasia makes a great one) or a wax stick (Trish McEvoy makes a nice one).” Leslie adds that it also depends on the ‘feel’ of the product, noting that some people simply don’t like the weight of strong-hold products.
Leslie’s favorite brow setting hack? “Even a strong-hold hair gel with a disposable wand works wonders in a pinch. I have raided my teenager’s hair gel many times over the years,” she says. “And while we are on that subject … it’s great for men’s grooming as well. Good brows are for everyone. Not just the ladies.”
Here’s to raising eyebrows! A huge thanks to Leslie and Mary Kathryn at The Cosmetic Market and our two beautiful volunteers — Danielle McGee of Black Business Boom and Beth Gebhard of Gebhard Strategy. All photography by Leila Grossman.
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