5 Steps to Tame, Shape and Wow Your Brows

Good brows frame and balance your face.
Good brows frame and balance your face.
Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Women will go to great lengths to have great eyebrows -- and lots of men, too, for that matter. The popularity of eyebrow tattoos over the last several decades, and the more recent rise of implants (yep), can attest to the surprising power these hairy little crescents wield over face appeal.

Most of us, of course, stick with some variation on the revisable, cheaper tweezer-and-pencil approach. Sadly, we often get it wrong -- wrong shape, wrong size, wrong overall technique, and end up diligently creating a set of eyebrows that looks, well, not good.


Eyebrows should lift the eyes. They should balance the shape of the face. They should, in most cases, exist in the beauty background, though the eyebrow jewels on the runway at Chanel for Fall 2012 might have changed some minds on that.

Back to the real world, though, what does it take to achieve the ideal eyebrow? The first step is to know there is no "ideal eyebrow." There is an ideal eyebrow for you, and determining what that looks like starts with taking a good look at your face ...


Find Your Shape

Your face is unique, yes; but it also likely has a general shape that beauty experts have recognized. For eyebrow purposes, most faces can be characterized as some variety of oval, round, square, heart or long, and your ideal eyebrow hinges considerably on which one you are.

No need to break out protractor here; it's about general proportions:


  • A long face is often narrow and has an evenly proportioned forehead, jaw and chin line.
  • A heart-shaped face is often shorter and has a wider forehead compared to both the jaw and the chin.
  • A square face has a relatively wide, evenly proportioned forehead and jaw and a smaller chin.
  • A round face is widest in the middle and has an evenly proportioned, slightly narrower forehead and chin.
  • An oval face is like a round one only longer and narrower.

While none of these is better than any other, most women strive for soft, slender, graceful and even. Brows can help do that. To create the illusion of a more balanced face:

  • A long face calls for a low or flat arch, which won't add any length.
  • A heart-shaped face calls for a high, rounded arch to match the chin.
  • A round face calls for a high, peaked arch that lengthens and narrows.
  • A square face calls for a fuller brow with arches that line up roughly with the jaw line to balance the widest points of the face.
  • An oval face calls for any eyebrow shape.

Yes, ovals can wear pretty much anything, but even ovals need to follow the basic eyebrow rules to make it work.

What rules, you ask?


Follow the Rules

Knowing which shape suits you best is a great start, but there's something else, something bigger, something universal -- shaping mistakes, pretty common ones, that can turn any eyebrow bad.

The following are some eyebrow rules to live by:


  • Never, ever pluck brows down to a toothpick. It makes the rest of you look huge and tends to age the face.
  • Never pluck brows out entirely in favor of drawing them in from scratch. It may make it easier to create the perfect shape, but hair always looks better than pencil marks.
  • An eye and its eyebrow should line up. Start the innermost point of the eyebrow above the innermost corner of the eye, and finish it at or just slightly beyond the outermost corner.
  • As it does with bodies and faces, balance looks great on an eyebrow. Seek an even width across the brow line, as opposed to the ever-popular big start and wispy finish.
  • Keep it smooth, regardless of shape. Avoid hard angles and steep inclines, which look unnatural on almost anyone.

Memorize and internalize the yesses and the nos, because in the next step, we're pulling out hair.


Grab Some Tweezers

Make sure to stop periodically and take stock of your work while shaping your brows.
Make sure to stop periodically and take stock of your work while shaping your brows.
Christopher Robbins/ Photodisc/Getty Images

Nothing against the legendary Andy Rooney, but most of us should steer clear of bushy, 1-inch-tall eyebrows. Pam Anderson's millimeter arches are a pass, too.

Getting to the right eyebrow can be tricky. If you've got plenty to work with, you're less likely to pull a single hair with uh-oh results, but you're more likely to grab the wrong strand. Naturally sparser brows have better-distinguished hairs, but every pluck had better be extremely well-planned.


Before you pick up your angled tweezers, brush your brows upward. This clearly reveals the line you're working with so you don't accidentally create a gap (which can lead to ultra-skinny in an effort to even-out). As you pluck, keep your ideal shape in mind, and check your work after every few hairs to make sure you're on the right track.

You can pull the top ones, too, if you want to lower an arch or remove an overly pointy peak. In this case, brush your eyebrows downward before you start.

Do work with care, but a misstep isn't a tragedy. If you pull something you shouldn't have, don't sweat it. Simply proceed to the next step.


Fill in the Gaps

Few of us have perfectly distributed eyebrow hair. Gaps and thin spots are natural. So is plucking-related human error. Here, we're filling those areas in.

Eyebrow pencils and powder shadows are both useful tools. Pencils are precise and can mimic the look of a hair; shadow is a softer look and can also help to blend or blur overly sharp pencil marks.


Pencils should be sharp, and powder brushes should be thin and angled. Be sure to work with a color that matches your eyebrow, which is typically a shade or two darker than the hair on your head.

With your pencil, powder or both, disguise any bald spots with quick, light strokes. Try to mimic the look of a hair instead of fully coloring the area, which will look obvious up close. If you have very sparse eyebrows and must use pigment to complete your shape, try an eyebrow stencil. You can find one in any brow style, and it makes precision a whole lot easier.

Hopefully, we're now wearing shapely, flattering, well-populated eyebrows. Now, let's try to keep them that way.



Some eyebrow hair is naturally well-behaved. Some stays put for a good 10 seconds and then does whatever it wants. If yours falls into the latter category, you may want to apply one of these to keep them tame throughout the day:

  • petroleum jelly
  • mustache wax
  • hair gel
  • eyebrow mascara (pretty much hair gel in mascara format)

Any of these will hold the hairs in place and add definition to the overall look. A tiny amount is all you need, and your finger or a Q-tip will work fine as applications. With the petroleum jelly and hair gel, especially, be sure to dab off the excess to prevent too much shine.


Another option if you're out and about is lip balm. If you're in a pinch, put a small amount on your finger tip and swipe it across your eyebrows. Just make sure it doesn't have any tint or sparkle in it. Unless that's what you're going for ...

... in which case, runway-shmunway -- eyebrow jewels may be perfect for you.

For more information on eyebrow maintenance, beauty and style, check out the links on the next page.


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More Great Links


  • "Australian Fashion Week: Makeup and Hair." Behind the Scenes Makeup. May 7, 2010. (Aug. 17, 2012) http://behindthescenesmakeup.com/category/runway/springsummer-2010/
  • "The Best Brows for Your Face Shape." Daily Makeover. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://www.dailymakeover.com/trends/slideshow/best-eyebrows-for-your-face-shape/?slideid=1&slideshowPaused=false
  • Corcoran, Monica. "Eyebrow implants for people with $5,000 to burn." The Los Angeles Times. Nov. 14, 2008. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/alltherage/2008/11/eyebrow-implant.html
  • "Dilemma of the Week: My Eyebrows Are Out of Control. Help!" iVillage. June 21, 2005. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://www.ivillage.com/dilemma-week-my-eyebrows-are-out-control-help/5-a-146723
  • "e.l.f. Studio Eyebrow Treat & Tame." e.l.f. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://www.eyeslipsface.com/studio/eyes/eyebrows/eyebrow_treat_and_tame
  • "How to Tame Unruly Brows." Become Gorgeous. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://www.make-up.becomegorgeous.com/make_up_basics/how_to_tame_unruly_eyebrows-1015.html
  • "Image Consulting FAQ." Imagio. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://www.imagiosalonandspa.com/image-consulting-faq
  • Landman, Beth. "The Brooke Shields Eyebrow Returns." New York Magazine. April 23, 2001. (Aug. 16, 2012) http://nymag.com/nymetro/shopping/beauty/columns/beauty/4599/
  • Nadine, Amy. "Brows 101." The Beauty Department. July 2011. (Aug. 14, 2012) http://thebeautydepartment.com/2011/07/brows-101/
  • Phelps, Nicole. "Spring 2010 Ready-to-Wear: Yohji Yamamoto." Style.com. Oct. 2, 2009. (Aug. 17, 2012) http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/S2010RTW-YJIYMOTO/