I consider myself a low-maintenance girl when it comes to makeup. But since I was 15 years old, taking care of my naturally thick eyebrows has always been part of my beauty routine. Luckily, the women in my life warned me against making them too thin with excessive manipulation, but I’ve always been open to experimenting with different types of brow enhancement and upkeep.
Now, between waxing and threading, microblading and lamination, henna and makeup, it seems like people have more options than ever. Determining which route is right for you is the challenge. For Sweet July, I spoke to experts and beauty mavens to help explain the options. I even tried out a few services myself to give you the lowdown on everything brows.
Brow lamination is like a perm for your eyebrows—if you’re going to do it, be cautious.
Lori Taylor Davis, the global pro lead artist at Smashbox Cosmetics, tells Sweet July that she’s all for giving brows some extra attention. “Brows are such an important part of any upkeep when it comes to makeup,” says Davis. “I start with the brow first and then kind of work everything else around it.” But they should also be treated gently, she adds.
That’s why Davis is skeptical of brow lamination, which is essentially like giving your brows a perm to lay them down flat. For $75 plus tip, I got my brows laminated over a year ago—and I wasn’t a fan of the experience. It made my brows look wider, bolder and much more pronounced with its brushed-up effect, but they somehow also felt more sparse than usual. And as someone who wears makeup very rarely, I didn’t feel like my brows quite matched my face most days. The idea of getting them permed all the time—and risking damage from the chemicals—really scared me. But the biggest hindrance was the cost and required upkeep. I just didn’t feel like paying almost $100 for brows every four to six weeks, so it ultimately wasn’t for me.
Davis doesn’t want to stray people away from brow lamination completely, but she thinks people should be aware that it does involve the use of chemicals.
“I think the jury is still out on brow lamination because it is so new,” she says. “If it’s something you’re dead-set on, I won’t say don’t do it, but you have to take the extra steps to care for it to make sure that down the road you’ll still have those gorgeous, thick brows that you’re now laminating.”
Some of Davis’ tips include conditioning with a brow serum or Jamaican black castor oil, washing the brows thoroughly and exfoliating daily.
Brow henna is a natural way to get fuller-looking brows.
“[Brow Henna] is a little less permanent and henna has so many great ingredients,” says Davis. “It’s almost a natural form of building up the brow.”
To test it out, I popped into Face Foundrie’s Bucktown location in Chicago. Getting their mini-facials in the middle of the workday has long been my guilty pleasure, but this was my first time trying their brow services.
It cost $55 plus tip. My esthetician Jasmine asked me to pick what color I wanted them tinted and how much henna I wanted. I went with dark brown to match my hair and told her to not apply too much henna, as I wanted a natural look. The henna doesn’t tint the hair itself but rather the skin beneath, making the brows appear fuller. The procedure took about 30 minutes and afterwards, I was slightly startled at how full my brows looked. My errant brow hairs were also visible but not too much.
The full effect lasted for five days, probably because I got my brows wet before 24 hours had passed (going against after-care rules). But my brows stayed darker and thicker for more than a week, fading the nearer it got to two weeks, which is what Jasmine told me to expect. All in all, I loved it but realized I should have gotten them tinted a bit darker for a more lasting effect.
Microblading is a semi-permanent solution, but is it the best solution?
Microblading is essentially tattooing fine lines meant to look like hairs onto your brow to give it a fuller look. Full disclosure, I did not try this because I didn’t want something so semi-permanent and expensive.
I did, however, speak to Ramon Padilla, founder and creative director at EverTrue Salon in Chicago. Padilla says that microblading at EverTrue starts at $550 plus tip, which includes two sessions (the initial and a perfecting session within 6-8 weeks). Results can last anywhere from 6-18 months.
While everyone can enjoy microblading, it’s especially useful for “clients who have sparse brows whether due to genetics, overplucking, age, or conditions such as alopecia,” says Padilla. “This can be a cosmetic benefit for some; for others who don’t have brows, it can be transformational.”
However, be cautious if this is the route you choose. “It is important to do the treatment with a trained and experienced microblader,” says Padilla. “We also recommend doing a full consultation first, where the specialist draws in both brows so you can see the results before you commit. I’ve seen some work that is not well done, and since results last for some time, it is important to pick the right microblader or be stuck with results you are not happy with.”
Waxing is ole reliable—but make sure to do it sparingly.
Waxing is my current go-to for my brows. I pop into Sephora whenever I have the time and pay $22 plus tip to get them waxed and cleaned up by one of their aestheticians. It’s cost-effective, quick and relatively painless since my skin is so acclimated to waxing.
Davis says minimal waxing is key to maintaining healthy brows, so try to only go once every 4-8 weeks. And if you happen to have a bad waxing experience where a little too much hair is removed, Davis recommends taking a step back from waxing and tweezing altogether and brushing your brows regularly to promote regrowth. “Use castor, jojoba, or Vitamin E oil and oil at night and brush upwards,” says Davis. “Giving that extra moment of attention really will help to stimulate the follicle to help the brows grow in.”
Threading sounds (and sometimes feels) bad—but some people swear by it.
As a teenager and college student, I got my eyebrows threaded exclusively at those little kiosks in the mall for $12-15 plus tip. I loved the sharp, elegant, and full look my brows had afterwards. And while the threads striking my skin like little lightning bolts hurt like hell, the price didn’t. When I moved to Chicago, a city without as many indoor malls, those kiosks were harder to find, so I switched to waxing and noticed a difference in irritation. Waxing is also more consistent. When I was getting them threaded, sometimes they would come out looking great, but other times, I would break out with small white pimples (yes, brow acne is a thing!). There were times I would even have tiny cuts on my brows. For these reasons, I don’t miss my threading days.
Others feel differently. Julia Craven, editor at New America and lover of all things beauty, told me that she loves getting her eyebrows threaded. For $15 plus tip, she goes to Dupont Threading in Washington D.C., which she says has consistent results.
“I feel safer getting threaded,” says Craven. “I’ve had waxers take off too much, and there’s no real way to correct that once the wax is on your face. The hallmark of a great threader is someone who listens to your request, exercises restraint (meaning they’ll stop and ask how you like the thickness and shape of your brows before taking too much off), and who will stop you from making a bad decision.”
The Verdict (for me, at least!)
After exploring my brow options, I landed on continuing my waxing routine and adding in brow henna for a full look from time to time. I also got a few beauty products to elevate these salon services: Brow serum from Milk Makeup, Glossier’s Boy Brow Gel (to be used sparingly because Davis says stiff brows can snap and break) and the brow tech matte pencil from Smashbox (a suggestion from Davis) for filling them in at home if need be.
What’s best is all about what works for you, but before committing to any brow routine, make sure you understand the risks and benefits, plus the cost of upkeep.