I don’t know about you, but the state of my eyebrows is a little scary right now. The last time I got my brows waxed seems like a lifetime ago. (It was back in February.) I’ve been trying to keep up with maintenance without causing damage, doing a little bit of cleanup here and there. For the most part, however, I haven’t really touched them for fear of really going too far with the plucking or trimming.
It seems silly to stress about a lack of beauty services right now, but thinking about how my brows are overgrown and why I need a haircut provides a much-needed distraction from the other serious stressors of the world. Weird coping mechanism? You bet, but that’s for another story and probably best saved for our sister site, THE/THIRTY.
Anyways, back to brows. Since I’m not really sure when I’ll ever get my brows done again, I’ve been doing some more research on how to manage them at home. I talked to bona fide eyebrow experts to get their tips on how to fill in and shape my brows without completely ruining them. I’m still doing the least since I’m not quite confident in my abilities just yet. But hey, it helps to get all your research done, right?
One thing I started looking into was eyebrow tinting. I have a couple of friends who swear by it, and I can totally see why. Their brows are quite enviable. Plus, since you don’t really have to fill in your brows after getting them tinted, it saves another step in the getting-ready process. That’s a win for lazy me.
For more advice, I reached out to two eyebrow experts for all of their thoughts on eyebrow tinting, from what exactly goes down during the treatment to whether you can really do it yourself at home. Here’s what I learned.
“Brow tinting is a process in which dye is mixed and applied to the brow,” explains Azi Sacks, brow expert at Hawthorne Studio. “This process does a couple of things. It adds density and increases the appearance of thicker brows by catching fine hairs at the perimeter of the brow or by catching fine hairs in the body of the brow that are weaker in texture and less visible. This helps the tail look fuller. It can make holes or gaps less apparent. Tinting adds depth and richness to the brow, which in turn creates a more beautiful brow to frame to the eyes.”
Different types of dye can be used during the process. It just depends on your technician, but you can expect semipermanent dye, pure henna, or vegetable dye. The treatment can last anywhere from two to four weeks.
And the service is not just for people with certain hair colors. “Brows are the single most important and underestimated feature on the face. The benefit of brow tinting is that it’s versatile,” says celebrity brow expert Damone Roberts, whose clients include Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah, and Beyoncé. “Some people have brows that fade into the face, and tinting them deeper makes them stand out more with no product. Others have brows that are so severe, and slightly lightening them takes off the edge.”
Disclaimer: Both experts recommend you get your brows tinted by a professional. “Doing this at home is something I personally don’t recommend,” Sacks says. “A professional needs to mix and apply in a salon or spa setting. This requires experience given it is a chemical being used around the eye area and on a delicate patch of hair. Tinting brows is a very tricky experience, and knowing how to formulate is imperative.”
But if you can’t get to a salon right now and want to try it at home, there are a couple of things both Roberts and Sacks want you to keep in mind.
Choose your tint wisely: “The most common mistake people make is giving the brows an orange appearance. Many over-the-counter products will strip the natural color of your brows, but the trick is to actually tone them to a complementary color,” Roberts says.
Don’t mix shades: Sacks recommends staying close to the tone of your brow or a shade lighter. “Brow tint only deposits color, so if you opt for a shade lighter, it will help keep the depth under control—this is if you use a vegetable dye, which I recommend,” she adds.
Follow the instructions: “If doing this at home, leave it on for only five to seven minutes,” Sacks says. “Be sure to use petroleum jelly around the perimeter of your brow so the color doesn’t stain or drip.”
Do a patch test: Sacks recommends doing a patch test first if you have highly sensitive skin. Reactions are very rare, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful.
Use a tinted brow gel instead: “I always recommend our Tinted Brow Gels ($22) to people who can’t get to a professional,” Roberts says. “They come in five different tones, and by simply swiping across your brows, you can instantly lighten or darken your brows without using chemicals on your own near the eyes.”
If you’re able to make it to the salon, the average pricing for eyebrow tinting can be anywhere from $20 to $40. When speaking to your esthetician, Sacks recommends asking them what they think can be enhanced when looking at your brow.
Generally, if your hair is really dark, you want to go one to two shades lighter,” Roberts says. “If your hair is really light, you want to go one to two shades deeper.” And don’t freak out too much if your brows look too dark after the treatment. Sacks says the color normally needs a few days to soften.
Once you get your brows tinted, you’re going to want to get your money’s worth and make sure the treatment lasts. In general, you’ll want to avoid getting products into your brow that can fade the dye. Roberts recommends not washing your face with cleansers that contain acid since they can strip the color faster. If you are going to use brightening skincare products, try to keep them away from your brows if possible.
“I also recommend using organic castor oil for hair at night to nourish the brow,” Sacks adds. “Brows, like every other type of hair on our body, shed, so when we moisturize and nourish that area, it promotes turnaround quickly and helps new hairs to grow so when you do tint again the impact is that much more stunning.”