I don’t know about you, but right about now I look like some sort of mix between Tom Hanks in Castaway and Bridget Jones in the “All by Myself” montage. TBH, beauty queries like how to do your eyebrows at home or how to survive without a haircut seem pretty unimportant right now, especially given the only interactions I’m having are with my cats; however, I would argue there is something life-affirming about taking care of your appearance. I remember how good it felt to get my nails done in the midst of spending long periods of time in the hospital with a sick boyfriend, for example. It may be trivial, but upkeep can somehow make a difference in terms of your emotional state.
Unfortunately, social distancing is making even that level of self-care difficult, so we’re on our own when it comes to beauty maintenance right now. This is bad news for someone whose natural, unkempt eyebrows look like Eugene Levy’s (read: long, bushy, and chaotic), and even though I know my cats love me regardless, I want them to recognize me because I need *all the cuddles* right now.
Fortunately, bicoastal brow pro Jimena Garcia has graciously offered her expertise on the matter of maintaining brows. She says that while she wouldn’t recommend trying to reshape them on your own—there’s a reason pros exist for this purpose, after all—there are many things you can do to keep them from looking like, well, mine. Below, her top tips.
How to maintain your brows at-home
1. Hands off!
First thing’s first: If you’ve been wanting to grow your brows out, now is the time. “The brow growth cycle for the average person is four to eight weeks, so you can use this time to get your brows to a good point,” says Garcia. If it’s difficult for you to keep from touching them in the interim, she recommends making a mood board featuring your dream brows that you can keep in the bathroom or on the fridge for inspiration to keep the growth going.
To further aid your brows in this endeavor, you can make an at-home growth-stimulating serum using the following recipe: 1/4 parts vitamin E, 1/4 parts almond oil, and 1/2 parts castor oil. “Mix these oils together and store them in an empty mascara tube,” says Garcia (if you don’t have one, any container will work fine). “Then, use a clean mascara brush to apply, making sure to go over the brow five times for full coverage.”
For those who absolutely cannot stand the growing pains, Garcia suggests buying a brow razor and using that instead of tweezers to mow down unwanted strays. “I usually don’t recommend them, but the good thing is that they don’t take out the root of the hair, which means you’re not removing your brow growth,” she says.
2. Take a picture of yourself
Before you attempt any maintenance, Garcia notes that it’s difficult to get real perspective on your own brows just by looking in the mirror. (This is why, she says, it’s important to go to a pro when you’re wanting real shaping to be done.) To do your best, she recommends taking a photo of yourself and then studying it to see what the differences are between your brows (for example: which one’s higher than the other, etc, so you don’t mess them up while grooming them).
3. Assemble your toolkit
Next, you’ll want to gather a good pair of tweezers, a clean mascara wand, and a white eye pencil. “The pencil is so that after you look at your photograph, you can mark dots on the brow to remind yourself not to go to those areas,” she says.
4. Cleanse the area
“A lot of people breakout if they don’t clean the area first,” Garcia says. She recommends using a toner, but you can use your regular face wash or cleansing method, too. If you’re sensitive and planning to pluck, you might also want to take a shower first. “When the steam hits the skin, the follicle on your hair gets softer so it’s easier to pull it out without much pain,” she says.
5. Define your natural shape
Before you tweeze or trim, you’ll want to clarify your natural brow shape. “Everyone has a different brow shape depending on the structure and shape of their features,” says Garcia. To help you figure out how yours should be shaped, she recommends getting a small stick, like a coffee mixing stick or a chopstick. Place it against the outer tip of your nostril and then hold it erect to the top of your head. “That will give you the point where your brow should start,” she says.
Next, you’re going to move the stick clockwise or counterclockwise down your face until you hit the corner of your iris. This will give you, generally speaking, the point at which the arch of your brow should be. Finally, move the stick further clockwise or counterclockwise until you hit the end of the eye opening. This will help you gauge how far the tail should extend. If it’s helpful, make a dot with the white pencil at each point.
6. Use makeup to draw in your ideal shape
“When you’re growing out your brows and you just want to do a clean up, you can use makeup to create your dream brow so you know where to go and where not to go,” Garcia says. “If you’re just looking at your natural brow, you’re lost.” This means that you should trace the brow that you want to have with darker makeup. Anything outside of that stencil is fair game, but you should keep hands off anything inside.
6. pluck, then Trim
Once you’ve pulled out all stray hairs that are fair game (repeat after me: outside the stencil), it’s time to trim them. This can also be tricky, and Garcia says she uses layered techniques too complex for at-home care. What she’ll have you do instead is brush the hair—wet, if possible—up at the front of the brow and then down at the back of the brow. Then, trim only the hairs that extend further than the rest. “So, it’s not going straight across and trimming all the hairs—just do the ones that stick out,” she explains.
7. Seal your brow
“It’s important to seal your pores after doing brow maintenance so you don’t breakout,” Garcia says. She recommends using Egyptian Magic ($32) which helps to pull any rogue gunk out of the open follicles.
8. Condition your brows
Garcia says that to condition your brows and keep them in good shape, you can use the homemade growth serum she shared above or buy fresh aloe vera leaf and use the gel inside it as a conditioner. For application, you should also use a clean mascara wand.
9. If all else fails, Skype your stylist
If you just can’t figure it out, or are lonely, or you want to support your stylist, consider doing a FaceTime appointment. “That way, all your questions can be answered on the spot,” Garcia says. “It’s kind of beautiful to have that exchange, too—they’re supporting you, and you’re supporting them.”