I have been sculpting eyebrows and teaching the technique for nearly 20 years. In that time I have seen all kinds of self-expression from well-meaning make-up artists trying to be edgy and utterly confused “do-it-yourselfers” who clearly fell face first into the looking glass. It pains me to see both women and men who sport poorly manicured brows so I decided to revisit the art of the sculpted brow and teach you how it’s done.
I learned to shape eyebrows the traditional way by drawing imaginary lines from the base of the nose to the inside and outside corners of the eyes with the arch positioned somewhere around the outer edge of the iris. Sound too complicated? Well it is especially if you were not blessed with perfectly symmetrical facial features. But this was considered the basic brow. The only problem with this technique is everyone, regardless of facial dimensions, leaves with the same shape which does not work for every face. When I consult with clients about their brows I have to consider other factors like the person’s hair color. Yes, hair color. For instance, thinner brows actually compliment lighter hair. It’s all about balance. As an artist, I learned to recognize how important the brows really are. In fashion, wearing the wrong shoes with that perfect dress can completely ruin the look. Eyebrows work the same way. A botched brow job can destroy the image you are trying to create.
Your eyebrows also say something about you. They can express your personality and mood whether happy, depressed, tired, confident, sexy; and your style- dramatic, conservative, free-spirited, etc. The eyebrows pull together your hair, make-up, and wardrobe to complete your “look”. Essentially they can make or break the total package. Make sense? Good! So what is eyebrow sculpting? It is a highly individualized process I created many years ago that fully considers all the components I just mentioned as well as facial shapes, eye shapes, personality, hair color, texture, length, and thickness (weight). It incorporates waxing, tweezing, cutting, and precise corrective work to achieve the best shape. Sculpting requires as much artistic ability as technical skill similar to make-up artistry. While no two eyebrow are alike, the following guidelines will help you expertly sculpt eyebrows to create the illusion of uniformity. Here we go…
There are five main components of an eyebrow’s structure- length, weight (thickness), shape, cut, and color. Length refers to how far the brow extends. Weight refers to the heaviness of the brow. Note that the right brow typically has more hair on the outside of the natural arch and less hair toward the inside corner of the eye. The left brow typically has less hair on the outside of the natural arch and more hair toward the inside corner of the eye. That’s just nature’s way of keeping it interesting. However this may not be the case anymore if you have plucked your hairs within an inch of your life for the last 15 years! Shape refers to the placement and severity of the arch. The two sections of the brow are ascent of the arch and descent of the arch. Both parts should be balanced in terms of weight which means you should not have one half of your eyebrow much thicker or heavier than the other half. Cut refers to how and where the brow hairs lay. Finally, brow color should relate to your hair color and the overall strength of your make-up if you are wearing any. Natural make-up and dark heavy brows do not balance. And that does NOT mean if your hair is green your brows should match. Typically eyebrow color should be one to two shades lighter or darker than your hair color- darker for light hair and lighter for dark hair. If your skin is darker, then the color of your eyebrows should more closely resemble the color of your natural hair.
The shape of your face also plays an important role in determining your most flattering brow shape and an oval shape provides the most versatile canvas because almost anything goes. A round face requires more definition. An angular brow with a defined arch will make your features appear more chiseled. You can also cut the hairs to shorten the length of the brow if it extends too far thus narrowing your face. If your face is square or oblong you need a rounder shape with a softer arch. Avoid angular or sharp arches which can make your face look too boxy. With the oblong face, avoid making the brows too high creating a longer looking face. Removing hair from above the brows will solve this problem. Slightly angular brows are more flattering for a heart-shaped face and the length of the brows should not extend past the outside corners of your eyes. Be aware that eyebrows that are curved or semi-circle in shape will only accentuate the fullness and roundness of your forehead. If you have a triangular or diamond shaped face, you too should avoid angular brow shapes. Also, the peak of your arch should not be too severe as this will make your forehead appear too pointy. Length is most important for these facial shapes. By removing a few hairs from the outside of the arch (below your brow), you will create the illusion of a longer line. Note a thin line appears longer to the eye than a thick line and longer lines create width. If however, the hair is sparse to begin with, you may have to fill in your brows with a brow pencil in the appropriate shade of course. Finally, your eyebrows should balance with the thickness, length, color and texture of the hair on your head. Therefore, long, thick, dark, curly, hair balances best with thicker, fuller eyebrows; and short, thin, light, straight hair balances best with thinner eyebrows. Are you still with me? Good, then let’s move on.
The basics for eyebrow sculpting include finding your natural shape, measuring for proper placement, and identifying which “rules” apply. First brush your hairs to determine the direction of hair growth. (Curly hairs pose a bit of a problem). If your hairs are too long or curly you can cut them with a small pair of facial scissors following the natural shape first. Next determine the desired shape and thickness. Separate the main hairs to be removed. Remember to do all precision work with tweezers as this will help define your shape. Facial scissors may also be used however great skill and probably some training is needed to achieve the desired shape. So let’s leave that to the experts.
To widen a narrow face or to separate close set eyes, the brows should be “pulled out” (not literally) by removing hair from the inside corners of the eyes. Likewise a wide face can be made to appear thinner by shortening the length of the brows. A prominent brow bone can be disguised and high brows can be “pulled down” by removing hair from above the brows. Now I know some of you have been told that you should never do this but there is no significant reason not to. But again, leave this to the experts so that you don’t end up with lopsided eyebrows. The eyes can appear wider, larger or open by removing hairs from under the brows. Be very careful and remove a few hairs at a time. You run the risk of over exaggerating or creating undesirable effects by removing too much hair. For my male friends, eyebrow sculpting should be part of your routine grooming practices. Men have been getting their brows shaped for some time now and many spas and salons offer the service as part of their regular menu. The benefits include opening up and lifting your eyes, brightening your appearance making you look more youthful and less tired. If you choose to do it yourself, be careful not to get too tweezer happy. Overly dramatic brows do not work well for most men. Keep your brows medium thickness and maintain a soft arch.
Like anything else, it takes time and practice to become really good at eyebrow sculpting. But it is so amazing how dramatically you can change the way you look and feel about yourself with a little precision work. I used to think the eyebrows were the most forgotten feature on the face and the most easily correctible. Nowadays I think they are the most overdone feature, so much so they enter the room before you do. And don’t get me started on the endless parade of lashes out there but I’ll save that for another article. For now just remember expertly sculpted eyebrows will let you make a statement without saying a word. You’re welcome.
*original article “The Art of Eyebrow Sculpting” published in the April 2001 issue of DERMASCOPE Magazine