Between temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent eyebrow treatments, we have options when it comes to emphasizing our arches. Temporary solutions to fuller brows are probably the most coveted (hi, Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz, $23), but we're all about a good brow treatment that can deliver longer-lasting results, especially if it means we don't have to worry about getting our brow shape right every single day.
Cue henna eyebrows, a form of eyebrow tinting that uses the natural hair-and-skin dye traditionally used in parts of Africa and Asia. You're probably used to seeing henna tattoos as an integral part of Indian mehndi traditions, but it can also be used to give a fuller look to sparse brows. To learn all there is to know about henna for brows (and how to do it on yourself), we turned to brow artists Fatima Lalani and Dallas Trigg.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading to learn all about henna for eyebrows.
What Is Brow Henna?
"Brow henna is a form of eyebrow tinting that is used to stain the skin beneath the brow hairs," explains Trigg. "The purpose of this is to cast a shadow or create an illusion of depth and fullness, visually filling in any sparseness." This can be especially helpful for those guilty of over-tweezing their brow hairs (hi, that's us) or those experiencing reduced eyebrow growth. And, the treatment has taken over Instagram, with #browhenna garnering over one million posts. That's because more and more people are turning to henna as a natural, hassle-free way to darken and bolden their brows.
Henna is derived from the Lawsonia inermis plant, a bush that grows in the north of Africa, the Middle East and India. When used on the brows, henna offers semi-permanent results and can stain up to five weeks on the hairs and up to two weeks on the skin, according to Trigg.
Benefits of Brow Henna
Both Lalani and Trigg tout brow henna as having a host of benefits:
- Eliminates the need to fill in eyebrows with makeup
- Improves eyebrow symmetry
- Fills in sparse areas and gaps to give the illusion of fuller brows
- Darkens brows
- Ideal for sensitive skin
- All natural and cruelty-free
Because henna is naturally derived and does not require an oxidant to activate the color process, it's vegan and especially effective for those with sensitive skin types. Plus, if the slew of brow pomades, pencils, and powders available on the market have your head spinning with options (or if you simply have trouble finding an eyebrow shape to suit your face), brow henna can be a way to take the guesswork out of achieving perfect brows.
Brow Henna vs. Brow Tint
Lalani notes that a brow tint gives a more natural look and is suited for those who want to dye the hairs a darker color, give it a sheen, and emphasize their existing brow shape. It also dyes only the hairs (versus henna, which dyes the hairs and skin). Brow henna, on the other hand, is geared toward those who wish to alter their existing shape or to give a more powdered effect to their brow.
How to Prepare for Brow Henna
Brow henna should be done on clean, makeup-free brows. Also, Trigg notes that as with most skin-related services, you should advise your artist of any topical skin products and prescriptions you're on. Avoid sun exposure as well as chemical peels a few days before your treatment. The day before doing brow henna, exfoliate your skin to ensure maximum penetration of the henna mixture.
If you're going the DIY route, know that some Instagram users say it can be difficult to find the right color to match their natural brows since henna usually isn't offered in many shade variations. Many people with darker brows end up personalizing their henna by mixing brown with black.
What to Expect During Brow Henna
If you're getting your brow henna professionally done, your skin will first be prepped by exfoliating and cleansing. "The henna is applied with an angled brush, then, using a precision pointed swab, the edges are sharply cleaned up for a perfect border," explains Trigg. "Some artists use mapping string and golden ratio measurements to create a custom brow shape outline before applying the henna." The whole process can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and although your brows may appear extremely dark when the product is put on, your real results will reveal themselves once the henna is wiped off.
To DIY it, take a brown or black henna, or a combination of the two, and apply it to clean, makeup-free brows using a spoolie brush or cotton swab. After letting it sit for a few minutes (some people recommend no more than 10 minutes while others keep it on well past that until the henna is fully dried), wipe it off et voilà—bold, beautiful brows are left behind.
Brow henna is a low-risk treatment, but Lalani notes its effect on those with dry skin types. "The longer you leave the product on, the more saturated the color will become, however, if the client has dry skin, the product can dry the skin further since henna is a natural exfoliant," she says.
Also, if you're using black henna, know that not all of them are created equal. The Food and Drug Administration encourages you to do your research with the products put on your brows, as many contain p-phenylenediamine (PPD). "PPD is a colorant that is found in most hair dyes—without this ingredient the brow henna is unable to stain," says Trigg. "Some people are sensitive to PPD and an allergic reaction could occur, so a patch test is recommended for clients who are getting brow henna for the first time, or those who have not had the treatment done in six months." If you're using black henna, look for one that contains less than 2 percent PPD and always perform a patch test.
For the first 24 hours post-eyebrow henna, you should avoid rubbing the area. Also, avoid contact with water, brow makeup, hot temperatures and moisture (think: jacuzzis and saunas), cleansing products, and UV exposure. If you're looking to prolong your results, Lalani cautions against exfoliating the area (this includes waxing) as well as using any oil-based products. And because henna is a natural exfoliant, she recommends wearing sunscreen to protect the skin from sun damage.
The Final Takeaway
Brow henna is an effective way of filling in any sparse gaps in the eyebrows. Do your research if you're DIY'ing it and choose a product from a reputable brand—we're fans of Supercilium's Brow Henna Starter Kit ($238), as it's made of the finest selected Henna from India, and perfect for beginners.