It's no secret that eyebrows are one of the most important features on our face. We all have different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures of brows—which means they can vary greatly, giving a distinct personality to a face. A perfectly crafted brow makes a world of difference, so it's no wonder we spend so much time perfecting them with our various gels, powders, pencils, and the like. Now imagine this: you wake up in the morning with those impeccably perfected Instagram brows without ever lifting a finger. Sound too good to be true? Say hello to the art of eyebrow tinting.
Brow bars and salons all over are offering this holy grail service in conjunction with routine brow shaping—and the before and after photos of this killer face-changing duo are impressive, to say the least. However magical the results, this brow treatment is considerably daunting as a poor tint job can be pretty difficult to conceal. The transformation can make a huge difference, but what's the best way to tint and shape them? Should we have our brows professionally done or try to do this ourselves? Below, we broke down everything you need to know about eyebrow tinting from the experts themselves.
What is Eyebrow Tinting?
Eyebrow tinting is a method of dying the hairs to create fuller-looking brows.
What Is Eyebrow Tinting?
Eyebrow tinting is a technique used to semi-permanently color brow hairs. "It also leaves a stain of color of the skin that provides an element of filling in thinner spaces within the brow," explains Jeseé McSpadden, a licensed esthetician and the owner of The Brow Lounge by Jeseé. Tinting defines and shapes to enhance your natural brows. "The stain lasts approximately one week while the actual color on the hair strands will grow out over the course of two to four weeks."
Depending on the salon and the experience of the provider, you can expect to pay anywhere from about $7 to $30 per treatment, though some estheticians charge upward of $65. When researching salons, be sure to look beyond just the price point, however. You'll want to go to a safe, reputable office with a licensed professional—this treatment involves putting chemicals near the eyes, after all. For those going the DIY route, you can purchase kits to tint your eyebrows at home for about the same cost as a single in-office treatment.
Benefits of Eyebrow Tinting
- Fuller-looking brows
- More youthful appearance
- Defines brow shape
- Darkens light brow hairs
- Results last up to a month
- Pain-free brow enhancement
- Symmetrical brows
"The biggest benefit is that you don’t need to fill your brows in, so it shortens your morning prep time," McSpadden explains. Full, natural brows give the face an overall more youthful look, "The thicker the brow is the more youthful you appear." Similar results can be said of microblading the eyebrows, however, this treatment can be much more expensive—and not to mention more painful—than brow tinting.
Benefit Cosmetics Global Brow Expert Jared Bailey says tinting is a must-have service if you want fuller frames for your face. "Every brow is filled with soft and fine vellus hair that, when tinted, can create a fuller, thicker brow instantly," he says. "In addition to adding depth and dimension to a look, brow tinting can also add length to the end of a brow, where our hairs tend to be lighter and finer. Over the course of three to four weeks, the tint slowly begins to fade away, so you don’t have to worry about a messy grow out period like you do with hair color."
McSpadden says—above all—to prepare for some serious brow compliments, "One of my clients told me after we did a tint on her brows that her girlfriends all thought she got a facelift. When done correctly, it’s just that good!"
How to Prepare for Eyebrow Tinting
Before committing to an appointment, it's important to rule out any possible allergies. The skin around the eyebrows is thin and, therefore, may be more vulnerable to irritation and infections. On top of this, many eyebrow and eyelash tints contain a common allergen called para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can cause severe reactions. To be extra safe, it's recommended to do a patch test with the dye to make sure you're not allergic to any of the chemicals.
You'll also want to have an idea of what you want and communicate it with your provider. Think about how noticeable a result you desire and the color you're going for. Bailey notes that just a hint of custom tint will thicken patchy or thin brows, "For a more natural look, I recommend a color that mimics the deepest shade found in the hair on your head and carry that color throughout the entire length of the brow. This will give the brows a wash of fullness," he explains. "For a little more definition, I would take it one to two shades deeper than the base tone of your hair. It’s the perfect way to add a bit more exuberance to any frame."
Lastly, be prepared to be slightly stunned at the difference. "If you’re starting with very sparse brows or very blonde brows, the after can be a bit shocking," says McSpadden. "As long as you are going to a professional who is experienced and the desired look was communicated prior then this shock will wear off. Just know that you look different to yourself, to everyone else you have gorgeous brows!"
What to Expect During an Eyebrow Tinting Appointment
"First, you can expect to be asked a series of questions making sure you are a good candidate for the service," explains McSpadden. "Whenever you receive any service, there should be questions asked to ensure your safety and to tailor the service to better serve you."
The tinting process only takes about 15 minutes. To start, your provider will prep and clean the brow area and mix a custom shade specifically for you. "We try our best to give the most natural enhancement possible as far as color-matching," says McSpadden. "I have clients that are natural redheads and I sometimes mix three different colors to achieve a spot-on match."
The dye is applied and left on for several minutes, but the exact time will depend on the result desired: Longer for more intense, darker brows and shorter for a lighter effect.
At-Home vs. In Office
McSpadden strongly recommends seeing a professional over attempting to tint your eyebrows at home. "We have higher quality products, we have experience matching hair colors and the precision that you’ll receive will be unmatched," she explains. "The last thing you want is to experiment at home and end up with brows that are way too dark. It’ll take over a month to get them back to your natural brow." It's certainly much more challenging to achieve professional-level definition while maintaining a natural color at home.
McSpadden notes the most important difference, "above all, is that if something goes wrong, we know how to fix it. You won't be stuck with something you don't love." With that said, if you do choose to try your hand, she advises starting light. "If your hair is a medium brown, try the light brown first. It’s always better to end up with something you want to darken rather than something you have to bleach out."
Bailey adds a few things to keep in mind if you're doing your own brows, "Some things are best left to the pros…however, if you’re going to DIY your own brow tint, look for products that are specially made for the face and eye area," he says. (We like BaeBrow's simple and PPD-free Instant Tint!, $25). "Before applying the tint, always make sure to protect the skin from staining with a thin layer of Vaseline or night cream. And always remember to wipe away some of the tint to check the color so it doesn’t become too intense."
Side Effects and Risks
Is eyebrow tinting safe? It's complicated. Applying permanent or semi-permanent dye near the eye area is not without its risks. It should be noted that eyebrow and eyelash tints are not FDA-approved. As such, in states like California, where salons are only allowed to use FDA-approved products, eyebrow tinting is not legally allowed. However, demand still rises in other states despite this. In some places, the practice is legal so long as the dye is not permanent.
It sounds a little scary, but know that the tint ban is highly precautionary as the aforementioned possible allergic reactions can be worse on this sensitive area of the face. "All side effects and risks arise if there are allergies involved," McSpadden explains. "If you have an allergy to hair dye and receive this service, you may experience itching, redness, and in some extreme cases, hair loss. Always communicate any known allergies to your service provider before starting. If no allergies are present, then you are good to go."
Keep your brows completely dry for the first 12-24 hours after tinting. Try to avoid any excessive rubbing or scrubbing in the eye area to extend the life of the tint. You'll also want to steer clear of oil-based facial products, which will fade the color.
After you've tinted your brows, using a product to groom them and keep them in place is key. Brow gels (we love Milk Makeup's Kush Brow Gel, $20) are ideal if you have thicker, coarser brows with hair that tends to not lay flat. Brush the gel through in an upward motion to help hair look more full and stay put.
Before and After
Before and after's are always satisfying, but this transformation is night and day—excuse us while we pick our jaws up off the floor. McSpadden proves that seemingly thin or sparse brows actually have a lot more hair than they appear to and have major fluffy brow potential. A little tint on those fine, vellus hairs goes a long way.
The Final Takeaway
We totally get it if the risk of allergic reaction makes you weary to dye your eyebrows. But if you're allergy-free and looking for a longer-term solution to fill in and fluff up the appearance of your brows (minus the 20-minute pomade and pencil ritual), you're going to want to give tinting a try—seriously, what a time-saver.
Han JH, Lee HJ, Bang CH, Lee JH, Park YM, Lee JY. P-phenylenediamine hair dye allergy and its clinical characteristics. Ann Dermatol. 2018;30(3):316-321. doi:10.5021/ad.2018.30.3.316
Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Industry bulletin—eyelash and eyebrow services. Updated January, 2022.