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Hands up if you bleach your eyebrows. No? Me neither. Celebrities use a pre-event brow-bleaching session as a way to shock on the red carpet (think Kim Kardashian West at the Met Gala in 2016) and Lady Gaga, who confessed to Vogue that she bleaches hers regularly. It’s a beauty trick often used backstage before catwalk shows, too, mostly when the designer wants the models to look “otherworldly” (read: like an alien).
Many a time, I’ve been backstage at fashion weeks surrounded by models milling around with brows slathered in bleach that looks like Fluff marshmallow. I am not Lady Gaga nor do I have a catwalk appearance anytime soon, so I wanted to know whether bleached brows could work for us non-celebs IRL. After all, the brow du jour right now is big and bold, so would bucking that trend make me feel more confident or like a duck out of water (literally, as ducks don’t have brows)? And so I picked up a box of Jolen Creme Bleach ($7) and promised to bleach my brows at the first opportunity.
I didn’t bleach my brows at the first opportunity, the second, or even the third. It took me almost a week to pluck up the courage to get on with it. The thing is I like that blonde, beachy hair/dark brow look. I’m more than happy using my Benefit Goof Proof Eyebrow Pencil ($24) to fill in my brows each morning, making them look bigger and darker. I was also doing some extensive online research about brow bleaching when I came across an article where the writer mentioned brow roots (the horror) and so that put me off for a good few days.
Read on for more about eyebrow bleach, including how it works and the side effects.
What Is Eyebrow-Bleaching?
Bleaching your brows means essentially removing all color from the hair—rather than adding color via dye. "Eyebrow bleaching involves lightening the brows," says celebrity makeup artist and brow specialist Ramy Gafni. "For darker brows, it can involve using a bleach product, and for naturally lighter brows, you may just lighten them."
As Gafni explains, one of the products most commonly used to lighten the brows is the aforementioned Jolen bleaching kit, which he says is "designed to be more gentle on facial skin."
How Eyebrow Bleach Works
For this to work as a good before-and-after test, I knew I had to go light with my brows, but I didn’t want to go white blonde. Even the most gorgeous models struggle to pull off that one. And so I followed the instructions to the letter.
According to the instructions on the Jolen box, you simply wash and dry the area to be bleached, mix the accompanying powder and creme, and apply. After about 10 minutes, you wash the product off, and if it's still not bleached to your liking, you go through the process once more.
In the interest of not accidentally burning your skin, it's best to test the product first on a patch of skin. "If you decide to try doing it yourself at home, do a patch test first to make sure your skin isn't too sensitive," says Gafni.
Another important thing to keep in mind when using hair bleach is time. Keep an eye on the clock (or better yet, set a timer) to ensure you don't accidentally burn yourself or lighten your hair too much. "The most common mistake is leaving the bleach on too long, which can result in burning the skin or unintended color results," says Gafni.
Once you've achieved the shade you're after, it's safe to go about your day as planned and wash your face as usual at night. To maintain the look—if you love it, that is—you'll want to bleach your brows every few weeks, but it all depends on how often you actually notice your eyebrow roots.
"Everyone's hair grows at a different pace," says Gafni. "As the brows grow, you may develop a 'zebra stripe' look, so you'll want to either touch up the bleach or dye your brows back to your natural color. Maintenance is typically required at about three weeks."
The Final Takeaway
So what did my friends and colleagues think? And come to think of it, what would my boyfriend say? Our assistant editor said, “I really love the lighter ones. Your eyebrows were great before, but this makes you look fairer and sun-kissed.” Another colleague was also a fan, saying the look “almost feels more modern and summery. Perhaps we’ve reached peak strong brow? Time for a change?”
Huh. Could we really have reached a peak for the bold brow look? It certainly feels fresher. My longtime school friend who has had to look at my face for about 18 years said, “I can honestly comment that your face looks completely different. Matches your also bleached hair very well. You had quite statement brows before, whereas now your eyes stand out more. You look more beachy, and it’s more relaxed.”
Another school friend commented on them saying, “It’s like an expertly smudged smoky eye, but for your face. I’d say it makes your hair color look like it’s 100 percent natural too. And I think it’s more feminine.”
Blimey, these were definitely not the comments I had been expecting when I pitched this feature. I thought I would get “you look like an alien” or “who do you think you are, Lady Gaga?” Even my boyfriend was impressed: “I like it. I think it lengthens your face and brings out your eyes.” *Mic drop.* Anything that lengthens my round, moon-shaped face is a winner.
I had booked an emergency brow-tinting appointment in preparation, but perhaps, I’ll postpone. Well, at least until those brow roots come through.