Whether you’re going for Kim Kardashian West circa the 2016 Met Gala or just trying to brighten your brows a shade or two (perhaps to match your new head of platinum hair), eyebrow-lightening has become more ubiquitous than you may realize.
There’s good news for us non-Kardashians when it comes to brow lightening: According to the pros, it’s fairly simple to do at home—as long as you have the right tools. Here, we tap Joey Healy (eyebrow aficionado to the stars and owner of Joey Healy Brow Studio) to walk us through the process.
Checklist of Items You’ll Need:
- Bleach (Healy recommends Jolen or Refectocil, which should both come with a “developer” or activator and bleaching paste)
- An old (but clean) makeup brush to mix the bleaching components together
- Mascara spoolie brush
- Cotton balls
- Tap water
- Optional: concealer, powder, and brow pencil (for testing out the look)
Test It Out Before You Commit
Before you officially break out the bleach, Healy recommends experimenting first to make sure you like the look on yourself.
You’ll need a concealer (or highlighter), a powder, and a lighter-shade brow pencil than you typically use. “Use concealer to block out the brows so you can visualize what you would look like with little-to-no brow,” he says. “Build it back up in a way that allows you to understand what your goals are for the look, and if you even like it for yourself.” You can also use a tinted brow gel with heavy-to-opaque coverage to test out the look.
If you’re ready to move forward, you’ll want to do a test patch (especially if you have allergies or sensitive skin). Even if you've never had an adverse reaction to a product before, it's better to err on the side of caution.
Wash Your Face
Once you’ve given yourself the green light, it’s go time. First and foremost, you’ll want a clean, washed face—no skincare, no moisturizer, no makeup.
Note that if you just recently dyed your brows, don’t attempt to bleach. “You want it to pretty much be ‘virgin’ hair,” Healy says. “If you just dyed your brows the day before, or you unsuccessfully bleached your brows recently, it’ll look weird, so wait until that fades out before you attempt to lighten on your own.” (More on this later when we delve into the post-lightening maintenance.)
Mix the Bleach Components Together
Again, note that the at-home bleaches come with two components: The activator and the bleaching paste. Mix them together with an old (but clean!) makeup brush that's no longer a part of your daily routine.
Then, use your spoolie brush to apply and pull the solution through your brows evenly. Once you’ve coated the hairs, use Q-tips to clean up any excess solution around the edges.
Remove the Solution
It’s better to work slowly here. “If you go too light, it can create an orange cast,” Healy says. You’ll want to work your way up to the desired shade rather than going full-speed-ahead.
Leave on for three minutes at first, and use cotton balls and tap water to remove the solution from your brows. If you’re still not satisfied with the shade after that, reapply in one minute intervals to go lighter. Remember: Slow and steady wins the race.
“If you go too light, it can create an orange cast,” Healy says. Instead, work your way up to the desired shade by reapplying in one minute intervals.
Bleaching your brows can be a Catch 22. “Post-lightening maintenance can be very complicated,” Healy says. “When you bleach your brows, they start to shed afterwards in a normal way—your brows are always growing, resting, and shedding. So you always want to make sure your brows have turned back to ‘virgin,’ natural hair before your re-bleach.”
Here’s where it gets tricky: If you bleach your brows from black to medium-brown, for example, and your natural color starts to grow back in before the medium-brown hairs fall out, you might run into a “spickle-speckle” problem, as Healy calls it. If you were to re-bleach, the fresh, black hairs would turn medium-brown and the medium-brown hairs, well—they might just turn a jarring shade of orange.
Instead, between touch-ups, Healy recommends using a tinted gel so you can wait until your brows have returned to their natural state before you re-bleach and repeat the steps all over again.