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I have light blonde eyebrows. I also have little interest in filling them in my every day. And yet I do. It's less than ideal. But with a little dye, all of that changes. Yes, I'm talking at-home eyebrow tinting. With a few materials and a little know-how, all the little baby hairs that are otherwise invisible fill out, and suddenly my eyebrows have shape. In just a few minutes, my whole situation changes, and I don't have to carefully pencil in my brows using delicate "hair-like" strokes.
In the salon, eyebrow tinting costs around $15 for about two minutes of work. This certainly isn't a huge time or money commitment (especially considering the long list of other salon services I indulge in), but it feels unnecessary regardless. On the contrary, you can learn how to tint your eyebrows the DIY way like I did, and it will save you a few bucks and a few trips to the salon.
Intrigued? Scroll down to learn more about my experience with DIY eyebrow tinting.
What Is Eyebrow Tinting?
Eyebrow tinting uses semi-permanent dye to temporarily enhance, shape, and define brows. The best part, at least for those who want to attempt it themselves, is that it's pretty straightforward. "Tinting your brows at home is surprisingly easy," says celebrity makeup artist and brow expert Ramy Gafni. "The key is to select the correct color and formula."
It's no surprise that people go to great measures to perfect their eyebrows, including dropping wads of cash on brow-perfecting makeup that promises to enhance those imperfect arches once and for all. But brow tinting gives the same effect as brow makeup (think bold, defined brows) without adding 10 minutes to your morning makeup routine. It's shockingly easy, I swear: Slap on some color, wait a minute, wipe it off. It always seemed like something I could do. And so I did. And I haven't paid for an in-salon eyebrow tinting since.
How To Prepare for DIY Eyebrow Tinting
First, make sure your brows are clean and makeup-free. Then brush through them with a spoolie as you normally would. You can then apply a thin layer of Vaseline around your eyebrows to prevent accidental staining of the skin. "That way, any dye on the skin will wipe away easily," notes Gafni. "However, even if you don't add a protective layer of Vaseline, the dye will wash off of your skin easily when you shower." Personally, I've never had any problems, so I skip that step.
What to Expect from DIY Eyebrow Tinting
Once your brows are clean and prepped, it's time to mix the color. "Choose a shade that is two to three shades lighter than your eyebrow hair color (unless your brows are completely gray or pale blonde, then go two to three shades darker)," advises Gafni.
I imagine there are kits that do this differently, but with the one I use, Godefroy's Instant Eyebrow Tint Permanent Color Kit in light brown ($20), you empty one capsule of color (it's in powder form) into the delightfully tiny mixing bowl and add an equal amount of developer cream. (When eye-balling the amount of developer you need to add, it helps to push all the powder color to one side of the bowl.) Using the little wooden stick provided, mix it into a creamy paste.
Some instructions may call for you to apply the color with a spoolie, but I like to use the little wooden stick because it gives me more control. Start at the front of your brow (the hair is denser there) and simply dab on the dye all the way through to the end of your brow. I concentrate on the center of my eyebrow first and then get all of the little (white blonde, in my case) baby hairs along the edges.
Once you've done one eyebrow—saturating every hair—stop. This is extremely important if you want your brows to match. Gafni advises leaving the formula on for seven to 10 minutes, but it's important to note that processing times will vary. For the light brown color on my blonde brows, it takes about one minute. Have your timer (or iPhone stopwatch) ready. This was the scary part for me during my first adventure in at-home brow tinting, but I can assure you it's really not that bad. I've actually added about 15 or 20 seconds to my processing time because (spoiler alert) the at-home tint does fade faster than an in-salon version. And if you end up looking too dark, there are a few quick fixes (more on that later!).
Using a wet cotton pad or paper towel, wipe off the color. You'll need to use a bit of pressure.
In my experience, it doesn't just wipe off. You will need to give it a gentle scrub back and forth. The important part is just making sure you remove it all. If you don't, whatever color remains will continue to process. I usually tint my brows right before I wash my face, just to be safe.
You may remove the color and think it looks too dark, but remember at this point your brows are still wet, so let them fully dry before making any judgments.
Do it all over again on the second brow.
If you get color on your skin (like I did), use a damp cotton swab to wipe it away.
One minute later, and it's time for removal round two.
If you happen to have a major stain on your skin that doesn't wipe off easily, don't worry—it will come off. "If you stain your skin, simply exfoliate the area," says Gafni. "Most dye will wash off easily because our skin is not porous in the same way as our hair."
And if you're unhappy with the results, they're easy to correct. "If you mess up and don't like the color you selected, if it's too dark, shampoo your brows two to three times to speed up the color fade," says Gafni. "If you feel the color is too light, you can correct it by tinting the brows a darker shade." One way to avoid messing up, Gafni adds, is to ensure you cover the entire brow. "When you tint your brows, be sure to tint the entire eyebrow, not just a gray patch, for example. You want the results to be uniform."
The Final Takeaway
And that's it! As explained above, if your brows come out too light, go ahead and do the process over—just make sure your eyebrows are completely dry before you try again. Too dark? Give it another scrub with cleanser and follow up with toner. Still too dark? As I mentioned before, the tint will fade. Most claim to last up to six weeks, but I find myself ready for a refresh by week three or four. But at $13 for four applications, it's a better deal than going the salon route.
Next, watch a celebrity brow artist's step-by-step guide on eyebrow grooming.