I slept underneath Lady Gaga's eyebrows for years. No, really, I did. Such was my Gaga-mania in high school that someone gave me a paws-up style poster from one of her concerts which I promptly framed and hung above my bed when I went off to college. Gaga and her glorious brows watched over me when I stumbled back to my dorm at 4 a.m., when I stayed in to study, when I blew off class to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole. Though I am less inclined to attend the ARTPOP Ball in leather hotpants as I once was (I'm tired, you guys), I've remained a true stan—and that's especially true of her breathtaking beauty and fashion moments.
When I was given the chance to take a private eyebrow tutorial lesson with Gaga's makeup artist Sarah Tanno to road test the launch of Haus Labratories' hyper-precise new brow pencil, I knew it was was bound to be good. Not only does Tanno comes with years and years of artistic experience, but anyone worth their weight in sequins knows Gaga's cycled through every type of brow known to man—and some only known to aliens—meaning Tanno can do just about anything. Including fixing my basic bows.
Ahead of our talk, the product arrived and it was impossible not to play with them. The Edge Precision Brow Pencil ($20) comes in a staggering 13 shades to match anyone and everyone's brows, including multiple shades of red and black. It's a slightly slimmer pencil than other types I've used in the past, which translates to the actual product's tip: it's tiny, making it great for drawing lines to resemble individual hairs. And, most crucially, it's double-ended with a spoolie brush on one side for brow-styling convenience and maximizing makeup bag space. After a bit of scribbling and swatching, it was time for the real lesson to start.
About The Edge
"Basically since the beginning of time working with Gaga, brows have always been a topic of conversation," Tanno explains when I log on for our video call. She says that because eyebrows truly frame your face and therefore command so much attention, you can change your entire face just by tweaking brow style, size, color, and intensity. "Whenever we're in the beginning of a new era, a brow is a big topic for Gaga and I." The pair went through a ton of brow pencils, but could never seem to find one capable of everything they were looking for in a product. "I was either too soft where it almost wouldn't lay down on the skin, or it wear away if you touched it, it was too waxy, it was too hard so the second you touch it to your brow it falls in your lap," Tanno says, adding she used to blow through a pencil a week.
The solution was The Edge, built with what Haus Labs calls a micro rounded point for precision but formulated to walk the fine line of color payoff that's rich but not excessively so. "It will attach to a brow hair but it will also attach to your skin," Tanno adds, good news for anyone with sparser or fewer brow hairs. "Someone who doesn't have as many brows, like myself on the end here," she gestures to the tails of her brows, "I need it to touch onto the skin without it looking waxy. Otherwise, it looks really fake, it looks like makeup." In a few flicks, her tail is complete and I can't even see where a gap would be.
Picking the perfect shade(s)
Personalization is a central tenant of the Haus of Gaga and therefore Haus Labs, which is why the line carries so many shades. With testers still locked up at most beauty retailers, I asked Tanno how a customer could best select their shade online from so many options. She says it's all personal preference but a rule of thumb is to look at the level and undertones of your skin and hair if you're looking for a more natural look. "If you're a brunette like me, I like to go one shade lighter than my hair. With a blonde, like for you, I would choose something more taupe-y or warm blonde depending on your personal preference, if you want your brows to be more ash or a little more warm. And that's why we've kind of structured our colors like that, so everyone has a warm and cool option."
However, the days of just one pencil for just one person might be behind us. Tanno recommends a blend of different shades and tones for a richer, more multidimensional look that's entirely unique to the wearer. "Some people are really pale like me but like a super dark, dark brow. Something that I've been playing around with...is going more warm at the inset of my brows. Right now, I'm actually wearing Cinnamon [a red shade] and I like to warm it up in here. Then I take a dark, more ash pencil [Ash Brown, cool toned]...and draw each individual brow hair so it looks natural and foxy but you can lay it on its edge and really get the precision if that's something you like."
Carving out your shape
When it comes to nailing the shape and doing the actual filling in, Tanno has some words of encouragement even for true beginners. "Anybody can do their brows," she reassures me. One technique she swears by for subtly filling in color is backcombing brows with the spoolie, then scribbling color onto the skin before combing again for diffusion. "It's just going to softly lay color down on the skin to give you dimension," she explains, demonstrating. Then, Tanno blows my mind. Holding the pencil vertically directionally next to her nose, she tells me that's where the brow should start. Your arch should come just a few degrees right from the center of your eye, and laying the pencil diagonally from the outer corner of your eye shows you where you should stop.
It's the sort of thing you might have seen on a chart at your threader's, but Tanno's pencil hack makes shaping your own brows considerably easier, like the world's most fun geometry lesson. After establishing your shape, you want to gently push up the hairs with the spoolie towards the very front. For a more everyday look, Tanno suggests keeping the front of your brows as natural as possible. How you brush your brows also makes a difference: brushed up and you look more natural and youthful, but comb them over for a thinner and more glamorous look.
My attempt at recreation
Now that Tanno laid down the principles of perfect brows and Haus Labs kindly provided me with a few shades for myself, it was time to take all of my newfound knowledge for a test drive. The first thing I did was test out Tanno's brow mapping trick and immediately found that while my (mild) arch is in the right place, I could definitely afford to add a few millimeters on either end of both my brows.
In any brow-based conversation prior to this day, I might have told you that my go-to brow color is something like a medium brown because spoiler alert! I'm not a natural blonde, and have very dark eyebrow hairs. In fact, medium brown is what I asked the Haus Labs team to send me. Fortunately, they knew better and threw in some taupe, too. Lo and behold, it was the perfect color, especially to warm up the beginnings of my brows just like Tanno suggested. Following her instructions carefully, I measured, mapped, then marked exactly where my brows should start and stop, and then began gently filling them in the way she did.
As someone who had a legitimate but beloved fully-connected unibrow as a youth (I'm Italian, what can I say), I like to think I have some good, raw brow material to work with. But as I age, they get sparser and require a little more help with shape and volume. The extremely fine tip on the pencil let me not only draw individual brow hairs in the front and on the tail, but also let me lightly outline my arch without looking like the Snatch Game version of myself.
To top things off, Tanno says you can give a spoolie a quick spritz of hairspray and then comb through to lock them in place, which is little more natural-looking than a gel and certainly more cost effective. When I ask her about future Haus Labs products, she's cryptic but excited—there's certainly more to come. In the meantime, I'll be obsessively spoolie-ing. Gaga ooh la la indeed, y'all.
The Edge Precision Brow Pencil is available at hauslabs.com and amazon.com March 9.