From Tinting to Tattooing: How to Know Which Eyebrow Treatment Is Right for You

Updated 09/23/16
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Let's talk about eyebrows. After all, everyone else is talking about them. Thanks to the modern generation of eyebrow legends like Cara Delevingne and Lily Collins, the brow conversation has shifted from how to make them as skinny and tweezed as possible to how to get the fleekiest, most feathered, Instagram-worthy arches possible.

The beauty market has caught up with the demand for contemporary eyebrow treatments, and today there are more options on the market than ever before. Sure, you have your classic hair-removal services like tweezing and waxing, but now you've also got brow-enhancing treatments like tinting, tattooing, and extensions to consider.

Navigating this market can be confusing. How does one decide which eyebrow service is right for their brow shape, hair type, schedule, and budget? For clear, definitive answers, we contacted some of the most trusted brow experts in the business. 

Keep scrolling for your guide to the many brow treatments available (and how to choose the best one for you).

Let's start with the simplest technique for removing unwanted brow hair. "Tweezing and trimming are for everybody!" says celebrity makeup artist Eugenia Weston, founder of Senna Cosmetics. "This is the best thing you can do to keep the fullest, most beauty, and natural brows."

With tweezing and trimming, you don’t run the risk of removing too much hair (cue images of your measly middle school brows). There's also no chance of stretching, burning, or otherwise damaging the skin.

If you don't trust yourself with a pair of brow scissors or tweezers, visit a professional for a brow-shaping session every four to six weeks, says Weston. If you've got the hang of it yourself, make sure to select a pair of scissors with straight blades, like Anastasia Beverly Hills Scissors ($23), and a quality tweezer, like Tweezerman Classic Slant Tweezers ($23).

If you were born before the new millennium, your first brow hair-removal experience probably involved wax. Here's a refresher: The process involves applying a thin layer of typically hot wax over the area from which you wish to remove hair. A strip of fabric is placed over the wax, then pulled off quickly to remove the hair underneath. Typically, this option works best for people going for a strong, sculpted arch.

Waxing is not so well-suited to those with sensitive skin. The downside is that the wax can include "resins, carcinogenic paragons, artificial fragrances, and dyes, and can cause burns, peels, and irritate the skin," says Morgan Vanderwall of Beautif-Eye brow studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. "It also increases the probability of developing premature wrinkles, especially around the eye area, with its tug, pull, and stretch."

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Threading is an ancient hair-removal technique that originated in India, and it's a great alternative if you're concerned with irritation. It is also the most precise form of hair removal, Vanderwall says.

The technique requires a threading expert to roll two simple cotton pieces of thread over the surface of the skin, driving unwanted hair out of the follicle. "With threading, you do not have to worry about any chemicals being applied to the skin," Vanderwall told us. "It is organic, dermatologist-recommended, and beneficial for people with sensitive skin, as it does not cause chemical reactions and requires little contact with the skin."

Threading is typically an inexpensive procedure ($10 to $30 per session) that takes approximately 10 minutes. The only drawback is the discomfort that the forceful threading action causes—if you have a low pain threshold, this treatment might not be for you.

Let's say your endgame isn't to remove brow hair or alter the shape of your brows, but instead to make them appear fuller. If you're sick of filling in your brows every day, tinting is one option.

"Tinting is great for people who have fine or transparent hair," says celebrity brow expert Tonya Crooks. "Tinting will give the brow more dimension and help it look thicker." The process requires a professional to apply semipermanent vegetable dye to your brow hairs, enhancing their shape and overall thickness. "The results are immediate," adds brow guru Marlena Orlowska of Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa

Bear in mind that the dye deposits color only on your hair, not your skin, so it does not work to fill in patchy spots or add length, explains brow expert Carolyn Smuts of Billion Dollar Brows. So it's best for women who have well-shaped brows to begin with.

Color selection is also essential with tinting (this is something your professional can help you with). "Keep in mind that you need not be matchy-matchy," Smuts advises. "For example, redheads look fantastic in light taupe colors, while red brows can look clownish." 

Tinting results last approximately one to three months and costs around $15. Here's the thing, though—this in-salon service is actually illegal in some states, so do your research before pursuing it.

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Another brow-filling technique is microblading, which is similar to tattooing. An expert uses a small blade to cut tiny hair-like lines along the brow area, before applying a tint over the incisions, explains Marco Ochoa, celebrity brow threader and owner of EcoBrow Studio in Beverly Hills. This process of inserting pigment into the skin's upper layers allows you to alter the shape of your brows or make them appear thicker.

Though the procedure sounds a bit uncomfortable, a numbing solution is applied beforehand to minimize any pain. All in all, the process takes about two hours in the studio. Then, like a normal tattoo, it requires time to heal (about four to six weeks), after which a touch-up might be needed.

"The effects last up to 12 to 18 months, and after that time the pigment often fades," says Orlowska. Microblading is especially great for women with thin, sparse, or patchy brows. "But in my opinion and through my experiences, everyone could be a candidate for this method," she says.

Depending on your city, this treatment can cost up to $1000 or more. And be sure to do your research before jumping in—since the results often last for more than a year, you want to make sure you end up with a look you like.

This is the newest brow-filling trend on the market, and it's great for those interested in a very natural, full look. "The treatment is great to fill in bare spots," says Orlowska. "You can get a higher arch, a longer tail, more or less curve—you name it!" What's great about brow extensions is that they're gentler than microblading, require no healing time, and you can see results instantly. You also don't have to deal with any redness or pain.

The in-salon process takes about an hour. After a consultation, the technician draws an outline of your new brow so you can get a feel for the results. Then they use a surgical-grade adhesive to affix the extensions to your natural brow hairs (or directly to the skin), one by one. Think of eyelash extensions for your brows.

"To be a candidate for this treatment, you still need to have some eyebrow hair so the technician can attach the extensions," says Orlowska. Other than that, the only real downside is how often you have to refill them. While you can wait up to four weeks, experts recommend going in every two weeks to keep the brows looking full and fresh. Getting a full new set of brows will cost you around $250, and refills cost about half of that (or less).

Nudestix Eyebrow Stylus Pencil & Gel $24
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The BrowGal By Tonya Crooks Eyebrow Gel $20
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Benefit Cosmetics Goof Proof Brow Pencil $24
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Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Brow $27
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Pixi Natural Brow Duo $16
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Obsessed with all things brow-related? Don't miss 10 little-known facts about your eyebrows.

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