Anyone with a magnifying mirror and tweezers can recklessly prune their brows, but patiently growing them back? That takes real pluck. Here's how to undo the damage.
• RETIRE THE TWEEZERS. It takes three to four months to see real change, and up to a year for brows to grow back entirely. "The first week is the hardest. It feels like the hairs are mocking you," says Ramy Gafni, a New York City brow groomer. "But if you leave them alone, those random little hairs will eventually form a full brow." If a stray is growing at an odd angle, resist the urge to tweeze—trim it instead.
• MIND THE GAPS. Fill in sparse areas with a brow pencil (eyeliners are too creamy and heavily pigmented). Go one to two shades lighter than your hair if you're a brunette, or try taupe if you're blonde. "Otherwise you'll look like Joan Crawford," says Gafni. Use short, angled strokes in the direction of hair growth to beef up bald spots, but stay within your natural brow line. "Never create an arch with makeup," says Gafni. "Even the right shade can look obvious. Your bone structure should create the arch for you."
• SHAPE UP. Define the arch (the brow's highest point, just beyond the iris as you look ahead) by yanking a few hairs beneath it. "The most common mistake I see is people taking too much off the ends," says Kristie Streicher, an eyebrow groomer at Warren-Tricomi salons in New York City and Los Angeles. Eyebrows that fall short look tadpole-y and aging, since the ends thin as we get older, she says.
Frida Kahlo is the exception, not the rule. "Strong brows need to have shape and separation," says Streicher. "Otherwise they'll overwhelm your face."
• DIVIDE AND CONQUER. When hair verges on the dreaded unibrow territory, you need to grab the tweezers. Hold a pencil vertically from the outer edge of your nostril to your eyebrows to determine where each one should start.
• MAKE THE CUT. Removing bulk from your brows doesn't always mean pruning them. Nine times out of ten, a trim is all you need. Comb your brows straight up with a spooley brush, then trim only the longest hairs, staggering the length as you go. "Cut one hair a little longer and one a little shorter, so your eyebrows don't get a crew cut," says Streicher. Follow up with a brow gel to keep hairs in place.
• END WELL. "It's a sin to shorten beautiful, long eyebrows," says New York City brow groomer Joey Healy. Unless the tails of your eyebrows dip too far below where the heads begin (which can result in a dragging effect), leave the length alone. Make sure to taper the ends to a clean point for a sharp finish.
If you raise your eyebrows while tweezing, you're likely removing too much from the arches and ends. The result? Comma brows.
• ACHIEVE BALANCE. "Taking weight from the front will actually make the ends appear thicker," says brow expert Eliza Petrescu of Eliza's Eyes salon in New York City. "Your brows will be instantly more natural looking." Lightly fill in with a brow pencil, concentrating color on the sparser tails.
Brows that look like an upside down V (think Michelle Obama in 2008) can make you seem angry, says Gafni.
• AVOID THE POINT. For a friendlier effect, remove a few hairs from the top of the arch. "Forget the old rule that says you should never tweeze above the brow," says Tonya Crooks, owner of Mirror Mirror Beauty Studio in Los Angeles. "If a few hairs are interfering with an ideal shape, they need to go, period."
• FOCUS ON THE FRONT. Using a spooley brush, comb up the inner half of your brows and trim any hairs that extend far past the top. (Those hairs in front can get really long.)
PHOTO: MICHAEL THOMPSON