A Full Guide To At-Home Brow Care For Fuller, Thicker Brows
I have always had thin, light brows. The hair color matches my natural color, which is to say a fairly plain brunette. They have a nice arch to them but have never held any fullness. The hairs at the tail are sparse and seem to be getting more so as the years go on. I grew up in the '90s and early aughts, so it was ideal when I didn't have to do a thing while all my friends were begging their parents for tweezers or a waxing appointment. But now? Not so much, as the brow trends of the last several years have favored fullness and thickness.
But it's not just shifting brow aesthetics. Brow shape and fullness are affected by age, lifestyle, diet, and beauty routines. For example, brow hair fibers become weaker with age—just like the hair fibers on the head might thin or change colors. Or overzealous plucking can lead to scar tissue and gaps over time. Even irritating topical ingredients can affect the health of the brows.
It makes sense why so much attention is paid to such a small area of facial real estate: so much can go awry, even when coupled with the best of intentions. That's why we're diving into everything you need to know about brow care and styling.
The 101 on brows
Brows help define and shape your face. They are, as brow specialist Joey Healey once told me on my podcast, Clean Beauty School, a foundation element. "I believe in the foundations of beauty, which are skin, hair, teeth, and brows," he says. "If you focus on the basics, you can build a routine out from there."
Within the beauty space, they also occupy a unique category: Part hair care, part skin care, and part makeup. In order to truly take care of the fine little hairs, you need to ensure each step isn't jeopardizing the intercity of the hair fiber or follicle. Don't worry—we'll spend adequate time going over the steps later.
Brow hairs are like all other hairs on the body in that they are made up of the protein keratin1. Keratin, and all proteins, are made up of amino acids2 (called the building block of proteins). The keratin found in hair is made up of the amino acids cystine, glutamic acid, glycine, leucine, and arginine, and more.
The hair strand has three parts3: the cortex, medulla, and cuticle. For the purposes of hair care, we typically focus on the cuticle, which is the outermost layer. If you look at it closely (as in with a microscope), it resembles a roof: overlapping shingles that act as a protective layer, while allowing for some absorption.
Brow hair follicles (or what the hair grows out of in the skin) look identical to the hair follicles on the rest of the body. What's different, however, is their growth cycle. Board-certified hair restoration surgeon William Yates, M.D., notes that "eyebrows have a three- to four-month growth cycle." This is why brow hairs are shorter than the hairs on your head, for example.
5 common brow care & styling mistakes
Brow mistakes are practically a rite of passage. Here, some of the more common issues people run into with shaping and styling:
- Trying to create an unnatural shape out of your natural hairs. Brow trends come and go—but damage is permanent. And all too often, folks will try to dramatically reshape their brows to match the current aesthetic—only to find they may have permanently altered their hair growth later. As Healey says, "Listen to your own natural brow and what you were born with."
- Overplucking. We've all been there: a tweezer in hand, a magnifying mirror held up to our eye, and too much time. It's so easy to go overboard without much thought—just be mindful to not do this too regularly. As Yates told mbg: "Eyebrows that have endured chronic overplucking...may not respond to normal regrowth."
- Not using the right brow product for your styling goals. Brow powders, gels, pencils, pens, oh my! There are so many brow makeup products to pick from—each with its own aesthetic benefits. It's important to use the product that aligns with what look you're going for, be that filling in gaps, adding depth, tinting color, or mimicking brow hairs.
- Using harsh or heavy skin care products in the area. Given the location, of course some skin care products get on the brows from time to time. But the pros say it's important to pay attention to—as too heavy or too potent products can get in the way of healthy hair growth. Brow expert Sania Vucetaj notes that thick creams you use on the skin can easily weigh down the delicate hairs that make up your brows. Or harsh scrubs or chemical exfoliants may lead to irritation and inflammation in the area, which may cause the hair follicle to thin.
- Not using brow growth products (especially with age). Unless there are specific growth concerns, it's not likely that folks will use a brow growth serum. However, the majority of people lose hair with age4, including in the brow area. As you get older, it might be wise to incorporate a brow growth product into your routine to proactively support hair growth.
The 4 essential steps you need to know
Taking care of and styling your brows requires us to think about all three big beauty categories: skin care, hair care, and makeup. Here, how to maximize your brow game:
Calm & care for the skin
Hair follicles and the skin under the hair are paramount for healthy hair growth. For example, when the skin is irritated or inflamed around the brow area, it can trigger hair loss. Or if the skin is suffocated with occlusive products, it can clog the follicle, which can limit growth.
- If you wear brow cosmetics (gels, powders, pencils), those need to be removed nightly. Use a gentle makeup remover, such as a micellar water or an oil cleanser, to melt away the product. Follow that with a gentle, non-stripping face cleanser.
- These hairs are delicate, so don't use harsh scrubs or exfoliants in the area. Any exfoliation you do must be with a light touch (more on that soon). Most face exfoliators are too potent for the eye area and could cause irritation.
- Don't apply thick, heavy creams for long periods of time. Rich, dense face creams may feel great on the skin, but they can clog and suffocate the hair follicles, which can lead to thinning over time.
Pretty simple, no? You don't need to overthink skin care for the brow area. Just gently clean and just be mindful of what products are going over the hairs.
Encourage healthy hair growth
Brows thin and lose density with age. Plus, several lifestyle factors can exacerbate hair loss, such as diet, stress, underlying conditions, and external stressors—some of which are entirely out of your control.
Given what these delicate hairs are up against, I think it's good practice to be proactive about brow growth. Give your brows their best chance at success!
As brow and lash specialist Jasmine Imani, founder of her namesake salon, Jasmine Imani Beauty, says, creating a healthy environment for growth requires some simple care steps: "Take a clean black spoolie and brush through your brows every day. This will provide a gentle exfoliation for the skin behind the hairs," she says, noting that it's similar to how you brush your hair.
She also loves conditioning the hairs: "I believe in brow conditioners. I see a lot of clients with dry hair, and for them, light oils are your friend. Apply a little castor oil for five minutes as a conditioning treatment." Do this once or twice weekly, depending on your need.
For added support, gently massage the area while the conditioner is on. This can help encourage circulation in the area, which brings with it hair-healthy nutrients. In one 2016 study, a small number of men received a daily four-minute scalp massage. At the conclusion of the study, the investigators found an increase in hair thickness5.
As for actively regrowing your hairs—that might take a bit more work. "The first step is patience," Healy told us about regrowth. "When patience is not enough, use a serum."
Topical growth serums contain a wide variety of active ingredients that can stimulate hair regrowth. Look for options that contain the below:
- Castor oil: This fatty-acid- and antioxidant-rich oil has moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties for optimal brow health. As board-certified dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., founder of SKINFIVE, tells mbg about the renowned oil: "There is no denying its anecdotal powers and prowess."
- Peptides: Research shows that peptides can help stimulate hair growth6. They do this by acting as messengers in the skin, signaling your cells to produce more collagen, elastin, and keratin—and hair is made up of the protein keratin. "A peptide-based growth serum is best because that's the ingredient that's the safest, most natural, and most effective," Healy says.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants combat free radical damage, which can lead to accelerated hair aging—and as hair ages, it typically thins.
- Panthenol: Panthenol is an antioxidant and has specific anti-inflammatory properties that make it a brow care hero. The ingredient restores and protects the skin barrier7 and also aids the wound-healing process, so it's great for those with over-plucked, inflamed brows looking for some relief.
- Rosemary oil: This oil is fairly well known for its hair growth benefits when used on the head, but serves as a great addition to brow serums as well. In fact, a 2015 randomized comparative trial found that rosemary essential oil was just as effective8 as minoxidil (the active ingredient in many commercial hair-growth products) for reversing hair loss caused by androgens—also known as male- or female-pattern baldness—after six months.
Visit a professional for shaping & practice maintenance at home
If you are looking to reshape your brows (meaning: more than plucking a few errant strands), I highly recommend visiting a professional for help. While TikTok filters and at-home video tutorials have made it very tempting to try it on your own, the risk-to-reward ratio does not work out in your favor.
If regular appointments aren't realistic, then even booking one for a consultation can help. During this appointment, they can get you on the right track, and then you can mimic their work at home.
When practicing maintenance at home, just remember the most important rule: You can always take off more, but you can't add. Go slow with tweezing. Be methodical with placement. And know when to put the tweezer down. Here are some tips for brow shaping.
Style with color cosmetics
If you can't achieve your desired look naturally, don't worry: That's where makeup comes in! Makeup can help your brows appear thicker, darker, fill in gaps that won't regrow, and help reshape the hairs—non-permanently. I wear brow products most days, and I don't think there's any shame in it.
Just make sure you're using the right product (or combo of products) for what you're going for. Pencils, pens, powders, and gels have different aesthetic payoffs, so you want to select the right one for you:
- Pencils: Sharp pencils can help fill in sparse patches and mimic brow hairs. Pencils usually have a semi-matte that reflects just enough light to mimic real hair.
- Pens: These are liquid formulas that act similarly to pencils but usually have a bit more staying power. However, they don't have the natural-looking aesthetic that pencils do, as the finish is usually flatter.
- Powders: These are ideal for those who want to add depth. So if your brow shape and length are up to your standards but you need a bit more thickness, powder will be a better option.
- Gels: Brow gel can be great for keeping your hairs from sticking out of place. If you opt for a tinted brow, they can also add some color and thickness.
And as Imani notes, this is where you can have fun and experiment with trends: "When it comes to achieving a certain brow, play in the makeup, not with the tools to remove hair. Save that for the professional."
3 brow growth extras
Even if we do everything right, our brows may still not be in their ideal conditions. If you've exhausted your at-home options, there are professional treatments that may help:
- Semi-permanent brow treatments: There are several professional treatments to help improve the look of your brows. Brow tinting just involves coloring the hair so it's darker and appears fuller. Microshading is the process of inserting tiny dots of semi-permanent ink into the brow to create density. Microblading can add hairlike strokes to the brow, working to fill sparse patches, extend the brow tail, and outline the shape.
- PRP for hair growth: PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma. In the last several years, physicians have used the regenerative modality to address issues ranging from wrinkles to joint pain to, yes, hair loss. PRP works by separating your own red and white blood cells from the platelets, which contain growth factors; these platelets are in charge of recovery and regeneration.
- Brow hair transplant: It's the most invasive option, but you can transplant hair follicles to the brow area for more severe hair loss, Yates previously told us. The results last a lifetime, but it does involve surgery—and all the complications that come with it.
5 products you need to try
Here's how to build out your brow care arsenal.
Best tweezer set: Tweezerman Brow Shaping Set
Why we like it:
- Comfortable grip and tension
- The brand makes several tweezer styles and colors
- Brush has vegan bristles
Tweezing at home should only be about maintenance: Only remove what’s necessary to keep the desired shape. But to do so, you need the right tools. This set includes a slant tweezer, point tweezer (for very fine hairs), and a dual-sided brow brush.
Best brow growth serum: Joey Healy Brow Renovation Serum
Why we like it:
- Lightweight formula
- Contains several actives that can support hair growth
This luxe, potent formula is an antioxidant-rich powerhouse: It includes panthenol, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, white tea extract, licorice extract, eyebright extract, and rose flower water to protect the brows against free radicals, while peptides, hyaluronic acid, and hydrolyzed wheat protein help moisturize and encourage fullness.
Best brow pencil : Kjaer Weis Brow Pencil
Why we like it:
- 100% certified and natural formula
- Made with coconut oil, carbonara wax, and vitamin E
- Attached spoolie at the end
This new brow pencil from sustainable and natural brand Kjaer Weis is richly pigmented with a smooth application. It’s important to get a soft pencil that easily deposits pigment, so there’s no need to press or drag on the area to get the desired effect. (This is important for pencils—as you don’t want to irritate the area, which can trigger the hairs to shed.) It’s also multi-tasking: You can use it to shade in areas or draw hair-like strokes to sparse areas.
Best brow gel: Kosas Air Brow Gel (Tinted or Clear)
Why we like it:
- Comes in 11 colors (including clear)
- Contains a peptide that encourages hair growth
- Provides longwear hold that’s not stiff
Kosas makes excellent brow products, from their pencil to this fluffy, mousse-like brow gel. This is the brow gel I personally use, as it adds flexible hold and rich pigment to help darken my naturally lighter hairs. (It also comes in clear in case you’re not interested in pigment.) The formula is infused with castor oil, vitamin B5 (panthenol), and a peptide for hair growth. Check out our other favorite brow gels here.
Best brow powder: RMS Beauty Back 2 Brow Powder
Why we like it:
- Outer carton made of 80% post consumer recycled paper and vegetal ink
- Contains organic cocoa seed butter
- Uses ethically sourced mica
Powders can add density to brows, helping them appear fuller or darker. It has a super fine texture, so it has an almost undetectable wear. It also uses mica to add a touch of light-reflecting pigments, which mimics natural brow hairs.
Brows deserve to be nurtured and cared for—they are the foundation for defining and shaping the face. And given how many products touch those delicate strands any given day (be it makeup, skin care, or hair growth products), brow care can feel overwhelming.
I strongly encourage you to visit a professional who can help inform the appropriate shape for your face and natural brows, as well as help you craft a styling routine that suits your aesthetic needs. And after that, it's all about gentle, simple, minimal maintenance: Don't overpluck, don't use overly aggressive skin care in the area, and consider using a brow growth serum regularly as a proactive measure against age-related hair loss.
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