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Because things can go from bad to worse.
Many of us lust after Jourdan Dunn's perfectly articulated arches or Gigi Hadid's full, feathery set, but duplicating these supermodels' brow blueprints doesn't always produce flattering results. "Women tend to imagine what brow shape they want to create—instead of having a good look at their face structure," says makeup artist Nigel Stanislaus. Here, how to avoid some of the biggest brow blunders and make the most of what you got.
The fix: Bold, feathery brows are in, but unkempt is an adjective you never want associated with your arches. If your brow hairs are extending every which way, you need a game plan for controlling them.
And it's not what you'd expect. "You may think that the best way to tame unruly brows is to trim them into shape, and while you're not completely wrong, you're also not completely right," says makeup artist William Scott. "You want to use the hairs' length to your advantage. The shorter the brow hair, the harder it is to manipulate because it wants to stick up straight and out of the brow; the longer the hair, the more leverage you have."
If your arches do need a trim, the pro suggests brushing your brows up towards the top of your ear with a spooly and cutting juuust the tips off the long hairs using a "chipping" technique (i.e., pointing the scissors down, not parallel to the brow). "This gives trimmed brows a natural look, because none of the hairs are exactly the same length," Scott says.
As a finishing touch, mist a spoolie (like the one found on the end of Maybelline New York's Eyestudio Brow Precise Shaping Pencil) with hairspray and brush it through brows—directing the hairs up for a lifted look. Need something with more staying power? Reach for Maybelline New York Eyestudio Brow Drama, a tinted sculpting gel that offers hold and a hint of color minus any stiffness.
The fix: Brows should make an impact and frame your features, but filling them in coloring book-style can lead to arches that are more Groucho Marx than glamorous. A light hand and short strokes with a freshly sharpened pencil make a world of difference in terms of the drama level, but using the right color is also key. Makeup artist Nigel Stanislaus suggests opting for a hue that's slightly lighter than your strands. (For example, if your hair is espresso-hued, try soft brown.)
To put your product to the test, apply near a window in natural daylight to see the true color payoff. Then, start at the tail end and work your way in toward the bridge of your nose. "The tail can have a stronger pigment finish, but as you get to the middle of your face, the pigmentation should be soft—almost like a gradient brow," he says. Use a spooly or Q-tip to diffuse the pigment and prevent any harsh lines.
The fix: Thinking outside the box is great…unless you're talking about your brows. The arch is one area where staying relatively inside the lines and not straying too far outside your natural shape with a pencil (or sin of all sins: tweezers) is crucial—otherwise, you run the risk of looking permanently surprised.
To map out where your brow should begin, peak, and end, hold a pencil vertically against the bridge of your nose to find the starting point. Pivot the pencil diagonally across the center of your eye so that the crayon lines up with the edge of your iris—this is where your brow should arc. Lastly, line up the pencil with the edge of your nostril and tilt the point past the outer corner of your eye to determine where your tail should stop. "We each have a little bit of wiggle room within these guidelines," Scott adds. "Brows can start a little closer than the edge of your nose; your arch can come a little higher if you like; and always keep your ends long!"
The makeup pro notes that you can fake a more pronounced peak by using a pencil to "cheat it a little higher, leading up to and through the arch." But to make the new proportions believable, you *must* balance it out by extending the tail out "a little further than natural." We won't tell if you don't.
The fix: A brow that points down in the direction of your earlobe "makes the face look sad and saggy," Stanislaus says. Consider Maybelline's Brow Precise Pencil like Prozac for your arches and use it to extend your tail up and out toward your temple, he says. Define the tail end first using short, hair-like strokes that begin at the base of your brow. Then, fill in the rest of the shape—working backwards toward the bridge of your nose. Similar to winged liner, it's the sharp point that people notice, Stanislaus says. "Always apply your brows looking at the mirror straight on, but swivel your jaw left to right to check the length," he adds.
"I gently extended her brow and straightened the arch at the base for a classic look," Stanislaus explains. If your brows aren't as lush as our model's, Scott suggests employing two shades of brow powder or pencil to add depth. The first color, used to fill in the shape, should be a "step lighter than your natural brow," Scott says. (If you have faint brows and want to make them stronger, choose a color one step lighter than your desired shade). "The base creates the shadow that naturally thick brow hairs cast against the skin," he says. Next, reach for a color that matches your hair and use it to craft more deliberate, hair-like strokes throughout the brow and fill in holes where needed. Perfection.
Hair: Kat Zemtsova; Makeup: Nigel Stanislaus