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A Celebrity Eyebrow Guru Changed How I Think (and Look)

I can’t stop taking selfies

07.25.17

Three years ago, I stopped touching my eyebrows cold turkey. It was a relatively unconscious decision borne mostly out of laziness and my very low-maintenance approach to beauty, but also my reluctance to spend $60 on an aesthetic treatment that never left me totally satisfied in the first place.

I disliked how “groomed” my eyebrows looked after a wax: two perfectly-arched specimens produced by a factory assembly line, so I rebelled in the complete opposite direction and let them run wild — sprouts, stray hairs and all. Unleashed from the constraints of military precision, though, I experienced a “WTH?!” moment when I noticed how patchy my natural eyebrow tails were.

Eager to find a quick-fix solution to my deforestation situation, I invested in a tube of Glossier Boy Brow. A few swipes of the gel successfully made my eyebrows look neater and more filled-in every morning, which was great (and I would heartily recommend this product if that’s all you’re looking for), but it wasn’t the dramatic patch-up tool I desired.

Did such a thing even exist? It was imagining an eyebrow Rogaine of sorts, which seemed too dramatic an approach for something hardly detectable to anyone except me and maybe my dentist, but such is the enthralling potential of great eyebrows; I was convinced they would make my whole face look better.

I considered trying other eyebrow products – maybe a pencil, or a shadow – but I’m firmly in the “I never want to look like I’m wearing any” makeup camp, and I was nervous about the prospect of “coloring in” my eyebrow patches to an obvious degree.

I even considered a more permanent solution like microblading, but the “blade” thing really freaked me out, and the cost was just…no.

At a loss for how to treat my patchy caterpillars, I reached out to celebrity eyebrow guru Joey Healy. I had stumbled across his name multiple times in my search for eyebrow info on the World Wide Web, so I figured he was THE person to ask for advice.

I wasn’t wrong.

You know those birds in Disney movies that help the princesses make their beds and get dressed and generally feel like their very best selves? Add in an encyclopedic knowledge about eyebrows to that description and you’d have a pretty accurate understanding of the magical man that is Joey Healy. After explaining my eyebrow conundrum to him, he kindly agreed to share his expertise so that I, and any Man Repeller readers suffering from eyebrow patchiness (hi!), could learn how best to address it.


A few days later, I found myself sitting in a swivel chair in his NYC salon as he hummed around my face, dispensing eyebrow wisdom at breakneck speed and occasionally pausing to brush one of my eyebrows with a small spoolie.

Regrowth

I seized the opportunity to ask him about eyebrow regrowth serums (i.e. DO THEY WORK?), to which he said, “Yes, if they have peptides. Those help with follicular repair, so you ultimately have a healthier follicle to grow hair from.”

What about something like Latisse? “Latisse is a hormone that tricks your brows and lashes into thinking they’re in a constant state of growth,” he told me. “But the main payoff with that is increased length – you don’t get much in terms of density — and there can be unpleasant side effects, like permanently darkening your eye color or the skin around your eyes.” Freaky!

I knew I was in good hands when he looked at my sprouts (those little hairs closest to my nose that seem to have an identity all their own) and said, “We definitely want to celebrate these.” In terms of at-home brow maintenance, Joey preaches the art of “listening to your brow bone,” which means only plucking stray hairs on the forehead, the temple and the bridge of the nose. “Oh, and always tweeze sober.”

Tinting

After weeding out the strays, he squeezed three shades of vegetable dye (a dark brown, a light brown and a cool graphite) onto a palette and mixed up a custom tint for my brows. “Be wary of salons that use regular hair dye to tint brows,” Joey cautioned. “Vegetable dye is non-toxic and much safer, which is important for any product you’re putting near your eyeballs.”

He explained that for some people, brow tinting can be radically transformational – especially people with super light hair or discolored brows. For me, it would be slightly less dramatic, but still helpful in terms of making every one of my eyebrow hairs “work hard.”

Microblading

As the veggie dye set, I asked him what he thought about the microblading trend. “I don’t like it,” he said.

“Oooooooh! Why not?” I asked.

“The reason it’s taken off is because it looks good on Instagram,” he said. “When you see microblading in person, you immediately notice the dark, tattooed lines that you can’t see in a flat, one-dimensional photo. I can spot a microbladed eyebrow from a mile away. To think that microblading can replicate the look of an authentic, real brow is misinformed. I actually have people coming to me asking if I can fix their brows after microblading.”

“Isn’t it only semi-permanent though,” I asked.

“They say it’s semi-permanent, but the reality is that it merely fades, and the color changes slightly, and if you don’t touch it up it’s going to look bad. If you start microblading and then decide to stop, you have to live through that awkward transition. Semi-permanent really means that it needs to be touched up, not that it disappears.”

As a business owner in the eyebrow industry, he acknowledged the temptation to offer the service for lucrative reasons:

“I’d love to offer it. People come in every day asking for it. I have a huge overhead with this salon, and it would be SO profitable – we would be doing your appointment on a yacht somewhere! But it’s just not what I believe in. It goes against the integrity of what I love most about eyebrows. I have to stand for what I believe in. I’m like the Joan of Arc of eyebrows. And don’t get me wrong — I’m not some old, stodgy, stuck-in-my ways esthetician. I love new ideas. Microblading just isn’t a very strong one.”

Tweezing vs. Waxing vs. Threading

Joey is passionately pro-tweezing when it comes to brow care (“once a week at most, in natural daylight”). When I asked him why he doesn’t like waxing, he said, “Waxing is only good for removing large areas of hair indiscriminately – your legs, your underarms – places where it doesn’t really matter so much. Wax will give you speed, but it doesn’t let you shape the hair in a nuanced way, which is critical for eyebrows.”

As for threading? “It treats your brows like they grow in straight rows, which they obviously don’t,” he said. “Like waxing, threading doesn’t leave room for nuanced shaping.”

Powder vs. Pencil vs. Gel

After Joey wiped off the vegetable dye, he moved on to the final phase of my brow transformation: product. As he swirled a makeup brush in a small compact of graphite-colored powder, I asked about the differences between powder, pencil and gel.

“Powder is more enhancing, while pencil is more corrective,” he said. “Despite the patchiness at the ends, your brows have a great shape, so a powder is best for you specifically because it can just kind of connect the dots. If you have a hole, a gap, a scar, or if you need to literally extend a tail, pencil is the way to go. If you want to create the effect of a tint at home, brow gel is great for that. I love Boy Brow or Benefit for a more translucent tint. My brow lacquer offers a more opaque coating.”

When I confessed my concern that, as an amateur, I wouldn’t be able to make a powder or a pencil look natural (my biggest fear is looking like I have “drawn-in” brows — like Maleficent), Joey told me I just need to make sure I have the right equipment: a stiff brush if I’m using powder (so I can control the application) and if I’m using a pencil, make sure it’s one with a natural wax (like beeswax) that’s soft and blendable. “You should never be drawing a new shape and filing it in,” he said. “What you want to do is hit areas that are a little weaker and just blend lightly.”

Trimming

“Do you recommend at-home trimming?”

“Sure, but you need to be careful not to over-trim, because your brows need some length to create overlap and density within the shape. You also don’t want to trim everything in a straight line or your brows will look too blunt. Some variation is good. It will look more natural.”

After my transformation was complete, I turned to leave the salon, but not before Joey dispensed one last kernel of wisdom: “You also have to let go of the idea that brows should look perfect. They’re perfectly imperfect. Work with what you have. Embrace their small differences.”

With that, I walked out the door and immediately took 1,000 selfies of my perfectly imperfect pair, newly patch-less and subtly darker than before. Even though Joey had technically spent 20 minutes of the appointment removing hair from them, the tint and powder made them look noticeably fuller and more defined.

In the week that’s passed since my appointment, I’ve been practicing my brow powder application technique and I *think* I finally have the hang of it. Who knew caring for eyelid toupées would be such an adventure?

Illustration by @CrayolaMode. 

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  • Hayley

    Which eyebrow powder and brush are you using?

    • Millie Lammoreaux

      Controversial, but I tint my eyebrows at home every few weeks with Just For Men beard and mustache dye. One $10 box/kit lasts like, a year, because you just need a teeny tiny amount for brows. I use disposable mascara wands to really coat all the hairs, and Vaseline the skin around my brows to avoid staining.

      • Hayley

        Millie, thanks! I’ve heard of women doing this — do you have any suggestions for the color choice? I’ve heard that even the blonde shade is super dark…

        • Molly

          I’ve been using this for years, and it’s great. It lasts around 3 weeks on me. Just leave it on for a minute or so for the first time, as it can get pretty dark.

          https://www.amazon.com/Godefroy-Professional-Light-Brown-Count/dp/B00CCYN798/ref=sr_1_4_s_it?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1500998855&sr=1-4&keywords=eyebrow+tint

        • Millie Lammoreaux

          I recommend buying a shade lighter than what you think you want. I use the “light-medium brown”, and leave it on for just 3 minutes. For reference, my head hair is a light ashy brown, and my brows are naturally a lighter blonde ash (a total grey non-color that I haaate). The light-medium brown shade dials my brows up to a color that’s pretty close to my hair.

          • Cait

            I’m blonde and have practically transparent brows and I also DIY with light-medium brown Just for Men. I apply it with an old eyeliner brush and then comb though with a spoolie brush.

            I find oil based cleansers fade out the tint faster than other cleansers, so if you end up with brows that are too dark, just give them a little extra attention with some oil.

            Does anyone have any experience with growth serums working on brows that are naturally skimpy (vs those that have been over-plucked)?

          • Bogle

            I use Latisse on my brows and it really does work to bolster both the number of hairs (especially in the fin area that tends to disappear as we age) and the intensity of the growth. Some of the hairs grow in dark like my brows but an equal number grow in really light blond, so the above information about tinting (@Millie Lammoreaux) is super helpful! On my brows it takes about 3 weeks of nightly use before I notice the increase in growth. After I get my brows to the thickness that I like, I taper off a bit and use it only every other night to maintain.

      • kes

        i do this too!

      • Elle Lua Moon

        Me too its wonderful! Try the ienew eyebrow stamp

      • Bogle

        So helpful!! Thank you!!

    • Harling Ross

      The powder was Joey Healy’s Luxe Brow Powder in the color corduroy https://joeyhealy.com/product/corduroy/

      He didn’t mention any at-home tints but I’ve heard good things about the Godefroy kits

      • I can vouch for the Godefroy kits, but they only last a week on me (the packaging says it lasts something like 4-6). You can buy them online on Amazon or at Ricky’s if you live in NYC. You get four sets in a pack.

  • Amy L Campbell

    EYELID TOUPÉES!!!!

    • Harling Ross

      being a human is so weird

  • Quinn Halman

    I can only aspire to get the perfect Harling Selfie Smirk™

    • Harling Ross

      adding that skill to my resume

  • Amelia Diamond

    i need to dye my brows now

    • Harling Ross

      DO IT

  • Lara

    I’m a natural dark blonde but I dye my brows red with the hair dye I use on my head, once a month. Then fill in and tweak the shape with redhead colored powder that is slightly darker, and clear brow gel. And sometimes Dipbrow but it’s a little too purple/dark for day.

  • Jessica

    Whenever I used to do henna I would use the leftover to tint my eyelashes. It seems to work pretty well and isn’t super chemically.

  • Larry david

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
    Who gives a rat’s assss?

    • Jessica

      Revolutionary idea: don’t read this content if you don’t care about it.

      • Larry david

        You are right…

  • Larry david

    Ugly before…Ugly after

    • Ashley F.

      What an asshole comment…

      • Larry david

        But true

    • Jessica

      You make yourself look ugly by commenting such mean (and wrong) things 🙁

      • Larry david

        OK… Fugly before, Fugly after…..better?

    • Elizabeth

      How do you have the free time to comment things like this? If you aren’t interested in the articles on this website then GO AWAY

      • Larry david

        I am independently wealthy

      • Larry david

        Fugly, as a matter of fact

    • Katrina Elizabeth

      Can MR just delete this trash

      • Larry david

        I am not trash. How would you know?

  • Ummmmm did anyone watch a reality show about dating in NYC…I don’t remember what it was called but Joey Healy was on it and I can’t believe this hasn’t been brought up yet!

  • Anne Dyer

    Every article you write I like you even more. The candor is so refreshing. Did you say what pencil? I don’t see…

  • Laura

    Harling I don’t know why but you remind me of what Junie B Jones would be as a grown up.

    • Harling Ross

      junie!!!!!! this comment just made my day. i loved those books to death.

  • The Eclectic Ginger

    Eyebrow/lash tinting is so fabulous. As a darker haired red head with very fair eyelashes and brows tinting has both helped naturally darken my brows/lashes so they match my hair color better. Cannot recommend it enough for folks with lighter colored brows or lashes. But a big warning: it is important to NOT use non-vegetable dyes because it could potentially cause chemical burns to the skin. And having those burns so close to your eyes could be incredibly damaging. Just a warning to be careful and always try to find a trained/positively rated esthetician!!

    • klynb

      If you have an Aveda school nearby, they’ll do your lashes for less than $15. Don’t panic that it’s a student; they’re fully supervised. I don’t know about the quality of brow tints, as I’ve never had that done but may start.

  • Mel

    Christ this is expensive. $80 just to trim the brows without even tweezing..

  • Razie Alter

    So how can we do this at home?

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I like Joey’s comment that brows don’t have to be perfect. My certainly are a far cry from it. The best automatic brow pencil I have found is from E.L.F. and it is simply called Brow Pencil. It has a spoolie on one end and the taupe is the perfect color for me, and best of all, it is only $2. I have tried both expensive and drug store products, and this is the best I’ve found. I always keep a spare because the taupe is a popular color.

  • This post is SPOT ON!!! I’m an eyebrow fanatic…I actually just did a post reviewing Benefit’s Gimme Brow and Glossier’s Boy Brow – check it here: http://bit.ly/2uxz4MW

    Christina | http://www.cuddlepill.com

  • Love it! Thanks for sharing these tips with us !!

    Meg @ its.meg-ramsay.com

  • emmanuella

    Okay so I skimmed the article and more just looked at the pictures (one of those days). I think you look so much more beautiful with your natural eyebrows. I vote, even though there’s no poll going on, for the left side picture rather than the right side.

  • lateshift

    “Joey preaches the art of “listening to your brow bone,” which means only plucking stray hairs on the forehead, the temple and the bridge of the nose.”

    ok: I have random, thick, wiry dark hairs literally growing in isolated spots scattered halfway down my eyelids. Not a solid mass that can be groomed or shaped…no, just super-dark, thick, coarse stray hairs on pale skin, distributed liberally and at random, and stubbornly growing in multiple, unchangeable directions – upwards, downwards, sideways, angled, etc. They are so obvious you can see them from across a room (and/or, probably, outer space), and believe me when I say: it. is. not. a good. look. There is no way to spin it as a good look. There is no way to correct it to a good look: because I have thick, bushy black brows, using a pencil to color half my eyelid solid black STILL wouldn’t work, because the texture would be off. And leaving it untouched is definitely not an option. 😐 Welcome to my world.

    (I’m sure this is great advice for most people, but most definitely not all of us – unless this is supposed to mean, WE only pluck stray hairs in those zones, but then PROFESSIONALS will pluck all the very, very many stray hairs everywhere else. (?) )