Beauty for Dummies: Filling in Your Brows

This is not a love note to Hannah Horvath.


My eyebrows are not fake. They are not mustache pluckings that I’ve manually inserted onto the region that should boast the strange, short hairs that tend to inform much more than we give credit for on our faces.

Mine are accidentally, but also very deliberately thick.

Which seems paradoxical but I have never done anything to them. I don’t even know what s/he who waxes or threads eyebrows could look like. I have never found myself strapped to a chair, in a merciful position, hoping, wishing, praying, that this week, s/he doesn’t arch my brows too visibly. And maybe I’m doing it “wrong” but if wrong means doing it “me” than I am perfectly fine with continuing to swallow criticism for what have been called by deceased professors and naysayers alike, the clearest indication that I am not of American descent.

“Those are caterpillars,” I have also gotten.

Which brings me to a terrible habit that I picked up while studying for final exams during my junior year of high school: erratic, compulsive eyebrow picking. You may remember a New Years Resolution I vowed to maintain at the turn of 2013 — I said I’d kick trichotillomania in the ass but here I am, eight months later, looking down at my keyboard to find at least five strands of eyebrow hair roaming around the keys at any given moment.

My best friend Arielle used to joke while I maniacally plucked in obvious concentration, that because she was an excellent friend, she would totally help me fill in my eyebrows right before my wedding. The offer seemed incredibly far fetched. At the time, I didn’t even have a boyfriend, much less a wedding on the imminent horizon and perhaps even more confoundingly, my eyebrows were so abundant what difference would it possibly make if I were picking them with my fingers? It started innocently enough, I essentially used to rub them like they were a fascinating rug or something. Eventually though, it turned into a full fledged picking game that actually did leave me needing help on the night before my wedding.

I tried draw in the patches which typically appear at the outermost sides of both my brows and it worked fairly well – this was nothing like the Hannah Horvath incident of Girls, season 1.

Since my wedding, the habit hasn’t gotten particularly better and maybe because women like Cara Delevingne have made large and in charge eyebrows incredibly enviable again, I feel a sense of defeat and deficiency when I look in the mirror now and wonder about what could have been, resenting the pencil I must use to fake it.

And then I got to thinking – maybe some of you face a similar problem. Whether because of your own elective or simply because your eyebrows are kind of thin, maybe, just maybe, you were wondering how to make them look thicker.

Take it from someone who knows absolutely nothing about beauty and will do whatever she can to avoid washing, creaming and applying makeup. All you need is a steady hand and an eye pencil (though I know there is such thing as brow enhancer, I’m just not that kind of girl). The one I use is by Physicians Formula. Make sure the pencil doesn’t bleed. If you have a picking problem, your finger tips will likely appear a muddy brown at the end of each day. Try to stay away from shimmer pencils unless glitter brows are your thing which come to think of it, sounds pretty awesome.

Most importantly, though, you should definitely vow to have fun with your marginal handicap. Why?

IhG8M1 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Because there’s no point otherwise. Duh.

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  • Liza

    Where can I find this top?

    • Leandra Medine

      I bought it from mens section at Uniqlo earlier this summer!

      • Liza

        Thank you!

  • Didi Ramirez

    I vividly recall my first eyebrow shaping experience in a cramped Vietnamese salon in some mall in Fox Hills. Then came the overplucking in middle school and having assymetrical brows for months. I am pretty sure I looked perplexed for that first semester of 6th grade. The power of eyebrows is remarkable but the power of an eyebrow pencil is even greater!

  • Jen

    Kinda ironic (perfect) for the last picture .. one of Lena Dunham’s recent instagrams:

  • shelley

    At the age of 24, I finally decided to do a little somethin somethin with my eyebrows and had a makeup artist just slightly clean them up for me.

    I have pretty tame brows though and now I just do the upkeep myself and fill them in with a chanel eyebrow pencil or a MAC 266 and the shadow charcoal brown.

    I think every so slightly cleaning them up and learning to fill them in has been life changing…that sounds so dramatic but it just changes my whole face! I love it.

  • Becca Barton

    Unfortunately my eyebrows never really quite recovered from the Great Eyebrow Exodus that was middle school. The good news is I never have to pluck, but I do fill them in every day, but I would be lying if I said that I knew how to wield an eyebrow pencil correctly, and more often than not the result is more Hannah Horvath, less Cara Delevingne. There must be a trustworthy Youtube tutorial on this subject, right?

    • Leandra Medine

      My mom went through the same thing when in the last 90s/early aughts it was SO COOL to have skinny as brows. Now they’re pretty thin but she’s mastered the art of pencil drawing. I think it’s just about lightly tapping the pencil instead of full fledged-drawing

      • LexoRexo

        Try the castor oil! It seems to be a well kept Indian secret – and since they all created the notion of amazing landscaped yet full eyebrows, I would trust them. I think you just dab some on.

    • Charlotte

      When I had a minimal plucking incident in Middle School (luckily I stopped early, fearing my mother would notice) I had to find a crafty way to fill in the gap. I only had a black kohl eyeliner pencil (nod to Avril) so I used an angled eyebrow brush of my moms and tried to fill in the gap with a few different eyeshadows to create a range of tones tones. Now I have to say I wasn’t a pro at this in 6th grade, but this method can create shadows I’m not sure can be achieved by the pencil.

  • I’M SO HAPPY. Because I’ve never done anything to my eyebrows either, and when my friends tell me about going to get them done, I’m all like, “I’m just doin’ me.” I just discovered filling out the brows and it seems reasonable. Mine are as thick as ever and I know I’m not heading to get them waxed and/or threaded anytime soon.

    Your Friend, Jess

  • Lieryn

    I love your unabashed willingness to take “ugly” pictures. They’re always so pretty.

  • vicfern

    All I want from life is to look good with a center hair part. Leandra, please PLEASE write about how to achieve the look for those who are tired and frustrated with their hair. Oh and can we be best friends?

    • Leandra Medine

      I have to tell you something about the center hair part – it seems so simple and obvious and easy to achieve–right? But it only works if you have a tiny ass middle eastern forehead (which I do) – the downside is that bangs will never look right on me.

      • vicfern

        I see. I guess there’s always forehead reduction surgery.

      • Jane Pope Cooper

        i have mammoth Southern girl’s forehead (is that even a thing? just feel like a couple of my family members have them, so i will generalize for a second) and i LOVE my middle part. when i had emergency brain surgery last december, they shaved half off half of my hair and this ended my middle part. although i appreciate them leaving half of a head of hair for me to work with, it’s like wearing a wig not going with the middle part. i am about to cut some seriously feathered bangs, so that i can finally go back to me.
        can’t wait. two week countdown is on!
        xo jpc

        • Leandra Medine

          PLEASE SEND THROUGH BEFORE AND AFTERS. From what I can tell/read, your brain is doing perfectly fine so a big cheers on that too!

          • Jane Pope Cooper

            oh thanks, Leandra!

            will absolutely do a little before/after. right now, it looks like i have a dead mouse on the side of my head.

            i googled “mullett chic” to see if i could find any good inspiration for transitional cuts. you should too. yikes.

      • sarah

        wow that is so true and I have never thought about it that way. I gotta tell my sister, she has a tiny ass mediterranean forehead.

  • I have the double-edged sword of being a late 90s over-plucker, and after looking at pre-plucked photos of my brows, I have fairly sparse ones anyway. No matter how long I let them grow out, they’re never going to be caterpillars.

    Filling them in is something I’ve started doing in the past year or so, and it really does make a world of difference. It also gives me the freedom to stop plucking them altogether, which is nice. Anything to save me some time that I can use sleeping…or shopping.

  • I believe in a strong brow. Some women say they never leave home without mascara. I do that all the time, but I never so much as unlock my door without filling in my brows. Eyeshadow and a liner brush work best for me.

  • Jessica

    Ugh I am a brow picking monster too and it makes me feel the worst sometimes. It’s cool to know that someone else who does it too can be (is) as good looking and groovy as you are. You’re the best!

  • CDJ

    As a fellow eyebrow picker, I appreciate this post. I always have to explain why I have to pencil in my brows, usually ending the explanation with, “BUT, I’m not crazy or anything, don’t worry…” SO reassuring. I never leave home without a pencil!

  • I need to be policed with my picking. There are no pencils for lips. Just shame. ๐Ÿ™

  • sp1315

    My mom has greta garbo eyebrows and I am a victim of high school in the late 90s…. low and behold I have been trying to regrow my eyebrows for a while now and I still have some major holes. I use MAC pencils and I splurged on the tom ford brow sculptor (best pencil ever but I am waiting to try Charlotte Tillbury’s). My daughter will have great eyebrows and I will make sure that she only plucks them when she is in college!

  • ha ha ha..that is probably one of the weirdly funny gifs I have seen lately..u look cute though..
    I get my brows threaded, well more like an ethnic practice i’d say but brow pencils sure do help in times of crisis

  • LexoRexo

    I have three things to share – I dont have either overly thick nor overly thin brows but I am obsessed with thick, large & in charge ones. I blame it on a NYMag gallery on how they were in during Spring ’10.

    Anyway – the place where I get mine slightly threaded (threading is amazing even if you want them uber thick) and the woman said that castor oil helped them grow back, for all of you overpluckers out there.

    For filling in, I use Benefit’s Brow-zings. The wax is good to “comb” them, and if you want darker brows that day, then fill in with the powder too. MUCH EASIER than a pencil. Seriously, this is idiot-proof. No Hannah Horvath misadventures.

    And last but not least, on days that I dont really want to wear makeup but I want to look neat yet effortless – use a transparent mascara on them just to comb them out! I use Maybellines.

    • Charlotte

      fascinating! I’ve used hair spray on an eyebrow brush, but clear mascara makes a lot more sense and is more compact. Thanks for sharing!

      • Sarah

        I really like how the other members of Team MR can now reply, etc. Just sayinnn’

  • Laura

    If you have thin eyebrows and eyebrow hair like myself, pencils don’t look natural because of all the filling you’d need. Instead, I use the Eyebrow Styling Compact and a natural eyebrow angle brush and voilร ! Pretty much normal eyebrows ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Laura

      From Shiseido! I forgot to say the brand!

  • alejandra

    lmaoo that gif made me crack up!

  • Ginny

    Sister girl, I too was blessed with enormous eyebrows which earned me the nickname ‘wogboy’ in high school. I’m Australian with Irish roots! Anyway I’ve been picking those suckers out since puberty because there are just so many in there that don’t feel like they belong, You get that too? I end up with huge bald patches, ala Nelly circa 2003 and I only look normal after drawing them in if I use those little eyebrow hair brushes to blend it. I look like Herman Munster if I don’t, and it took me at least 5 years to figure that out.

  • Juliette Laura

    I have super blonde eyebrows and I dye them to make them darker! I sometimes fill them in with pencil in between dye sessions. And, I have trich as well! I don’t pull my eyebrows though, I pull hair at the back of my head. Trying to kick the habit, I love finding other people with it as well!

    xo, Juliette Laura

  • Kohava

    Wow, you are beautiful. With and without the uni-brow.

  • Rocio Guerrero

    Gosh do I know about picking your eyebrows! I hurts so good but the patches! They’re the worst! It’s like covering my own trail of regret. I get pimples right above my eyebrows for this very reason, and it’s enough for me to stop doing it ~for a while~

  • I haven’t touched my eyebrows yet, but something tells me I should spend more time thinking about them. I am scared. bahahaha.

  • Whitney Colon

    Oh that darn Trich monster. I’ve had it since I was like 5. Use to pull out my eye lashes and pick at my eye brows something serious. Not so much anymore… But once in a while I relapse. I never pulled out the hair on my head but I use to split my split ends with compulsive vigor. lol Did the big chop recently and its worked out well. Haven’t touched a strand in months. Good to know I’m not the only with Trich.

  • Picking your eyebrows? Seems unbelievable to me – I can’t even pull them out for beauty purposes, it hurts too much. I tried once and almost peed myself – one of the worst pains I’d experienced so far (nope, no babies) … So mine are bold and pronounced, too, Southern European way even Southern Europeans often dislike, but I don’t think thin lines would suit my un-thin face. The only thing that is allowed that near my eyes is a small shaver.
    Oh and I forgot to shave that lovely unibrow patch winking at me above … before having said Yes, I do, and having my wedding photos taken, that is. Well, one cannot have everything ๐Ÿ™‚

  • When I was young, alas, I overplucked a bit. Never a hirsute person, I have struggled while my brows grew back as thick as they are likely to get– which is not that thick. But fashion is fickle, and brow shapes come and go. My brows will be stylish again before I die, I’m sure.
    Meanwhile, I like E.L.F.’s brow kit, a duo of gel and powder that comes with a double-sided applicator. It’s works well, looks great, holds up nicely, and costs $3.

  • I love your unibrow! And I think your eyebrows are fine (too bad you have this bad habit), but I don’t like Cara Delevigne’s. She freaks me out.

    Mafalda โค

  • i accidentally shaved off my eyebrow days before the first day of fifth grade. and yes, i said eyebrow, as in i had one left. my dad never noticed (thank god for thick glasses) and i’ve now become deathly scared of waxing/threading/ect.

  • Bonnie Stevens

    Just a tip–if any of you previously had thick eyebrows & they suddenly begin thinning without any help from you, please get your thyroid levels checked out! Low thyroid can cause thinning of eyebrows, or complete loss. Mine were thick to start with & I used to pluck them when much younger, too, but actually have low thyroid & have to take medication, & as a result they’ve become thinner over the years. I have an aunt & also, a friend who completely lost all their eyebrows, & have to draw them on.

  • lreiser

    Definitely have this problem. A hit I took in a rugby game in college left a scar on my eyebrow, and, incidentally, a big fat bald spot. I prefer the cheap-o eyebrow pencil from Maybelline in dark brown, which matches your standard dark brown hair really well.

  • s

    huge fan of eyebrow filling! eyebrows really set the shape of the face, so it’s important to get it right. I also recommend powder instead of pencil if you desire more natural results


  • belulopezchamba

    I have the thickest eyebrows in town, they are long, and black, not so full how I wish ’em to be, and I never did anything to them, except the mandatory “divorce” (Nothing is pretty about being Shrek, right?, And I’m not Frida Kahlo either). When I found out about the “eyebrow filling” I instantly dreamed about being Cara, and having blue eyes, and all that wonderful wounderful fairytale dream. But no. They became instantly the more horrendous thing I have ever done to my face (and trust me, I have done shit), it was like two gigantic caterpillars, it seemed like I was going to go to do a Drag Queen show (the fact that my heght is 6′ 1” didn’t help either).
    I’m starting to feel like I have no choice in this matter, I always gonna have big, slightly full eyebrows. GIMME ANSWERS, please.

  • Aubrey Green

    Anyone have experience with permanent eyebrow tint, ie: tatoo? Feelings/Comments about this? I have a nice eyebrow shape, but they are really thin towards the arch and tip, I pencil them in, which I suppose is fine, but it would be nice to not have to do that.


  • Kim

    Loving the unibrow look! I tweeze mine but always fear they may not grow back and I will be forced to tattoo new ones on, and those could turn out orange or something!

  • I won Operation Eyebrow Freedom back in 2010 when I got bangs. Getting them meant not only could I hide my five-head, but I could put the tweezers down for the first time in years because my brows are now half-hidden. The money I used to spend on eyebrow waxing is now put towards a bang trim every few weeks. It’s cheaper and helps me be even lazier with my beauty routine!

  • monkeyshines
  • Olivia Vander Stichele

    The world of eyebrow pencils is a mystery to me… I have to pluck them every day, even cut the ends to avoid the unibrow look and shape them with a hint of hairspray on a toothbrush. Daily struggle. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I don’t really get why you would want to draw them on your face. Once I cut them with scissors when I was little, because I hated how thick they were! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • jaclyn

    omg you do have thick brows! you can basically do as you please with them.

    check my blog:

  • Ravenna

    Legit felt like I was reading my own story. I also started picking my eyebrows from stress at the end of my Junior year of high school. I have pretty thick eyebrows (thanks to my Indian genes) so at first my picking them didn’t really make a difference but soon enough those dreaded uneven patches started appearing. I would have to fill in my eyebrows using an eye pencil and even then they did not look so great. I’ve attempted to stop this bad habit but every now and then I find myself picking at them and then realizing the short bits of hair that have fallen on my eyeglasses. It’s good to know that I wasn’t the only one with this bad habit!

  • Lisa B

    When I was in middle school, girls would tease me relentlessly about my bushy eyebrows (let’s be honest; eyebrow). This resulted in horrid over-plucking. I look back at old pictures and shudder. Little gaping tadpoles 1.5″ apart. Now in my late 20’s I have embraced my “marginal handicap” and love them! I only shape them for special occasions.
    PS: Lisa Eldridge has a great eyebrow shaping tutorial. She says “eyebrows should be sisters, not twins”. Love that.

  • sarah

    i do the same thing but it is bitting my nails

    • Kate Barnett

      me too! i’m pretty sure one of my greatest talents is making drugstore glue-on nails look natural, but even then i’m always picking at them. every few years i decide to stop biting and carry around silly putty to play with instead, which actually works pretty well. still trying to figure out how to stop for good, though.

  • JZRL

    It’s really nice to hear you talk about having an eyebrow picking problem with the honest recognition that it is SUPER hard to shift. I have struggled with it since I was about 11. I ‘pull’ less now, and mostly just touch and scratch them but it continues to break and thin my eyebrows. Various things seem to help.. and actually keeping them ‘tidy’ by having them threaded by an expert is one of them.. there are various other claims that you can kick it by changing your diet (mine is worse for sure if I ever consumer caffeine or sugar – I avoid both), and I’ve found that regular yoga and meditation also help. In the meantime, I fill with a pencil, but always forget to carry it with me so often end the day looking a little patchy… Thanks for sharing about this.

  • Amanda

    Leandra, thank you so much for writing this article. It’s really comforting to know that I’m not the only one with an eyebrow-picking problem. Mine began just two years ago when I started college, and I’ve only slowly been making progress to stop. (I have bangs, making it easier to hide, which may also be perpetuating the behavior.) I’ve found that putting band-aids on both brows prevents me from picking though. And I’ve heard that rubbing castor oil on is supposed to promote hair growth — does anyone know if there’s any truth to this?

  • Oliver Lips
  • Michรจle
  • mfashionfreak

    hahahhahahaha you’re great

  • Mini

    I am dying over your crescent moon necklace. Where o where can I get it?!?!?

  • Marie Ainsa

    My eyebrows tend to be pretty wack because they curl up and sometimes down.. both directions when I am really lucky. I started using Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel in Expresso and It is amazing. Fills in the slightly less bushy areas and holds all the crazy little suckers in place.

  • spottedwren

    I have to draw mine because they are so blond I don’t have any definition. I love bold brows. Mine grow in normal sized, which is great because I never have to pluck them, but I sometimes wish they were a little more exciting.

    Could you try covering your brows when you are doing something where you know you pick, like when you are at your computer? I was thinking maybe band-aids. If you are unable to pick maybe you will unconsciously do it less as time goes on?

  • Paco T.

    thick eyebrows girls are so attractive! ;P

  • sandrine jouss

    Merci beaucoup for the advices ๐Ÿ™‚

    New on my French fashion blog:

    Noeuds pap’ on my jacket (Bows on my jacket)

    Bisous bisous!!!

  • Maia

    I sometimes use an old tube of mascara to darken my eyebrows a bit. It doesn’t fill them in the same way a pencil would, but if you have eyebrows lighter than your hair color, it does make a big difference. It works best with an older tube, try using one that you can’t really use on your lashes anymore.

  • Funny how much the eyebrows can change the face. As a middle school student I developed a similar addiction and looked a baby drag queen. I think I may go back and fill in my eyebrow posthumously in my parents’ photo albums. Now I try and let them grow as full and free~

  • S

    Girl, your natural arches are da bomb.

  • Amelia Diamond

    browie wowie

  • AWolfinChicClothing

    1. Love your pinky ring. Who is it by? Pinky rings should make a comeback and stay forever. 2. I applaud you for this honest article but then when are you not honest? 3. I have never professional shaped/plucked my eyebrows. I have thick ones and I’m proud despite the shock and awe of many a waxer….but I still need help with filling in from time to time. Thanks for the suggestion, I shall try it!

  • TurkishDelight

    Hey leandra, reading this today honestly felt like I was reading through my own high school journal entry. I’ve been playing with/picking at my thick middle eastern eyebrows since sophomore year of high school, and 9 years later the problem is still going on. It’s really nice to know even people I inspire face the same challenges. I salute my eyeliner faux eyebrow pencil at you and hope we’ll both kick the habit soon!

  • Ariel

    Wow, I never knew that there was actually a whole community of us eyebrow pickers! After reading your post, and thinking, wow, me too! and then seeing comments of people who also do this, I don’t feel so bad anymore. Its totally a nervous/bored habit. Also, its funny to me that I’ve been reading this for months, and this is the first post I decide to comment on. Hah.

  • Alyssa

    Confession: I don’t necessarily pick eyebrows but what I am addicted to is blackhead picking. I could spend an hour looking into a magnifying mirror, iPhone perfectly balanced for flashlight, until my fingers cramp from the tweezers (sometimes i do it with just my nails, probably the main reason i keep them long.) Please tell me I am not the only one messing with my nose more times than I care to admit.

  • Elaine Chow

    The unibrow…perhaps a statement accessory for the face in future trends.

  • Lina

    As someone who personally suffers from trichotillomania, I have to say that it felt so good to read this post. Although I know your eyebrow picking is probably not has bad as me picking hairs from my scalp is still felt so good to hear someone ‘normal’ complain about a similar fear of mine. I usually associate trichotillomania with scary pics on the internet, but I actually found myself laughing when reading your post. So thank you… and here’s to hoping that we both give up our terrible habits one day real soon!

  • Silvia Seymour Galama

    due to my last 15 years of bad experiences with eyebrow waxing I’m happily leaving the arched eyebrow world to at least try to enter the caterpillar one. after so many years waxing, your hair just don’t grow anymore. young girls, listen to the voice of experience: caterpillar rocks!

  • Jo

    Hi Leandra – I love your necklace – would you mind letting me know where you got it from? Thanks!!