Monday, June 20, 2011


The Eyebrow Tutorial: Window Frames to the Soul

Previously: The Manicure Tutorial — Nails With Little Flicks.

Jane Feltes produces the radio program "This American Life," and no one is paying her to use or recommend any of the products she uses or recommends.

103 Comments / Post A Comment


Your eyebrows also look perfect in the before parts of the video, I'm so jealous right now. I think tonight is the night I will tame my eyebrows.


Or you can just live in an Indian/Pakistani neighborhood and get them threaded for $5 at any number of salons within a 2 minute walk of your house. And still let them go too long and look like wookiee brows in between threadings.

no way

Been waiting for this one - thanks.

Can we get a queer chick to weigh in on queer eyebrow politics? Are eyebrows, like trimmed nails, a signifier the way I think they are? How does a queer chick maintain?


@no way What do you mean? I tweeze mine but sparingly, mine are light and if one or two wrong ones go I have an extremely thin brow. All the queerbots I know maintain them, not sure eyebrows can be a signifier.

no way

@shenannies I guess it's more an overall look than just brow maintenance. I identify a fuller/more horizontal brow, like this, as a queer look. But it might also be a generational thing. Ladies here are mostly shaped, so, yeah, I'm more a 90's queer.


@no way I don't do anything AT ALL to mine, but I'm not sure it has anything to do with being a gay lady. Pretty sure it's more about being rather lucky and extremely lazy.

no way

@no way haha - edited and it took out the links: link 1 - horizontal brow
link 2 - maintained young women


@no way Well I'm only kind of shaped because there is not much to them to start with. Any little 'cleaning' and it's a short road to waaay to thin of a brow. I couldn't pull off a horizontal brow unless I drew them in. That's a nice brow, but I'd never think of that as a signifier. But what do I know?!


At the risk of being creepy, oh my god your hair is adorable. Also, now I really want an eyebrow pencil.

I seriously love this feature. It is everything I wanted to know about being a girl but was afraid to ask!

Jane Marie

@lil_bobbytables thank you!! Here's the pencil thingy :http://sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P69305&categoryId=B70 Looks like they changed the color names since forever ago when I got mine; I'd guess I'm using the Medium Ash?


@lil_bobbytables Unrelatedly, I love your XKCD joke username.


@Jane Feltes Is it weird that I got a little thrill at using the same brand & color of eyebrow pencil as you? ;)

PS: Your hair is adorable!

Truly Outrageous

@Jane Marie So does this mean we use the eyebrow pencil to draw on our skin? I really don't understand. I'm assuming the pencil does not create magical hairs out of nowhere so I'd have to be drawing on something....thank you!!!


@Truly Outrageous Yes, precisely. Use a sharpish pencil, and draw short, upward strokes starting in the area where (I assume) you already have some brow hairs, and then extending out to where you want your enhanced brow to be. Don't try to do long, defined lines, because that will look WEIRD. If there's a Sephora or Ulta near you, pop in and ask someone for a lesson. Any of the department store cosmetic companies like Clinique or Estee Lauder will be happy to help, too.

:Cinnamon Girl:

The hair is super cute! Felt like a little much at first, but I watched the video again because I watch all of your videos a gagillion times and liked it better (maybe it's like spray tan or bright lips or other drastic changes that requires a little getting used to).

I just went to Sephora to get my MUFE foundation matched and was telling the make up lady allllllll about you. She kept saying "she sounds amazing, I'll have to look her up!" but I couldn't tell if she was just being a sephora-sales-lady-non-human and agreeing with everything I said so I would buy lotsa things.

Ended up buying the Anastasia brow powder instead of the pencil. Was this a mistake? I haven't used it yet.

Also, what is that nail polish color?


@lolobishop I totally prefer powder to pencil.

Jane Marie

@lolobishop thank you! how do you like your foundation? and that anastasia powder is totally fine, especially for fairer haired folks the color is much lighter than the pencil. i bought it for a blondish friend for her wedding :) and the polish is some elf color that I got for a doller at Lot Less!

:Cinnamon Girl:

@Jane Feltes I'm enjoying the foundation, except I get greasy over the course of the day (primer helps early on, but later I think I actually get greasier... not sure if it's bc of the foundation or primer or humidity). Perhaps I need some sort of powder? I'm also still trying to find something that conceals my under-eye circles, without giving me heavy-looking coverage.

I am so jealous about Lot Less. Why doesn't SanFrancisco have such a thing?!


@Jane Feltes I love the nail color! <3 Also, not to get all Single White Female on you, but your hair & the way you do your make up is exactly how I want to do mine...so you might end up with a copycat. :)


eyebrows are the cornerstone of my beauty routine.
sadly, i am naturally very blonde and have horribly light eyebrows, so i'm constantly pencilling..
any hairpinners have experience with eyebrow tattooing? i've been considering.


@isaidweresinking I have no eyebrow tattoo advice, but I just wanted to say that I LOVE your avatar.

Feminist Killjoy

@isaidweresinking DITTO i have dark brown hair but i still feel naked without my brows filled in. it's kind of time consuming...would love to get them tatted on.

elysian fields

oh God, I can't watch this until after work but it's already depressing me. My eyebrows are easily the worst part of my face and I'm afraid there's no hope for them. Not only are they so pale they are nearly invisible, they also have NO ARCH. I'm not kidding. They are almost horizontal. I fill them in a little so I don't look like a brow-less monster, but there's no way I will ever have a nice archy shape like Jane. *grumble grumble*

tea tray in the sky.

@elysian fields Natalie Portman's brows don't have an arch either! And she's super hot!

elysian fields

@Twinkle Little Bat yeah BUT her eyebrows still have a really nice upward slant. Unlike mine. Plus if the rest of your face is as perfect as hers, it doesn't matter so much.

Hana Maru

@elysian fields I used to do facial waxing in a salon. In my experience, it makes a big difference with really sparse shapeless brows to have them professionally shaped to give them clean edges. You might not think it, but it can really make them more visible.

elysian fields

@Hana Maru thanks but HAHAHAHAHA there is no way on earth I am getting any of my body hair waxed. Ever.


@elysian fields Ooh is it because you hate the politics of waxing or because you are scared that it might hurt? Just curious!

elysian fields

@fairlyalarmed no tolerance for pain.


Ok- so some people say to brush eyebrow hairs up when trimming, some say down. is there a difference? And there are also people out there who say to use old mascara on their brows instead of pencil. Is that bad? Also, how to tame wiry old man eyebrows? Help!


@Palmetto Ditto on wiry old man eyebrows! I just kind of...identify the wiriest ones and pluck those out wherever they may be but should I be trimming them instead? You know, like the really long and kinda curly ones that just happen to grow twice as long as their neighbors? What do we do for those? Help Jane!


@klibberfish i pluck my wiry old man eyebrow hairs (and chin hairs and cheek hairs and ear hairs. goddammit, i love my grandpa but he passed on some awful traits) in hopes that one way the hair will just stop growing back as my mother claims happened to her eyebrow hairs. as i am now 16 years into this experiment, i'm pretty ready to call it a failure.


@heroicdestinysquad DO NOT PLUCK YOUR CHIN HAIRS! You can trim them or get them permanently removed, but pulling them out makes the whole sitch worse. TRUST.


@Palmetto I brush the beginning of the eyebrow up and then the end down. I also use clear mascara to keep the shape. But I am blonde and copy paper colored and have thin eyebrows.


@Palmetto MY DAD HAS WIRY OLD MAN EYEBROWS and I just want to trim the hell out of them. Might have to convince him to let me give him a makeover.


I love eyebrows, specifically mine, also specifically yours. I am so excited to watch this as soon as I get home. Eyebrows eyebrows eyebrows.


I hope your date appreciated you fucking amazing eyebrows. (as well as the rest of you and your humour & grace & style!) I have brows quite similar to yours, just not as well shaped and cared for, so I super appreciate this tutorial. I have plans to get mine threaded, so they're kind of growing out at the moment, but I love how much of a difference they make when they're fresh, perfect and pencilled.

LC Arami@twitter

yay Jane! I love your tutorials. they are hypnotic and awesome and I could watch them on a loop all day


Jane- you have perfect eyebrows! Until I corrected him, my boyfriend believed they were called "eyebrowNs," because he claims they're all brown.

Edith Zimmerman

@pet Best thing I ever read


@pet Is your boyfriend Omar from the best video where the boyfriend puts on the girlfriend's makeup?? That seems like an adorable thing that he would do.


@Edith Zimmerman I know! He's definitely a keeper.


Jane! Your hair is super cute! Also, "Too far apart makes you look like you're from the '90s" is possibly my favorite thing you've said in any of these videos.

I really need to get back to grooming my brows regularly. I've become lazy about it because I wear glasses and they're not as visible.


@KellySkittles I am constantly wanting to stop ladies on the street and tell them their eyebrows are too far apart. So glad Jane is telling them for me!


Oh why couldnt I have watched this video when I was 15 - I think it would have saved me years of eyebrow mangling.


OK here is the thing, I have dark but VERY sparse eyebrows and they always look CRAZYTOWN if I try to draw them in, I feel like a clown with giant neon signs saying LOOK AT MY BROWS. The most I do is try to shape them nicely. Is there any hope for me, Jane?

Elizabeth James@twitter

@iceberg THIS. I just followed the tutorial with the highest of hopes and now I'm afraid to go to work for fear of stares and snide comments ::weeps::


@iceberg Yes! Me too! I'm want to know what Jane says, too...but this is what I do: my eyeliner has a tiny foam sponge at the end for smudging, so after it has a little eyeliner on it, I smudge that residue into my brows (sounds kind of gross? but it works). Then I go over my brows with mascara and clean off the inevitable smudges, q-tip style. Looks pretty natural!

Jane Marie

@iceberg maybe try a lighter color or powder instead? but also i think you probably look totally fine but you're just not used to it yet. you should definitely post pics so we can all weigh in ;)

Elizabeth James@twitter

@Jane Feltes I think the issue is that they're just like EYEBROWS ON MY FACE now rather than some hair above my eyes, if that makes sense at all. I used a Dior eyebrow pencil I've been experimenting with for awhile. I'll keep at it and look like a fancy lady eventually......

Katie Heaney

@Elizabeth James@twitter @iceberg Another good thing to remember with this, I think, is that you will probably feel like you look absolutely crazy the first couple times, but actually everyone around you will be wanting to lick your smoothy and shapey eyebrows.

tiny dancer

@iceberg I have a similar issue. I used to use the powder/wax combos but I thought they made me look ridiculous because even the darkest powder was too light for my sparse black brows. After examining everything at sephora I came out with Benefit's brow pencil in Deep. The consistency is really nice and creamy. It's not a harsh black so I feel like it looks a lot softer and natural and the color is more appropriate.


@iceberg I draw mine on daily, and I think the key to looking natural is to put your finishing powder on after I draw on my brows. It softens them a bit, and makes them stand out less.


@Katie Heaney it's true! when you start taking care with your eyebrows and filling them in THERE IS NO TURNING BACK. And you'll look crazy beautiful. Promise.


@iceberg Brown matte eye shadow and a stiff brush (like this one). My eyebrows are nearly black and my hair is medium brown, so I use a lightish medium brown shadow to lighten my brows a bit and make them look less sparse. It works perfectly and you never have to worry about harsh lines.


@Katie Heaney Oh god I thumbs upped this because of the idea of people wanting to lick her eyebrows but now it's reminding me of that episode of Luther where the serial killer tricks the lady into letting her into his house and then LICKS HER FACE aaaaaaaaaaaah help

Katie Heaney

@theharpoon ok well now I have to share my face-licking story which is actually my bff's face-licking story which is that one time she was dancing with a dude and he licked her face from chin to forehead. and she didn't run away. AND THEN HE DID IT AGAIN.


@Katie Heaney That is more terrifying than any of the spider or snake posts.


MAC Omega eyeshadow is a really nice color for filling in brows! It looks very soft and natural.


A great drugstore brand is Revlon Colorstay brow enhancer. It's a tinted wax pencil thing and looks more natural than anything else I've used. It also comes with a highlighter on the other end.


Jane, I love your new haircut! Super cute!

My problem with my brows is that my eyebrow hairs are curly. Insanely curly. I brush them obsessively throughout the day just so it doesn't look like a caterpillar is crawling across my face but it doesn't help much. Plus the hairs are sparse so one wrong pluck and I have a hole in my brow. I fear there is no helping them.


@totallyunoriginal Have you tried some clear sealing gel after trimming them back a little bit? That might reduce the curl factor and help keep them in place.


What about ladies with wide nostrils? I have wide nostrils and if I line up my nail file next to see where my brows should start they will be VERY far apart. Dilemma.


@velcrosneakers i have wide nostrils too, so i line up my nail file with the tip of my nose, like her http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YdvoWnTOlU


Jane, thanks for the eyebrow geometry lesson! This is the clearest explanation of how to get the arch ever, I love it. My only eyebrow tip is if you are like me and your skin gets all red and cranky from the plucking then put a little visine on it. Or you can use whatever they sell to stoners at the gas station. Just any anti redeye drops. It takes the red out immediately and it also works on pimples, if you don't want to cake on the concealer.


@LRMG this is a fantastic tip. i'm actually kind of excited to rub rohto drops on my eyebrows


@isaidweresinking Thanks! I read it somewhere, can't remember where. Also this tutorial made me go rip out some eyebrow hairs immediately and I forgot to mention that I usually put the visine on a q-tip and then dab the q-tip on my brow. It's easier to control/get on your brow that way.

sarah girl

@LRMG WHOA, thank you for this. I always get little angry red bumps after plucking...


@LRMG Visine! On pimples! I've been waiting my whole life for that tip. Thank you.


A couple tips from a brow obsessed esthetician:
To be on the safe side, when making your guiding line for the inner corner of the brow, start from the middle of the nostril, not the outside edge. Like Jane, my biggest pet peeve is brows that start too far apart!
When trimming, be very conservative- aggressive trimming can create holes in the brow. I brush up to trim and go slowly.
If you're not super confident I definitely recommend going to a reputable brow expert at least once for a good shaping. After that you can easily maintain their lines with tweezing and the occasional maintenance visit if that's all you can afford.
Also, don't forget about brow tinting! This is a godsend for the fair haired and a great tool for bringing out the shape of the natural brow without makeup.


i have a tip! if you're insecure about shaping tour eyebrows, draw with a makeup pencil that's a different colour than your brow after you mark the begining, the arch and the ending. it should look like this: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Sfb0M6hZLco/TfI5eilZH2I/AAAAAAAAAyw/cYyx1CITmNk/s320/step2.jpg


Jane are you ever going to teach us how to blowdry our hair so it looks just like yours?


Oh no I missed this & have been nursing a brow question - what color pencil do you use if you are a natural blonde with fake red hairs?


@MollyculeTheory I have natural red hair and use light brown. A pencil/wax made for dark blond could work too. Most people with red hair don't really have red eyebrows (or is it just me?) so it doesn't look weird.


@MollyculeTheory: have mousy real hair and fake red hair, too, and I use Lorac's eyebrow pencil in auburn, applied lightly and blended carefully. It helps me pass as a natural ginger!

Katie Heaney

@theharpoon ok well now I have to share my face-licking story which is actually my bff's face-licking story which is that one time she was dancing with a dude and he licked her face from chin to forehead. and she didn't run away. AND THEN HE DID IT AGAIN.


Jane, I need to know how you have time to stay so beautiful. I mean, the eyebrows are quick, but everything else (the nails, the hair, the makeup, the self-tanning...) takes so much time! How do you have time for, like, reading and stuff?

Also, I was totally just google-stalking you and saw your interview where you said that you'd want to live on Lincoln Road in South Beach. I did that!! I basically lived your fantasy life for a winter, and you are right. It was fabulous.

Jane Marie

@bunB jealous! why did you ever leave? and thank you, stop it, and i have time because i seriously plan my entire life around all this shit. also, i wish you were really bun b.


@Jane Feltes I left because I'm dumb, basically. And it is very comforting to know that it actually does take planning and lots of time to be pretty all the time.

If you need ideas for videos (because you don't have quite enough to do...), could you do some daytime stuff? Like how to do your hair in a way that's office-appropriate and can be done in the morning, but is still cute and stylish? I'd love you forever!

Jane Marie

@bunB your wish is my command.


Jane, thanks for this--I do my eyebrows myself and I've never been able to get them to look as "polished" as I did after following your advice!


amazing. especially around 1:02.

elysian fields

so I finally watched this and now I understand why my eyebrows always look so stupid even when I fill them in. I'm not extending them close enough to my nose!! Revelation. I just filled them in farther and they already look better! Thanks Jane!


What tweezers do you use? I feel like I always end up with really crappy tweezers, or they start out good but then wear out (?) over time.

Jane Marie

@BigSteve these ones (and they sharpen them for free FOR LIFE): http://www.tweezerman.com/scripts/item.cfm?gc=B&sc=TZ&itemsku=1231T&topmenu=0&submenu=0


Oh my gosh I totally did this as soon as I got home last night and I am so happy yaaaaaay. One question: the ends of my right eyebrow are SIGNIFICANTLY thinner than my left. Drawing on the end of my right eyebrow won't look weird, right?

Jane Marie

@antarcticastartshere right! it'll look perfectly fine; i do a lot of penciling to make them match too.


I HAD to add my two cents and say that this tutorial was top knotch! My eyebrows look perfectly pin-up and lovely. I'm usually loathe to play with my own eyebrows out of fear of over-doing things, but this was really comprehensive.
Thanks a million Jane!


What color should a woman with grey hair use for her eyebrows? My mother has been struggling with this and I am not girly enough to help her out. She has fairly sparse eyebrows and would like to bring them out some. Also, any thoughts/tips on eyebrow dyeing?


@faintly_macabre the anastasia brand "ash blonde" is almost a warm grey. I think it would look nice!


Yeah, this is why I just get mine professionally done once a month - I don't have that kind of patience.

In other news, I was at Anthro today, tried a dress on, and had the thought "Jane would totally tell me to belt this." And so I did and it is HOT.


I love this whole series, but can we have a subtitle/caption button or a post-video transcript of some kind for those of us with sub-par hearing?* I yearn for perfectly shaped/penciled brows!

*ugh I did not mean this to be as complain-y as it sounds!


i'm a little late to the party, but a few things about "done" brows confuse me.

jane and many other eyebrow doing ladies i know seem to have almost nothing (sometimes actually nothing) going on beyond the arch point. why is that? is it because it gives you more freedom to draw on the shape you want? do the hairs on the outside part of the arch ever grow back? is it just a crap shoot?

as the possessor of some thick, dark eyebrows that have the tendency to go seriously gandalf-y, i try to keep them shaped by plucking, but i have never used an eyebrow pencil. would my goal just be to color in the skin below the brows?


I love your hair, and I'm so jealous of your eyebrows. Mine are... sparse. Very, very sparse. I started drawing them in last year and it made such a difference - now I'm completely eyebrow obsessed. I'm seriously considering getting them tattooed on - has anyone here done this?



Wookiee Hole



So I am a week late, obviously, but I just did my eyebrows...kind of. I figured out where to put the arch, but how do you tell how high to make the arch? I am afraid of always looking SO SURPRISED YOU GUYS. Also, now I feel a little nauseated. (Does anyone else get this after staring into the mirror for a while? Anyone? Bueller?)


As a woman with thick, somewhat dark, unruley brows, i've been on a search to get that perfect brow. I usually go have em waxed or my sister tweeze them for me and either way i feel like i'm losing out and need to do them myself. With the waxing i end up with suprise eyes, with the tweezing i guess you can say i have an arch... it's like a lazy parentheses over my eye. I really like your tutorial so i would like to ask a few questions. How can i tell what is to thick/thin for my eye? Grooming, is it best to brush up and trim or down/trim? And last but not least, at the ends of my brows they kinda split. What should i do for that, just tweeze away? I would greatly appreciate any tips, tricks or advice.


Sorry - your reference point for near the middle is wrong. The line up with the nose is farther in. You need to align it with the straight part of the nose EXCLUDING the nasal opening. This was told to me by a well known make up artist, as well as reading numerous articles. Google anastasia ( an eyebrow expert) she has on her site a diagram where everything should line up - and this is according to the ' golden ratio' . Also eyebrow guru erwin gomez recommends the same reference points. Please do your research before disseminating incorrect info. I expect more from someone associated with the wonderful this american life!


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