From the pencil-thin lines of the early 20th century to the full, bushy and sculpted arches we’re seeing today, well drawn brows are without dispute the most indispensable part of your makeup routine. Nicely filled in brows not only frame the face, but wake up the eyes and complexion, and can make you look alert and put-together even on a day you decide to lay low with makeup. A study by the University of Lethbridge in Canada even went on to emphasise that eyebrows are at least as important as eyes in terms of facial recognition. If you want to make a good impression and be remembered — you best have your brows done.

No wonder people are swearing by the semi-permanent brow solution of microblading, just so they can wake up fresh-faced with brows ready for the day. But for those of us who haven’t gone under the ‘blade, there’s just too much that can go wrong with sculpting the perfect arches, just because there are so many combatting trends (Creative brow trend parodies such as the ‘squiggly’ brow or the photoshopped braided brow come to mind). But when it comes down to it, it’s all about what works for your own face. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on achieving four distinct brow shapes, from trendy to timeless looks.

The Natural Brow
Image credit: utkamandarinka/iStock

It’s all about getting a natural, symmetrical look depending on the position, angle and arch of your original brows and your brow bone structure. Tweeze stray hairs (but don’t overpluck!) and brush both sides so they’re even. If you’ve got thicker brows, you may get away with just clear brow gel. Jared Bailey, Benefit Cosmetic’s Global Brow Expert recommends to use an ultra-fine brow pencil (i.e. like Benefit’s Precisely, My Brow eyebrow pencil) which can draw incredibly natural-looking, hair-like strokes to transform shapeless brows to filled and defined arches.

Fill gaps in sparse brows using the pencil, and then finish off the look with a spoolie brush with a coloured tint or gel to help you groom everything in place. Wondering what brow shape and style fits your face the best — without having to discover it the hard way after a botched brow job? Have some fun with Benefit’s newest Try-On Experience, just launched online.

Benefit Precisely, My Brow Eyebrow Pencil (HK$230) / Kevyn Aucoin The Precision Brow Pencil (HK$202)

The Instagram Brow
Image credit: Instagram @anastasiabeverlyhills

For something a little more sculpted (okay, really sculpted), we have what many beauty influencers refer to as the ‘Instagram Brow.’ Think of the painstakingly and mesmerisingly drawn brows popularised by brands such as cult beauty brand Anastasia Beverly Hills that fade from perfectly groomed, rectangular shapes to knife-sharp, darkly filled tips. For us sad Hong Kong souls who can’t purchase ABH here (or at least, don’t have a friend who can smuggle it back from overseas), all is not lost: There are ways yet to recreate the look made from the brand’s best-selling creamy brow pomade. Some say the closest product mimicking the creaminess of ABNH’s brow pomade itself is found at NYX.

To achieve razor-sharp brows that are darkly filled at the end, the secret is concealer. Using a pencil or the creamiest product and the finest thin-angled eyebrow brush, start from about a third of the way down your brow and draw a crisp line upwards lining the bottom of the brow, and again at the top. Angle it at the arch to your liking — whether a soft arch or a more dramatic one depending on your brow bone structure — and meet the top and bottom lines with a clean tip. Think Nike swoosh.

After filling the tip in, feather lightly throughout with upward, hair-like strokes to get a faded effect. Blend harsh lines — especially using the spoolie brush tool — to make it look more natural. After that, the most crucial step is to tidy up under the brows as well as between them with your favourite concealer, using a round, flat brush for a clean, immaculate brow look.

Benefit Angled Brow Brush & Spoolie (HK$195) / Laura Mercier Sketch & Intensify Double Ended Brow Brush (HK$300) / NYX Tame and Frame Brow Pomade (HK$85) / Laura Mercier Sketch & Intensify Pomade & Powder Brow Duo (HK$200)

Korean Brow
Image credit: Instagram @ponysmakeup

This one’s often referred to as the Korean brow, or “Number One” brow (the Chinese character for number one is a single horizontal stroke). This brow trend was and still is one of the most popular styles for Asian faces: Lightly filled, the fuller thickness of its shape helps to make your face look more youthful. However, you’ll want to avoid filling them in like a strip of seaweed.

Remember to keep the front of your brow light, gradually increasing in pressure as you draw towards a sharp tip. The end of your brow should not dip below the start of your brow. Go in with a pencil of the same colour to give a lightly precise outline.

The Number One brow may look like a horizontal stroke, but the brow arch should still exist. Find it using the end of a brush like a ruler, directed from the edge of your nose through to the middle of your pupil. Where the brush ends is where your arch naturally begins.

As makeup artist extraordinaire and beauty influencer Pony teaches in her brow tutorial, “the colour of the brows can enhance your entire look.” But make sure to use products that either tint your brow hairs to a uniform colour, or use a colour that truly matches your natural brow colour. You don’t want blonde spots on a dark haired brow.

Her water and sweat resistant Browcara (or Contoured Brow Colour) is great for when you want to change up your brow colour — use the ‘Customising’ shade to prime the hairs with a pale pigment, before going in with five colour options of your choosing, so you can change your brow colour without dying your brows. Going for a bolder spring look? Shu Uemura’s Brow Tint offers unusual shades in pink and lilac to change up your routine.

flawless brows - korean

Benefit Goof Proof Eyebrow Pencil (HK$230) / Pony Effect Contoured Brow Colour (HK$120) / Shu Uemura Eyebrow Manicure (HK$230) / Dior Diorshow Bold Brow in pink (HK$210)

Groomed Guy Brows
Actor Oscar Isaac at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

“Brows are one of the few traits you can improve instantly and miraculously, but be careful not to overdo it,” says Jared Bailey, Benefit Cosmetics’ Global Brow Expert. “Too thin or too arched and you’re starting to get into ‘drawn on’ territory. Many guys may think that their usual barber shop can help, but the eyebrows and hair are a completely different story. Your best bet? Visit a brow pro for an expert consultation and brow shaping.”

For everyday remedies, you’ll want to fill in sparse areas with a light touch. Tweeze unruly arches if you’ve really got hairs growing in crazy directions (or a unibrow), but for the most part, men can get away with bushiness, and bold brows tend to make a guy look like they’ve got more intent in the eyes, are more alert and youthful. It’s the sparseness and greys that men should be on the watch for. Bailey also recommends that men should do eyebrow waxing every 3-4 weeks for basic grooming, as men’s eyebrows grow much faster than women’s.

Tom Ford For Men Brow Gelcomb (HK$330) / Tom Ford Brow Sculptor (HK$375) / Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fibre Gel (HK$320) / Tweezerman Mini Slant Tweezer in Pouch (HK$125)

Evelyn Lok
Associate Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.