Like many women who came of age during the height of the skinny brow, the emotional scars of my over-plucked adolescence still haunt me. I was lucky enough to have seen the error of my ways before it was too late to grow back my naturally full arches, but that middle-school mishap was enough to morph into some serious brow-related control issues that are, quite frankly, as concrete as ever. I rarely ever tweeze my brows and have let exactly two other people touch them. Ever.
The downside of this anxiety is that it took me years to discover the magic of tinting. When I had it administered for the first time by one of the two aforementioned industry professionals—just three years ago, I might add—I remember feeling completely shocked when I looked in the mirror. I had spent roughly a decade growing my brows back, but in just a matter of minutes, they had suddenly morphed into the arches I always wanted. The best part? The metamorphosis doesn’t even require a trip to the salon.
Most of us—even those of us with naturally dark hair—have “invisible” blonde hairs around our brows, especially near the tail ends. Tinting helps target these hairs, instantly thickening your arches without so much as sharpening a brow pencil. If your ideal brow shape has seemed somewhat elusive without the help of makeup, tinting just might make it possible.
But it can be very expensive, especially if you’d like to touch up your brows every month or so. In my research, I’ve found that at-home brow tinting kits leave much to be desired—the shades are limited and tend to be overly warm in tone. So when I learned that some beauty fans swear by using beard and mustache dye, I was game to give it a try. That was a few months ago—and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Keep scrolling to learn about the foolproof process of dying your brows using beard dye—and to see the final result.
How to Prepare for Tinting Your Eyebrows
First things first. You’ll only want to apply dye to a clean surface. “You want to apply the dye to clean, dry skin that’s free of sunscreen and skincare,” says Healy. “The key is that the skin is clean and dry for the dye to properly work.” After washing the brows and surrounding skin, be sure to dry thoroughly so dye can’t seep off the hair.
Next, you’ll want to invest in some high-quality dye. Healy recommends using a “vegetable-based brown dye,” and specifically favors the brand Refectocil, but I went for Just for Men Mustache & Beard Dye, which has a large variety of shades and happens to be extremely wallet-friendly. (I’m still on my first kit and have several uses left.) I also appreciate that there are conditioning agents in the formula, so it always leaves my brows with a glossy sheen. Oh, and it takes a grand total of five minutes to apply the dye. (Too many of my colleagues witnessed this firsthand when I dyed my brows in our office bathroom for this story.)
If you’re anything like me, you might experience a little trepidation (read: middle-school flashbacks) at the prospect of combing a foreign substance into the brows you so painstakingly nursed back to life. That is why I highly recommend a patch test: After following the instructions to mix the dye together, I brushed on a tiny bit to the tail end of my right brow to see how it would turn out. This is also helpful if you’re not sure you chose the correct shade, though Healy has a tip on that, too. “If you’re not sure about your color, go one shade lighter,” he says. “You can always leave it on longer, but the biggest issue I see is that people’s brows get tinted too dark and they’re unhappy with how dark they are.”
What to Expect When Tinting Your Eyebrows
Besides my previous disclaimer, the rest of the process is incredibly straightforward:
1. I start by using a Q-tip (or a coffee stirrer stick so you can recycle it after use) to spread either Vaseline or an oil-based salve on the skin around the border of my (clean, makeup-free) brows. This prevents the dye from staining my skin, which is annoying to wash off. “A barrier cream—something as simple as Chapstick, Aquaphor, or Vaseline traced around the eyebrow—ensures the dye doesn’t end up staining the skin and making a mess,” notes Healy.
2. Per the box’s instructions, I squeeze equal amounts of the dye and the color developer into the provided tray. If your dye doesn’t come with developer, Healy recommends using Volume 10 Developer and no higher. “It’s what you want to use for the eye area because it’s gentle,” he says.
3. I mix them quickly but thoroughly using the handle side of the provided brush. (This is my only use for the provided brush.)
4. Since the provided brush is intended for facial hair, I use a clean spoolie brush to carefully brush the mixture into my brows. Healy recommends applying the dye in sections, to allow the dye to work in a uniform fashion. “Maybe leave the dye on the areas that need the most help, longer. Usually, that’s the very fronts and the very tails. Don’t feel like you have to apply it throughout the entire brow for the same amount of time.” Though I try to stick to my desired shape and natural arch as much as possible, I’m pretty liberal, especially near the tails of my brows—I want to coat every little blonde hair and can pluck strays later.
5. I set my phone timer for five minutes. If you estimate that it took you about a minute to finish brushing the product on, set your timer for four minutes—the longer you wait, the darker the end product will be. It’s better to err on the side of caution your first time.
6. After your timer goes off, wash off the dye thoroughly with lukewarm water and a gentle shampoo. If you applied the dye to your right brow first, wash your right brow first (and vice versa)—that way you’ll ensure the product developed evenly.
To prolong your tint, avoid using oil-based eye makeup remover or cleanser around the eyebrow area.
Before and After
As you can see, the change is subtle yet pretty dramatic. While my brows were dark before, the hairs were sparse in sections.
After application, my brows are much more uniform in color. I don’t look altogether different but certainly a little more put-together.
The Final Takeaway
Et voilà! You may notice that your brows are especially dark at first, but that’s likely due to dye residue on your skin beneath the hair. That’s why I’d recommend waiting a day or two before doing any reshaping or plucking anything beyond obvious strays.
But other than that, enjoy your newly thickened arches—and the extra cash you’re pocketing with this handy DIY approach.