If the eyes are the windows to the soul, the eyebrows are a signal of your entire design style. Makeup lovers and those who prefer a less-is-more look agree that a shapely brow, whether worn brushed up, thinned out, or penciled to perfection, helps to cement any beauty look. This is likely why those seeking a shift in persona often opt to cover brows completely before replacing them with a brand-new alternative—or temporarily ditching them entirely.
“People say brows frame the face—I would say they even anchor the face,” says drag superstar Trixie Mattel. “When I’m not sure how to approach a makeup look, I always do brows first as a flagship feature to build around.” While the same mentality is easily applied to natural brows, gluing down the brow provides a just-for-now blank canvas favored by drag and theater communities for its ability to transmute the face.
“Gluing down brows sucks, but it’s a necessary evil,” explains Mattel, noting that many drag performers have lives that very much require natural male brows. “Shaving off brows isn’t an option for many of us, so blocking brows is a less shocking and permanent approach.” Mattel adds that learning to properly block brows takes a lot of skill, and urges glue-down newbies to take their time, do their research, and perhaps step away from the mirror if this is an on-a-whim activity.
Meet Our Expert
Lisa Pimentel is a makeup artist in New York City.
What Should You Use to Glue Down Eyebrows?
Brows can be glued down with washable glue or theater-grade gums and waxes, depending on your preference. Mattel and a bevy of other performers rely on Elmer’s, specifically Elmer’s Disappearing Purple Glue Stick, which allows for visibility for placement and clean-up before fading out entirely. “Spirit Gum is a liquid, alcohol-based adhesive used in the theater world,” says Pimentel, who suggests Graftobian as a go-to starter for those weary of the glue stick route.
Alcohol and cotton pads will help with clean-up along the way, while micellar water can remove the brow completely once you’re finished.
How to Glue Down Brows
Here, a set of step-by-step instructions for how to glue down your brows, the better to set the stage for a reworked look.
1. Clean and Brush Brows
Step one involves ridding the brow of all product, dirt, and oil, the better to create a more adaptable foundation. “You want to clean and brush up your brows,” says Pimentel. “I suggest using a cotton pad soaked with alcohol and brushing the brow hairs vertically with a spoolie brush.” Mattel relies on isopropyl alcohol to remove excess moisture and oils from the brow hair ahead of lamination. Should you prefer a gentle approach, micellar water works, too.
2. Laminate in Layers
Next, begin your glue or gum application. When gluing down her own brows, Mattel begins by brushing back the brow strands with adhesive before moving on to flay-lay lamination. “Apply the glue by pressing and swiping upward on the brows, following the natural growth,” advises Pimentel. This can be done with the stick itself, or with a small spatula, so long as the glue is making its way to both hair and skin. “You’ll want to take a small cotton pad with alcohol and clean the edges lightly,” adds Pimentel. Move hair around before brushing all strands into place and flattening everything with a brow spatula or your fingers.
3. Set With Powder
Packed powder should be incorporated along the way, each time you flatten and finish, not just as a final step. “Set your brows with a makeup sponge, preferably disposable since you will need to pack on the loose powder and press it onto the brow,” says Pimentel. “Let that set for about 30 seconds and brush off the excess with a large fluffy brush.”
4. Repeat the Process
Mattel works on her brows for about ten minutes, applying ultra-thin layers of glue, setting, and allowing for short breaks in between. “You will want to apply more layers of glue about two more times depending on the density of your brow hair,” says Pimentel. “Repeat until you have a smooth canvas—it can take up to three to four layers of glue.”
5. Allow for Dry Time
Patience is paramount here. Whether you use a single coat or several layers of glue and powder to lay down the brow, ample dry time is crucial for a successful look. Pimentel suggests using a handheld fan or blow-dryer in a cool setting for about 60 to 90 seconds to ensure a complete finish.
6. Reimagine Your Look
Now that your brows are smoothed and flattened to perfection, conceal them as you see fit for total invisibility prior to creating your new brows (unless a browless look is your goal). Reach for your matte foundation and follow with a detailing pen, pomade, or pencil depending on your desired shape and feel.
7. Don’t Skimp On Removal
When the time comes to reveal your organic brow, do so with gentle care. “You’ll want to use an oil-based makeup remover like a micellar water,” says Pimentel. “Soak a cotton pad and press onto your brows for 10 seconds, then push up with light pressure, and do your best not to pull or tug on any brow hairs.” Avoid makeup wipes, and avoid picking at the glue (and inadvertently plucking the bulk of your brow).
For more InStyle news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on InStyle.