Shadow Brows Are the Key to Faking Full, Fluffy Eyebrows

Here's how to master the makeup technique

It’s getting harder and harder to keep track of eyebrow trends. From microblading and lamination to ombre brows, it seems like every other month a new technique is promising you your best brows yet. The latest arch moment to enter our social feeds is shadow brows. But whereas some beauty trends showcase a never-before-seen technique or tool, this one revives an old-school way of filling in eyebrows using powder. For the beauty newbies who were too young to dabble with makeup in the noughties, brow powder was the main product used to get soft, natural-looking eyebrows before pencils and ink pens became de rigueur. But just because this “trend” isn’t technically new doesn’t mean it’s not worth revisiting.

Here, learn everything to know about shadow brows, including why it’s one of the most versatile looks for arches of all shapes and sizes. Plus, expert tips for how to make the shadow brow technique work for you.

What are shadow brows?

Like the name suggests, shadow brows are achieved using a makeup technique that creates a diffused shadow within the brows resulting in natural-looking fullness. “While still giving the brow a hyper-realistic feel, the shadow brow mimics the look of the natural shadow casted by real brow hair, leaving the brow looking soft and seamless,” explains Breigh Bellavance, national brow artist for Benefit Cosmetics Canada. Back in the day, this look was achieved using eyeshadows but now that we’re flush with product options, blendable, lightweight brow powders, and some pomades, are most often used. The look creates a your-brows-but-better look without the harsh or overdrawn lines that sometimes occur when using pencil and liquid crayons.

How does this look differ from other brow techniques?

While eyebrow pencils and ink pens are often used for getting precise, sculpted brows by drawing hair-like strokes, the shadow brow look is much less easy to detect, says Bellavance. She explains that while other brow trends focus on defining the perimeter of the brows (think: filling in on top and underneath to create a fuller look), with shadow brows, the definition and fullness comes from within the eyebrow. Basically, they are the anti-Instagram brow—much less overdrawn and way more natural-looking.

Maybelline New York lead artist Grace Lee has been using powders to naturally fill in arches for years and praises how easy cleanup is when using powders and eyeshadows in brows as opposed to pencils. She compares the softness of shadow brows to using an eyeshadow as an eyeliner versus a liquid or sharp pencil liner. Pencils and liquids go on more opaque and will be more dramatic, whereas with powder you get a soft, diffused effect, says Lee.

Can anyone try shadow brows?

Yes! Both Lee and Bellavance agree that brows of all shapes and sizes can rock shadow brows but techniques may vary depending on your brow shape and desired look. “Whether you have ample brow hair, or just a few hairs, the shadow brow can be incredibly versatile [on all brow types],” says Bellavance.

How do I get the look?

“There’s no right or wrong way [to get shadow brows],” says Lee. “It depends on the brow you want to create and the brow you already have.” Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-approach to achieving this look, both brow gurus have shared a few tips with us on how to get perfect, softly defined shadow brows.

Begin by filling in the area you want to be the focal point of your brows. Whether you want a sharp tail, a strong start to your brow or a more defined arch, that’s where you should start applying your product and then just fill in any sparse areas from there. No matter where you fill them in, Lee always recommends finishing off your look by brushing a clean spoolie through your hairs as this will help to soften your product application, diffusing it out while helping to tame unruly hairs.

While this trend is all about using powders to achieve the ultra-soft look, there’s no hard and fast rule that states that’s the only product you have to use. Both Lee and Bellavance recommend using whatever you have at your disposal, especially since beauty counters now have something for all brow types. Have long eyebrow hairs? Use powder to achieve your diffused shadow brow then finish it off with a brow mascara for extra hold. Want a longer-wearing finish? Swap out your powder for a pomade to create your shadow and apply it strategically to the spots that need filling using a slightly fluffier brush which will blend the pomade seamlessly.

If you have naturally sparse brows:

If your arches are on the thinner side, Bellavance recommends using an ultra-fine tipped pencil first before reaching for your powder. “Use the flick of your wrist to create natural hair-like strokes where the brows are sparse, then layer brow powder on top for the perfect shadow brow,” she says.

If you have naturally fuller brows:

The goal is to fill in any areas that aren’t as full and create that overall shadow; for this,Lee recommends using an angle brush to gently fill in the gaps.or those that are blessed with really robust frames, all you need to do is sweep a fluffy brush with a bit of powder through your whole brow to create that soft shadow.

How do I select the right shade for my brows?

“Choosing the perfect brow shade is critical in achieving a natural-looking shadow brow,” says Bellavance. She says it’s all about selecting a shade that doesn’t compete with your natural brows but rather ties your brow look together. Both her and Lee’s general rule of thumb is to go one shade lighter than your natural hair colour. When creating a shadow brow look, going lighter will provide a softer effect on the skin under your hair. Since the powder is there to mimic dimension, when using a slightly lighter shade, you can create that dimension and shadow between the combination of product and your brow hairs, says Lee. Lastly, Bellavance advises keeping your undertone in mind when making your selection. Select a shade slightly softer than your brow’s natural undertone, whether that’s cool, neutral or warm.

Create your own shadow brows with these products:

Maybelline New York Brow Extensions Fiber Pomade Crayon, $8,

Available in six shades, this fibre-infused pomade crayon is a one-stop-shop for mimicking natural fullness. Lee explains that a little goes a long way and a soft sweep through your frames in the direction of hair growth is all you need to achieve dreamy brows.

Benefit Cosmetics Brow Styler, $45,

Bellavance swears by this 2-in-1 wax pencil and powder duo for achieving that soft shadow brow look. The precise tip lets you mimic hairs while the loose filling powder perfectly fills in sparse spots.

Kat Von D Super Pomade, $26,

What *can’t* this 3-in-1 do? Not only will it softly add definition to both sparse and full brows offering an alternative to powders, but this pomade can also be used as eyeliner and eyeshadow. Choose from 17 shades in classic colours like blonde and dark brown to magenta and electric blue.

Chanel La Palette Sourcils Brow Wax and Powder Duo, $65,

This duo contains a wax to tame unruly hairs, a powder to achieve a foolproof shadow brow style and four tools including mini tweezers, a spoolie, a foam applicator and an angle brush giving you a full kit in one little package.

Urban Decay Double Down Brow, $39,

With its 16-hour wear, this putty-to-powder palette lets you create a bespoke brow look, adding dimension to all shapes and sizes. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush 7B, $24,

An angle brush and a spoolie are the top two tools any brow aficionado needs in their arsenal and this pick from celebrity fave brow guru Anastasia Soare gives you both in one handy tool. Fill in your frames by sweeping the angled flat side through your arches then flip it over and blend your product with the spoolie side and you’re good to go. 

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