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How to Fake Better Brows

Easy solutions for making scarce or faded eyebrows appear more shapely

spinner image A woman applying various eyebrow makeup
Animation: AARP; (Source: Getty Images)

There’s a good reason many adult women have bangs. They’re ideal camouflage for the thin, short, weirdly shaped brows that are a result of natural aging, genes, hormonal changes and/or your very own pluck-happy tweezers. However, bangs or no bangs, plenty of us with challenged brows at 50-plus still covet a pair that are lush and shapely (including beauty editor me!). They’re not out of reach, thanks to a slew of options such as tinting, growth serums, microblading, lamination and, of course, brow makeup. Here are six solutions to brow-se:

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(Left to right) Angela Bassett and Sarah Jessica Parker
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images; Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

1. Let brow powders and creams restore color and contrast fast.

“Powering up the brows with makeup quickly revives a sense of facial structure and expression,” says makeup artist and RMS Beauty founder Rose-Marie Swift. “Forget a heavily drawn-on fake brow and work with what you have to build density and restore color with a realistic look. Color contrast is essential. I suggest going back close to your original brow color when you were younger — even if your hair is gray or blonde. Brow powders are an easy way to fill gaps and reinforce the shape quickly. Every brow is different, but in general, you want to extend the brow horizontally with the arch about three-quarters of the way across before it curves to frame the eye. Powders are great for correcting and building up comma-shaped ‘tadpole’ brows — the ones with a bulge at the beginning and a curved skinny tail. I like to remove a few excess hairs from the bottom of the bulge to help straighten the brow and create a more modern stretched-out base for brow makeup.”

spinner image RMS Beauty Back2Brow Powder; Morphe Brow Cream; Milani Stay Put Waterproof Brow Color
(Clockwise from top left) RMS Beauty Back2Brow Powder; Morphe Brow Cream; Milani Stay Put Waterproof Brow Color
Courtesy: RMS Beauty; Morphe; Milani

I’m going to add that powders and cream-gel formulas allow you to shape the entire brow quickly, including bald or very sparse spots, without having to sketch in individual hairs, though you will need a firm-bristled brow brush to apply. Look for compacts and pots such as the RMS Beauty Back2Brow Powder ($29,, the Milani Stay Put Waterproof Brow Color ($11, and the Morphe Brow Cream ($8,

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(Left to right) Andie MacDowell and Vivica A. Fox
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage; Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

2. Use a brow pen to fill in hairs that look authentic.

Brow pencils still exist, of course, but their updates — pointy-tipped pens that work like ultra-skinny markers — are really suited to mature brows that are skimpy and over-tweezed. They make creating hair-like strokes easier, even on bare skin, and they don’t budge, smear or require sharpening. The “slip” of pens on the skin makes them ideal for filling gaps at either end of the brow (where sparseness is typical) and require no artistic ability or fancy makeup skills. Notice as you sketch that brow hairs grow straight up at the beginning and gradually angle as they extend toward the arch and outer eye. Good choices include the Maybelline New York Build-A-Brow 2-in-1 Brow Pen and Sealing Gel ($15,, NYX Lift & Snatch Brow Tint Pen Waterproof Eyebrow Pen in Brunette ($13, and CoverGirl Easy Breezy Brow All-Day Brow Ink Pen ($13,

3. Shape brows up for a fuller effect.

Know how snipping straggly thin ends or blow-drying with a round brush makes your hair look thicker, more polished and voluminous? Same thing holds true for aging brows. There are two options for getting a full effect. There’s the DIY method of a trim and a tinted brow gel or the pro procedure of brow lamination, and both suit brows with a fair amount of shape and unruly hairs. To trim, brush brows up and snip the tips just above the brow top line (avoid going too short which will make hairs look spiky) for a crisp line. Then apply a tinted brow gel such as Glossier Boy Brow Volumizing Eyebrow Gel-Pomade ($20,, NYX Professional Makeup Thick It. Stick It! Vegan Thickening Brow Gel Mascara ($12, or Benefit Cosmetics Gimme Brow + Tinted Volumizing Eyebrow Gel ($26, The latter two are enhanced with brow-fattening fibers. The glossy color tints even gray or white hairs and nabs gaps between the hairs as well for an overall thicker texture and more uniform color. Lamination, on the other hand, is a semipermanent salon process that costs $80 to $300 and lasts six to eight weeks. It works like a perm by chemically relaxing the bonds in brow hairs to create a “set” shape that adds fullness and makes wiry brows lie flat. The groomed look is similar to trendy TikTok “soap brows.”

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(Left to right) Sofía Vergara and Cate Blanchett
Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Photo by Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images; Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)

4. Try a growth serum to build up brow health.

Growth serums for hair and eyelashes (including the drugstore hero Minoxidil and Rx-only Latisse) kicked off the trend for brow serums. Here’s the truth: Despite enthusiastic claims, you won’t magically sprout thick brows or a new brow tail overnight. Potential regrowth results require daily application (some twice a day!) for six weeks to two months. Most brow serums are mainly a blend of familiar good-for-your-skin-and-hair ingredients such as peptides; hyaluronic acid; vitamins such as panthenol (B5) and biotin; and botanicals such as castor oil that encourage more hydrated, plump and strong healthy brow hairs — which seem plumped up and fluffier. It’s like what happens when you consistently use a great conditioner for hair and the perfect moisturizer for your skin. Good examples are Neutrogena Lash + Brow Enhancer Serum with Biotin & Peptides ($15,, RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum ($50, and The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Lash & Brow Serum ($15,

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spinner image A woman getting her eyebrows tinted
Alamy Stock Photo

5. Tint fading brows to bring them back.

For women with very light brows or a lot of gray or white in their brows, a semipermanent dye can restore color and contrast to regain eye-framing benefits. Though at-home brow tints exist, see a trained salon colorist who can not only choose the right color but also ensure a precise and safe application (remember the eye area is sensitive, and you want to avoid allergic reactions). Tinting creates a lusher brow since the semipermanent dye grabs even the tiny hairs around the brows and the skin between hairs to subtly expand the overall brow size. Many women choose brow tinting as a time-saving partner to brow makeup. In this case, the tint does the heavy lifting by coloring brows, while your pen (or pencil) or powder work mainly on filling gaps and improving shape. Tinting can be a once-a-month brow fix for minimalists or regular salongoers who time it with their touch-up schedule, and the cost is $20 to $75, depending on the expertise of the technician and location.

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Alamy Stock Photo

6. Let microblading transform thin, barely-there brows.

A tattoo offshoot, this form of semipermanent makeup delivers a stronger set of brows in two hours or less for $400 to $1,000 … once again depending on location and the technician’s skill. Maintenance is zero except for annual touch-ups. Ignore the temptation to do thick, dark, dramatic brows and opt for a natural look that works with your face and aging eyes. Select the technician carefully, ask to see before-and-after photos of clients and discuss your personal preferences. You don’t want to get stuck with trendy oversized brows or a duo that arch mid-brow! Typically, the pro will lightly draw on your brow for approval before beginning. The best microblading candidates are women with thin or skimpy brows and those with extensive brow loss. Basically, the procedure uses a tool with tiny needles to deposit pigment under the skin in hair-like strokes. The finished result requires several rounds of numbing gel, color and strokes and takes two hours or less, depending on your pre-procedure brows and the desired shape. The initial end result will look darker than expected but settles into a final color in around two weeks, so don’t be alarmed. You may also have redness or scabbing while brows heal for the first week to 10 days. Keep the color fresh by wearing sunglasses large enough to cover your brows since sun exposure can cause brows to fade or turn gray-blue-green.

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