Superstar makeup artist Sam Fine and I go back like lips and lipstick; we’ve been working together as model and makeup artist for 25 years. He is one of the premier makeup artists in the industry, and one of the few African-American artists to publish beauty books: Fine Beauty and Fine: The Basics of Beauty. His work epitomizes artistry and glamour, as evidenced on famous faces like Vanessa Williams, Iman, Queen Latifah, Gabrielle Union and Paula Patton.
But perhaps Sam is most famous for his eyebrow technique, which has become the industry standard and #BrowsOnFleek goals for just about every woman I know. But the rise of beauty vlogging and Insta-fame has also given rise to a lot of brow looks that, frankly, aren’t for everyone. So on behalf of The Glow Up, I consulted with the expert for the ultimate how-to-eyebrow guide.
The Glow Up: What do the magic eyebrows do for the face?
Sam Fine: Everyone understands that brows bring great presence to the face. It’s the one thing that is part of “natural beauty,” whether you do makeup or no makeup at all. My mom would not be caught dead without putting on her brows to frame her face. Especially as women age, it’s that one thing that brings back youth. Look at Instagram: Brows are very important again; they’re that one facet that never leaves. Think of brows through the ages: Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Shields, you in the early ’90s ...
TGU: Kid and Play!
SF: Shut up! You have to decide how much time you have to dedicate to brow maintenance. A lot of women don’t have full eyebrows to work with; I think tweezing and threading are the best ways to remove unwanted hair and make ... even a very faint brow appear more substantial.
TGU: Because it gives the brow a crisper line?
SF: Women with thin brows are in awe when I do that, because they already didn’t have “a brow” to begin with. But everyone has eyebrows; you just have to learn how to define it.
TGU: Who should bleach and who shouldn’t bleach, Sam?
SF: Before we get to bleaching: pencil over powder. I prefer pencil. We’re so blessed to have so many cosmetic lines, from Kevyn Aucoin to Anastasia to Hourglass and Troy Surratt. Using an angled pencil really helps you find the arch and the direction of the brow to help you fill it in fully, or you can use very thin pencils that are like individual pencil leads for a manicured approach.
Anastasia has pomades where you can draw it in very heavy with an angled brush for a more Brooke Shields or early-’90s Veronica Webb brow. People who have very faint brows need something that’s going to cover more territory, like those angled brushes, used with pomades, or an angled pencil, which are blocky, but they give you a faster stroke, and they’re a bit faster to put on and fine-tune later.
TGU: Where are you on, like, braided brows?
SF: I hate you. Honestly, we’re in an era of “beauty-tainment.” A lot of what’s going on in beauty is entertainment. You don’t even find a lot of what’s going on on Instagram even being sold at Sephora—a lot of this stuff does not translate to the 9-to-5. Makeup is a personality. Women aren’t taking these types of faces to work. So it’s important to find a brow shape and a technique that speaks to your lifestyle.
TGU: “Beauty-tainment.” The same stuff that’s happening with food on cooking shows. You can’t eat half of it. It’s just entertaining to watch.
SF: I always compare makeup to food because of the preparation. I mean, most people are really Rachael Ray meals. They want 15- to 20-minute meals. I don’t think women want to spend 90 minutes on makeup every morning.
TGU: Give me advice for talking to the aesthetician if someone is going to get their brows done.
SF: Now, you have brow and lash bars, kiosks in malls and salons that offer services. You really want to convey your personality. Ask them to draw them in, or show them the shape before you tweeze, thread or wax. I’m not a fan of using razors on the brow. The brow grows back much faster, much more stubbly, than if you use other methods.
Ask how long it’s going to last between visits, and put your next appointment on the calendar. [Then] get the guidelines on how to fill in your brows and ask what are the best tools for your texture and brow shape; whether it’s clear brow gel to hold the brow in place for a very dense eyebrow, or pomades, foundation or concealer to go around the brow.
That’s not my thing, but they do offer really great pencils that make it easy for laymen to highlight underneath the brow area. I would choose an eye shadow that’s a little bit more second skin, a little bit more natural looking, but the concealer pencils may help for people to understand what their brow is supposed to be. But they have to realize that they need a lesson and it takes practice.
TGU: Do you still do the tutorials?
SF: I have a DVD. It’s at samfine.com. It’s the basics of beauty. It’s almost 10 years old, before we had a lot of …
TGU: You were YouTube before YouTube ...
SF: You’ll see a lot of my natural brow techniques. Some of what we’re seeing on Instagram is more drawn on. I’m not a fan of doing concealer around the brow, [though] it’s very popular nowadays.
TGU: I tried it.
SF: It can be very telltale if you’re not an artist. What’s happened today with Instagram is artists are showing their perspective in a way that’s not always consumer-friendly. When you unleash these techniques on consumers, they’re bound to be very telltale.
My goal, with having done my book and DVD Fine Beauty (also available on YouTube), is always to empower real women [so] that they can apply makeup in a seamless, effortless manner. If you give too much of a trend, it’s very hard to follow. That’s what we makeup artists do every day. That’s not the consumer’s strong suit; women are just trying to put their best face forward.
TGU: Thanks for helping us do that, Sam. We appreciate you.