Everything You Need to Know About Lightening Your Eyebrows With Bleach

While there are certain Instagram eyebrow trends from the last few years that some of us hope to never see again, there’s one that’s stuck around for a while, which, quite frankly, we’re not mad at. We’re talking about bold, dark brows that take on a lighter look with the help of eyebrow lightening, a method of tinting that involves bleaching them to a softer shade.

It’s the perfect solution if you’ve decided to brighten your hair from brown to blonde and want your brows to match, or if you’re looking to soften your features. Lighter brows have been popping up on runways and red carpets for a hot minute (Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Rita Ora have all tested the trend for themselves), and translate easily into something that’s wearable in real life. “What we’re talking about is a natural, everyday look, more than a runway or editorial massively bleached-out eyebrow,” says brow and skin-care expert Robin Evans.

Rosdiana Ciaravolo

Brow bleaching vs. brow lightening

While they may sound similar, there are a few subtle differences between bleaching your brows (a practice that’s been around forever) and lightening them. “Eyebrow bleaching is taking the color completely out of the eyebrows, whereas eyebrow lightening lifts the color a few shades lighter than your original brow color,” says makeup artist Samantha Lau. “Eyebrow bleaching can be quite harsh in general, but it gives a stronger, often more editorial look. It is a statement look. Eyebrow lightening is great for someone who wants a slight change to their appearance.”

Hairstylist Rachel Bodt, who bleaches brows in her salon, explains that bleaching can create a more intense look, while lightening is a less harsh way to change things up. “When you lighten your brows with color, you are looking to just soften them or take the edge off,” she says. “When you bleach them, it’s very impactful and more of a statement.”

How does it work?

So now that you understand the difference between bleaching and lightening, it’s important to know how the process itself works. “Bleaching breaks the bonds of the pigment, causing them to decompose,” explains cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. In practice, lightening your brows is similar. It starts with a bleaching tint, which can be left on for different amounts of time to achieve different levels of brightness.

Then it’s a matter of tweaking the color to ensure you get exactly the hue you’re looking for. “I might lighten and just be like, ‘This came out perfect,’ or I might want to add a light or reddish brown — which is browner but a little more fawny — after I lighten it. But I don’t know until then if I want to add color back into it,” says Evans, who agrees that the process is a lot like lightening the hair on your head: “If you really want to change your hair color, they’re using bleach [first], and then [putting] something over it to warm it up or tone it down, depending on how it comes out.”

Who can bleach their brows?

Short answer: most people. “It can go across the board,” says Evans. “For somebody who’s really blonde and platinum, I can give them a nice, fawny golden-brown to complement the hair color, or for somebody who’s darker, going half a shade lighter softens the features.” That said, Evans is fussy about who she’ll do the service on, because some natural brow shades turn orange when they’re bleached.

“A lot of places use bleaching agents that make brow hairs turn brassy, so you have to be careful,” she says. “If [a client’s hair is] dark, to avoid any brassiness I only leave the bleach on for a little bit to lighten the hairs down a level or so. I leave it on longer when I know the color won’t come out brassy — typically for brows that are a medium or lighter shade of brown. [I keep the bleach on for even] longer if I want to put a tint over what I’ve already lightened to achieve another shade.”

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