Of all the things I've impulsively done during the pandemic (dyeing my hair peach, selling half my wardrobe, deleting certain people from my phone forever), attempting at-home brow lamination has been the riskiest. I've been paying my brows extra attention, considering their newfound importance, and found myself missing the feathery, fluffy look brow lamination gave me when I tried it last fall. While salons are open here in New York, I had watched enough influencers do it themselves while scrolling Instagram at 2 a.m. to convince myself to go the DIY route.
For the uninitiated, brow lamination is a service that essentially perms your eyebrows into place. Like microblading or tinting, it gives you the look of fuller, fluffier brows without having to go through a complicated routine every morning. However, it's much less permanent than microblading—the service will last up to six weeks, which is a full brow cycle—and should be painless. The technique started in Moscow, but since coming to the States in 2019, it exploded in popularity. Even with salon closures across the country, brow lamination saw a massive increase in Yelp searches from 2019 to 2020.
One of my favorite things about the service is that it gives you a really awake “lifted” look thanks to the fact that it perms your brow hairs upward. It's also super versatile, as it works just as well on thicker, unruly brows like mine, or thin, overplucked ones. However, it's not cheap, and services range from $100 to $300 a session depending on your salon. Most at-home kits, on the other hand, clock in around $30 for up to six uses.
I kept thinking about how fab mine looked when I had them done, and finally caved and ordered a kit off Amazon. There are tons of options, but you really have to do your research. I went with the Angel Brow kit, since it seemed to have the most positive, legitimate reviews.
While I felt confident with the amount of tutorials I watched on YouTube, I called up René de la Garza, the man behind Lizzo's and Cardi B's brows, to walk me through the process—and I'm so glad I did. Given that it requires perm solution so close to your eyes, it really isn't something you want to wing, you know? So if you're curious to try, read on for the step-by-step guide he gave me to at-home brow lamination.
How to Do Brow Lamination at Home
First thing's first, de la Garza warns there are risks to doing brow lamination at home. “Just like you could probably perm or dye your hair at home—but shouldn’t—it’s the same thing with brows,” he says, since you can easily ruin the integrity of your eyebrows. In fact, he cautions that he regularly sees people in both his salon and training room who need revisions from attempting DIY brow lamination. So if you're dead set on it, I'd encourage you to arrange a video consultation with your local brow salon. I picked up tons of tips from de la Garza that weren't in my instructions, and it's a great way to support brow artists during the pandemic.
With that in mind, let's move on to the how-to.
1) Create a barrier before applying the perming solution.
A great example of a pro knowing more than a box kit: The product I bought didn't recommend this step, but it's one de la Garza says is crucial. He recommends using a thick balm like Vaseline, Aquaphor, or even lip balm to create a barrier around your brows to protect your skin. After removing all makeup, skin care, and oils from your brows, take your balm and place some right under your eyebrows. Since your brows are going to stretch upward, leave about a finger's worth of space above them, and put the balm above that.
He also warns that you should perform a patch test 24 hours ahead of using the kit to make sure you don't have a reaction. If you have severe acne or skin sensitivities, it's worth checking with your derm as well.
2) Shape your brows how you want them to be set.
Your kit should come with a brow glue (mine was labeled “lift”), which you will use as your rough draft. De la Garza says to brush some onto a clean spoolie, then shape your brows into whatever position you'll want them to set in. For me, he suggested to style the front more fluffy by holding the spoolie vertically and pushing the hairs up. Where my brows started to arch, he said to use more of an up-and-out motion, using the hand on the same side of the brow I was working on to get the most fluid motion (so right brow, right hand; left brow, left hand). You want to make sure your brows are nice and saturated, and the hairs are flat against your skin.
3) Apply the perming solution.
After the glue gets tacky and starts to dry, you'll go in with the perming solution, which breaks down the protein chain in your brow hairs and makes them really sculptable. De la Garza says this is where most people make the mistake of leaving the solution on way too long, since they think their brows are thicker than they are. Most kits will vary with the timing they recommend, but he says to leave it on for one minute less than the suggested time. For example, mine kit said five minutes for thin brows, and eight for thick and curly ones, so we left it on for four minutes.
De la Garza says you need to be super precise with your timing, since “even just leaving it on for one minute longer can make it overprocessed,” so it's helpful for someone else to keep time while you're applying the solution, which you'll want to do as quickly as possible. It's also important to use a brow brush, not a spoolie to apply the solution, since you don't want to disturb the shape you just created. And you want to make sure your brows are super saturated.
Once your brows are coated, lay plastic wrap over them to help them keep their shape while the solution goes to work. After your time is up, thoroughly wipe off the solution with dry cotton pads, moving up and out. (Again, be sure to check directions for your specific kit, though, as some may recommend you use water to remove.)
4) Neutralize your brows.
After you wipe away the perming solution, it's key to make sure the areas it touched are neutralized. “The lamination solution raises the pH of your hair and skin,” says de la Garza. “The neutralizer is so important because without it your brows will keep processing.”
Run the neutralizer through your brows on a spoolie, again making sure they're nice and saturated. However long you left your perm solution on, leave the neutralizer on for the same amount of time (I did four minutes each). Once time is up, wipe it away with a dry cotton pad, making sure to remove all the residue. (Again, check your kit's directions here—they might recommend using water to rinse.)
5) Finish with a nourishing serum or castor oil.
My kit came with a nourishing serum, which I applied as my final step. If yours doesn't come with something similar, try a brow serum or castor oil to keep the area hydrated. There's not much aftercare other than that, just make sure not to get them wet for 24 hours so they permanently set. De la Garza also recommends continuing to use an oil or serum nightly to keep your brows full and lustrous.
It's also important not to use the kit again for at least six more weeks, since you want to wait a full hair-growth cycle before putting your eyebrows through that again.
$125.00, Joey Healy
Before and after at-home brow lamination
Although I was feeling confident before I popped my kit open, as soon as I brushed the solution on my skin, it hit me just how much could go wrong. But I would say it came out pretty good, all things considered. The results are way less dramatic than when I got them done by a pro (which you can see here), but there's definitely a little more lift and fluff happening. And despite needing some gel or wax to style them (which I didn't need last time), they stay in place all day. You definitely get what you pay for here, so if you're looking for a huge change, I would save up for the salon.
I found the process fairly painless in every sense of the word, but I'm extremely grateful I had a professional to walk me through it. So if you love the look but don't want to risk any damage, stick with a sculpting wax like de la Garza's Brow Naturale. Otherwise, go forth and laminate with caution.
$16.00, Brow Down Studio
$25.00, Iconic London
$2.00, e.l.f. Cosmetics
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
Originally Appeared on Glamour