Eyebrow threading has largely been a two-person sport. There’s you, with the brows in question. Then there’s the pro, who performs the complex art of pulling tiny hairs out of your face, via thread, at a rapid speed. This is exactly why experts often recommend skipping DIY brow threading—even if the YouTube tutorials make it look so easy. Below, four professionals on the good, the bad, and the ugly of DIY brow threading.
What Is Brow Threading?
“Threading is a way of removing hair, similar to tweezing, where you make a lasso out of thread and manipulate the twists in the thread back and forth to remove multiple rows of hair at the same time,” says Benefit Global Brow Expert, Jared Bailey. “It’s important to make sure that the thread that’s being used is 100% cotton and it’s strong enough to remove even the coarsest hair without breaking, but typically isn’t strong enough to nip or cut the skin the way a cotton-blend thread could.”
Wait, Brow Threading Can Cut Your Skin?
“Threading is one of the oldest forms of hair removal, and like many ancient techniques, it can take a ton of training and practice to get it right,” explains Bailey. “There are many ways to safely shape your brows at home without compromising your overall shape and long-term health of your brows… threading is not one of those ways.”
And at-home brow threading can have consequences more painful than potentially ruining your brow shape. “It can be slightly dangerous to your skin,” adds Kayla Weiss, cosmetologist and co-owner of Los Angeles’ Thread Eyebrows. “When threading is done properly, the skin must be properly stretched to keep the brow bone tight. This prevents cutting your skin.”
It’s not without risks.“Doing brow threading at home, though, can be complicated, as you need both hands. So you cannot hold your skin tight, a key to threading,” explains Umbreen Sheikh, founder of Wink Brow Bar in New York City. At home, Sheikh says, “there is a possibility you can catch your skin in the thread.”
So Brow Threading is Painful?
As long as you stick to threading the right way, it won’t hurt any more than tweezing or waxing according to Weiss. (“But of course, everyone has different pain tolerances,” notes the cosmetologist.) “It’s not painful—it’s different,” says Sheikh. “Once you get used to it, and you keep up with regular sessions, you should be fine.”
Can You Learn How to Thread Brows?
Weiss cautions that most YouTube tutorials you might watch “are being done by professionals,” and that threading is more difficult than it might look on screen—though online isn’t a bad place to start. “Find a good quality tutorial video and practice on your upper thigh area before touching your face,” says the cosmetologist. “Practicing on your leg is a classic technique I have all my students try before moving to the face. This is the best way to get a feel for how you will be rolling the thread and removing hair.”
You can try it out on a smaller area, too. “A good way to practice is on the back of your hand,” offers Vanita Parti, founder of Blink Brow Bar. Ready to bring on an extra pair of hands? “Hold the thread in the correct way and ask a friend to pull your skin as you pull the knots across,” says Parti. “You don’t have to go at speed, so take each hair at a time.”
Still, it’s best to actually study the craft in-person, under the watchful eye of an expert. “Threading can seem complicated, but if you learn from an experienced professional who can break down each step, I can guarantee you can get the hang of it,” adds Weiss.
Still Threading Your Own Brows? Read This First.
Even if you do feel ready to lasso up your own brows, it’s best to consider yourself a cleaning crew, rather than a landscaper. “For the people that really want to attempt threading at home and [are] absolute beginners, the basic rule would be to clean around the brow and don’t get too close to the brow line itself. Don’t try to shape them, just do a small clean up. If you keep practicing you can get it, but it does take exactly that—practice,” says Sheikh.
Keep your operation above and around your brow. “Underneath your brow bone is so delicate, I wouldn’t thread there on your own. You can potentially cut your skin, create a hole in the brow, or even worse, pull out an eyelash,” adds Weiss. Ouch.
How to Groom Your Brows If You Can’t Thread
Sheikh shares some words of wisdom: “‘The least possible to get you through’ is my motto, unless you really know what you’re doing,” she says. “If you have a little excess growth that looks messy, you can cover the hairs with concealer. If that’s not an option, then go for the least possible to carry you through. If you have a unibrow, take some hairs out of the middle. If you have strong growth that is further away from your natural brow line, remove those—even with a tweezer, which may be better than a thread at this point. If you have hair that’s getting long, trim it a little.” That way, you can leave the real shaping to the pros.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.