We get it—filling in your brows can be a pain. Painstakingly penciling in short, hair-like strokes, brushing on tinted gels or painting them on, 2016 YouTube-style, sometimes feels more like a chore than a fun part of your beauty routine. To save time, some TikTok users are reaching for self-tanner to tint their brows, but does it work? We asked the experts if it’s actually a good idea to use self-tanner as a brow dye, no matter how good it looks.
Ahead, everything you need to know before you attempt the hack yourself.
Similar to the “tantouring” trend where users contour with tanner instead of bronzer or contour sticks, TikTokers have been tinting their brows with self-tanner for a few years, some as part of their existing full-body tanning routine and others to skip a few days of Boy Brow-ing and Brow Wiz-ing. To do so, they apply a small amount of self-tanner to a brow brush, then paint the color in and clean up where necessary; some users also use a brow spoolie for a lighter, more fluffed-up tinted look or to make sure the color is fully blended in. After letting the color set, users simply remove the excess dye and go about their day with a little clear brow gel to set the new shade.
Whereas you may assume self-tanner brows would turn out too warm or even a little orange, they do look pretty natural, and if you regularly use self-tanner at home, it’s one less product you have to buy. However, dermatologists and makeup artists tend to agree that the best place to use self-tanner is your body, not your brows.
What the Pros Say
While the results may be compelling, board-certified dermatologist Caren Cambell says it may not be the best course of action for brow tint. “Using things ‘off label’ or where they have less often been used or studied is always a bit of a red flag for me on social media,” she says.“It’s not something I’d recommend as there are products made specifically for the brow that have been tested and proven safe, but there’s no absolute contraindication as long as the sensitive eyelid skin and eye are avoided.”
However, the type of self-tanner you use does make a difference. “This trend is referring to self-tanners that contain dihydroxyacetone, which is in hair dyes as well,” Dr. Campbell shares. “Other types of self-tanners like tan accelerators would not be appropriate.” According to Dr. Campbell, few allergies to dihydroxyacetone have been reported, but it also hasn’t been thoroughly studied as a brow tint.
Makeup artist Anne Skubis says the method makes her “nervous” and warns that the warmer tone of self-tanner may not translate well to brows. “I see using it in a pinch when there’s no other option in your house, but there’s so many alternatives makeup and service-wise,” she explains. “It also wouldn’t be my go-to because self-tanners typically deliver a warm tone to the skin and I prefer neutral tones for brows. Unless your hair grows out of your head strawberry blonde, red, or copper, I would stay away.”
Makeup artist Kasey Spickard also flags that the tanner may give your brows a warm cast if you’re not careful. “Honestly, I’m down for multi-purposing products,” he explains. “The one thing I would be careful of is to make sure that the self-tanner you’re using isn’t too warm. You don’t want an orange eyebrow! You’re going to want to look for those more cool-toned/olive-toned self tanners if you are going to go down this path.”
Skubis advises sticking to makeup or visiting a brow artist, but says if you reaaaaalllly want to try this technique, slow and steady is best. “Use a small angled brow brush to apply. Try it first by leaving on for a third or half the time it says,” she shares.
Spickard says to make sure you do your due diligence before applying tanner, especially since it’s being applied close to the eyes. “In general, before you use any product even as they are intended you should definitely patch test on the inside of your wrist to make sure you don’t have any allergies or reactions to the product,” he explains. “This is especially true with any hair dyes! Apply the self-tanner as you’d apply your regular brow products and let set according to the manufacturer instructions.”
If you really hate tinting your brows with pencil or pomade each day, consider an in-salon tint service from a pro instead of DIYing it at home. “PPD [para-phenylenediamine, a common component of hair dye] in some brow tints has been shown to cause allergies, but at least these products have proven safe for the brow area close to the sensitive eyelid skin,” Dr. Campbell shares. At the end of the day, however, she recommends sticking to makeup. “[Makeup] is less likely to cause long term issues and can be easily removed if color is mismatched or allergy occurs,” she says.
You can also try one of the many at-home tinting kits on the market, like Ardell’s Brow Tint ($15), or even a beard dye. Thrive Causmetics’s Instant Brow Fix Semi-Permanent Eyebrow Gel ($24) is a waterproof formula that sets a tint for more than 24 hours, making it a slightly more user-friendly and less intense option. Spickard in particular loves the Ardell kit. “This product lasts up to two weeks and is simple and easy to use,” he says. “I am obsessed with Ardell’s brow products in general and this is no exception.”