Fashion & Beauty

The Gray Brow Blues

April 7, 2024



By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

SOME beauty trends bewilder me. Black lipstick, for example. I thought that trend was dead, but then I received an email about the launch of a  limited-edition black lip color. Here’s one explanation of the trend’s popularity I wrote about years ago for O, The Oprah Magazine:

“This has been a very gothic moment for fashion, and cosmetics are inextricably linked to fashion,” says Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and co-author of Gothic: Dark Glamour. For black lipstick to work, you’ve got to embrace the whole decadent, unhealthy, tubercular look, she says.

Bad news for me, since my beauty agenda for the past 30 years (and increasingly, of late) has revolved around aiming to postpone, rather than submit to, the graveyard affect. Not that I don’t see its charms: There is something sexy about surrender, even (and maybe especially) to the dark side. “You wear black lipstick with floaty black garments,” says Steele. “It can be a very dramatic evening look.”

And on the subject of makeup (and not looking undead), a reader question about brow color.

Q: I belong to a Facebook support group for women transitioning to their natural hair color (some shade of silver/gray/white), and finding the right eyebrow color seems to be a common challenge for all of us. Can you help?

A: Why don’t makeup questions have easy answers?

I want to offer a simple solution—but there are so many variables with makeup: your facial features; your skin, hair, and eye color; your personal taste and preferences. I think maybe that’s why I’ve avoided tackling questions like this one. In any case, I’m going to try to simplify as much as possible and direct you to a video that, if you have the patience for it, should help you figure out a solution.

Once again, I turned to my favorite makeup artist (and ceramicist), Barbara Stone, whose down-to-earth and straightforward advice I always find useful.

“This question can be challenging since the shade of your brows is usually different from the shade of the new gray growth on your scalp,” she said. “But here’s the key: You want to focus on coordinating rather than matching the colors.

“When choosing your shade, there’s going to be a lot of back-of-the-hand swatching and comparing going on,” said Barbara. “Colors can morph once they’re on skin, especially if your skin is dry, so dab on a bit of hand cream before testing.” She offers guidelines about where to start.

  • If you were originally a blonde or redhead, try a “cool blonde” tone; not golden but ashy—a soft, warm gray.
  • If you used to be a brunette, try a medium gray with no blue tones or a gray-ish brown, depending on how dark your natural brows are.

There are so many brow-pencil choices available now that you could spend a whole afternoon in Sephora sleuthing to find your favorite, said Barbara. Hers is the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Eyebrow Pencil in Seal Brown, because it’s not too brown and not too gray. (I personally like a softer pencil, like this one or this one.)

Is expedience is your thing? Then head directly to Anastasia, which Barbara said is the best place to start, because you’ll find an extensive range of shades and a choice of either angled or fine-tipped pencils. (She’s not a fan of eyebrow pens, because she believes the shades haven’t been perfected yet.)

When brow thickness isn’t an issue, a tinted brow gel can also work well. Barbara said Kosas’s Air Brow has a terrific selection of shades. For former brunettes, Kosas’s Gray shade will help complement your new hair color. Former natural blondes might do well with Taupe. Sparse brows? Use a brow powder first, applied with a flat, angled brush, or use a pencil; then, tint the brows with coordinating gel.

Finally, I found this video full of good information. More questions? I hope I answered them in this previous post.

One thought on “The Gray Brow Blues

  1. Nancy G says:

    This one is tough. Add to the color quandary the fact that our brows get sparser with age. How to make the makeup look natural. And I’ve recently found a gray eyelash. Who knew that is a thing?

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