I was genetically unblessed with relatively sparse, not-quite-even eyebrows, a fact I’ve become even more painfully aware of as this Cara Delevingne-spurred full eyebrow trend has gained speed over the past couple of years.
So, I’ve set out on a mission to make my own eyebrows look, at least, like a normal person’s and, at best, like Lily Collins’s. Which is a scary task. The thing is — and perhaps this is partially due to the fact that I generally prefer a pretty minimalist makeup look — every time I’ve tried to fill in my brows with a brow pencil, I wind up looking more or less like this. Seriously, I related more to that “Girls” scene than almost any other. Basically, it looks very fake and very insane, at least in my mind.
It turns out, though, that there are now a wide array of eyebrow-filling products on the market, from pencils to pens to powders to gels. Some are comprised of just one magic little wand, while others come in handy portable sets. So, I called in a bunch of them, tried them, and wrote about my experience, basing my critique on easiness of use and normalness of brow appearance post-use.
Also know that I’m no eyebrow-filling expert, by any means. It’s something I only began experimenting with recently, and while I’ve glanced at a couple of online tutorials, I don’t really know what I’m doing. Thus, easy application was very important.
So without further ado, read on for my rundown of the best products, interspersed with what I believe to be some of the most perfect brows in the biz, for inspiration (and because I refuse to post photos of myself).
Urban Decay Brow Box, $29, available at Sephora.
This box is awesome. It comes with everything you might need for brow-perfecting, including tweezers, mirrors and two brushes. The powders goes on really subtly (there are two shades), so you don’t have to worry about going overboard right away, but it also takes a while, both because you have to layer it on a bit, and because it’s not as easy to be precise as it is with a pen or pencil. In the end, it had a nice natural look, which I liked (unless you get up really close, but who’s going to do that?).
Clinique Instant Lift for Brows, $16.50, available at Nordstrom.
Another all-in-one item. It features a pencil with a fairly wide tip that self-sharpens on one end and a highlighter on the other. This turned out more natural-looking than I expected. The color is soft and it helps to do small strokes and blend with your finger a bit afterward. However, the highlighter didn’t go on very well, though that might be because of how dry my skin was after using makeup remover several times in a row during this whole testing ordeal.
Clinique Superfine Liner, $16.50, available at Nordstrom.
Not surprisingly, this pencil as a super fine tip, so you feel like you’re almost trying to create little artificial hairs as you apply the color, only the result doesn’t look like tiny hairs. It didn’t look terrible from a distance as long as I was careful to apply evenly, and it and might work for a fun night out if you’re going for a bolder look. But if you’re going for an everyday, ‘I just got out of bed looking like this’ look, you’re not going to fool anyone with this stuff.
Per-fekt Brow Perfection Gel, $22, available at Sephora.
This is very quick and easy to use if you’re not trying to be super precise, but just want a little extra color and depth. If you want a lot of shape to your brows, like a strong arch that tapers at the ends, this isn’t for you. You basically get all the color you need in one or two strokes, but the brush is like a big mascara wand. In fact, it is literally that.
Anastasia Brow Wiz Skinny Brow Pencil, $21, available at Sephora.
This product, a skinny black pencil-like object with caps on both ends — one containing a self-sharpening pencil, the other a spooly brush — felt very high-end. And, it wound up being my favorite. You just stroke the pencil — which deposited just the right amount of color — in small strokes where you need filling in, and then blend with the awesome spooly. The resulting brows looked full and natural.
Anastasia Dipbrow Pomade, $18, available at Sephora.
This is another product where you really need to know what you’re doing or already have really perfectly-shaped brows that you’re just filling in. The color goes on strong at the first touch and stays on so there’s not much leeway for messing up. That being said, the color looks great. So if you don’t overdo it and get both brows looking even and well-shaped, then you’re going to have some strong, great-looking brows. The box also boasts that it’s great for oily skin and humid climates because it won’t fade or smudge, which I believe. This was the hardest to take off.
Benefit Brow Zings, $30, available at ULTA Beauty.
This product requires some time, effort and precision. The kit is nice: It comes with tweezers, two brushes (one angled, one not), a pigmented wax for shaping and a natural-shaded powder for setting. The wax is subtle, but the powder goes on pretty strong, and didn’t go on very evenly, so the resulting look was a bit Hannah Horvath-esque, unfortunately. A lot of people say they like this product though, so maybe it’s just me.
Makeup Forever Aqua Brow, $20, available at Sephora.
I was the most nervous about this one. It literally just comes in a tube that you push to squeeze liquid out of a tiny hole. So you have to be careful both to get it onto the brush, and not get too much on it. FYI: A little goes a long way. The texture is pretty thick and matte, so it’s not like you’re putting slick paint on your eyebrows, and it was easier to use than I thought. It took some time to blend and get things looking even, and of course I finished things off with the spooly (not included). When all was said and done, it looked pretty good — definitely a bold going out look, but not entirely unnatural-looking.
Benefit Instant Brow Pencil, $20, available at Macy’s.
I thought this was going to be exactly like Anastasia’s Brow Wiz, but it wasn’t. The pencil is a little more waxy than pencil-y, which is good. It felt like it would stay on a long time and the color went on nicely and looked natural. Plus it comes with the very necessary spooly at the other end– always a good thing.
Diorshow Brow Styler, $29, available at Bloomingdale’s.
This is the product that convinced me that the spooly end is the key to eyebrow product success. As I was applying the pencil, I was sure it was going to look terrible. The pencil was super thin, like the Clinique Superfine Liner, and didn’t go on very smoothly. I kept trying to brush on “hairs” and they were not looking like hairs. But then I blended with the spooly and voila! It actually looked pretty good, though certainly not the most natural of the bunch.
Laura Mercier Brow Definer, $20, available at Nordstrom
This was my favorite of the non-pencil brow fillers. It’s a small pot filled with a gel, not unlike the Anastasia DipBrow, except I found it much easier to use, and to use without accidentally depositing too much color. I didn’t feel like I had to be super-careful (perhaps because I’d become a pro at this point. jk.) and the resulting look was quite natural — I didn’t even have to use the spooly.