Cara Delevingne gets all of the brow love in the media these days, but what I'm after in the eyebrow department is subtle filling and perfecting versus in-your-face bushes over my eyes. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. It would just look ridiculous on me.) I aspire more to a Michelle Williams brow, as seen in her Louis Vuitton ads above. I never realized how wonky my brow shape and volume were until I started looking at them close up. As you can see, I have some work to do:
Eh, symmetry is overrated. Anyway, we've already given you our picks for the best brow fillers in the Sephora/department store price range, so now it's time to explore the drugstore. Don't underestimate the mass market brands.
It starts getting overwhelming when you look at all of the different types of products. Generally you can categorize them in three ways: Tinted mascara-like brow gels, pencil and spoolie brush combos, and a more general category of products that add color via a mechanism that isn't a pencil or brow gel. I went in with a few brow product prejudices and walked out with an open mind and more even brows.
Here, my thoughts (and poorly shot iPhone brow selfies) on eight different drugstore brow products, most of which are under $10.
Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara
I thought I was going to hate brow mascara, but I don't. However, I don't love it either. I've heard mixed messages from makeup artists and brow gurus about brow gels, but like most advice I get, I usually ignore it and do whatever I want. This product was really subtle. The applicator looks frightening at first, but it’s actually pretty genius and versatile. I used the fat globular end to paint on the color, then switched to the skinny end to brush it all through and arrange the brows. Like all brow mascaras, you can’t get the precision and the illusion of drawing on brow hairs the way you can with a pencil, but this one provided a subtle tint and hold that didn’t feel too tight or crunchy. It also lasted all day, including through a sweaty workout. If you like a dramatic difference, this is not the product for you. Comes in five shades.
$6.99, available at Target
Milani Brow Tint Pen
Fine-tipped markers are great for eye liner, maybe not so much for brows. This one is not subtle. It's hard to tell here, but my brows actually looked painted on — though this could also be user error. The tip was fine enough to draw on realistic looking individual hairs, but it gets scary over a larger surface area. Using a plain spoolie brush to clean things up after I applied the product just resulted in smudging. I would recommend this one if you have a few small patches that need filling in and touching up (and you have a steady hand), but it's not great for extending. Comes in two shades.
$4.79, available at Drugstore.com
L'Oreal Paris Brow Stylist Designer Eyebrow Pencil
This is a classic brow pencil with a spoolie brush on one end. The pencil is a bit hard. I tried to even out my wonky brow and it took a lot of pressing. The color I used was blonde, but it was really light; I almost could have gone to a slightly darker color. But this one is a great option for basic filling and grooming. Comes in three shades.
$7.99, available at Ulta.com
Pixi Natural Brow Duo
The pencil has a hard, angled, triangular edge, rather than a traditional pencil point, which is how a lot of the higher-end brands are making them now. I needed to press hard to get payoff, but it was worth it — the color was subtle and blended well. The brow gel was also subtly colored, but it felt a bit stiff. It also took a hot minute to dry, so don’t rub until you feel it get crunchy. It lasted through an outdoor rowing class on a sunny roof. I like the combo pencil/gel product, because it gives you options if you like a subtle brow sometimes but want to amp it up at other times. I just think this one didn't nail it quite perfectly, due to the chunky gel texture. This is also the most expensive of the eight I tried. Comes in three shades.
$16.00, available at Target
Flower Take a Brow Complete Brow Kit
This product includes a brow wax, three different powders and a tiny two-ended brush. To get a bolder look, the directions on the packaging recommended putting on the wax first, then the powder. If you do powder followed by wax, the look will be softer. You can also use the powder alone and just brush it. This kit required some playing. I used the wax followed by the middle color and it was way too clownish looking. I ended up mixing the two lighter colors, applying them, then putting on a tiny bit of wax and brushing through with a spoolie. This product seems a bit wasteful because I will never use the darkest color, but it does have a lot of versatility and I eventually liked the combo I came up with. Comes with three shades in one palette.
$9.98, available at Walmart
L'Oreal Paris Brow Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara
The brush on this brow gel was really different from the Maybelline version — much skinnier. The formula was also really thick and smudged a bit, but I left it and embraced the Khaleesi look. Towards the end of the day, it got a bit crunchy and itchy. The downside with brow gels — and this is definitely true of all of them — is that you can't really brush through them after they dry to distribute the color. Also, obviously, it's not great for bald patches since you need to have hairs to apply this to. Comes in three shades.
$8.99, available at Walgreens
CoverGirl Bombshell Powder Brow and Liner Powder
I was expecting to hate this product, but it was my second favorite. It's a cream-powder hybrid formula with a tiny foam applicator. (The product also doubles as an eye liner.) A teeny bit goes a a long way (I learned this the hard way after my first attempt left me looking like a deranged blonde Frida Kahlo), and it isn't great for drawing on individual hairs. It's definitely better for creating an illusion of fullness, which is what I need. I dotted it on in strategic locations that needed covering and brushed upwards with a spoolie. I was expecting the powder to smudge, but it didn't budge all day. Comes in four shades.
$8.99, available at Ulta.com
Revlon Brow Fantasy Pencil & Gel
I loved this product. The pencil was the perfect shade, went on easily (but wasn't too soft) and stayed on. The gel was subtle and not too crunchy. Best of all, it filled in my brows and lasted all day. It wins as my favorite. Comes in four shades.
$4.99, available at Target