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Which Brow Product Should You Choose?

closeup of woman applying brow gel
puhhha/Shutterstock

Makeup trends have taken us from the pencil-thin brows of the early 2000s to the natural, yet perfectly groomed looks of today. But in some ways, this modern brow style is even harder to achieve.

It’s one thing to pluck your brows into barely-there arches. All that takes is tweezers and patience. But if you want to keep full, luscious brows looking natural yet controlled, you need strategy—and the right products.

And with so many brow products on the market today, it can be hard to know where to start.

If you wear makeup, don’t neglect your brows: they’re an essential part of your look! Your eyebrows highlight your face and play a significant role in your expressiveness. Here’s how to choose the best products to keep your brows up to date.

Powder

Powders are among the most common choice for brows. This versatile makeup method works well for making sparse brows look more filled in since it adds color to the spaces between hairs.

Use powder if you like a full-but-soft look, rather than a dramatic one. You’ll apply it with an angled brush. Trace the lines of your brows on the top and bottom, then fill them in with short strokes.

You can’t get perfectly precise edges with powder, but you can layer it over pencil for more precision.

One important note: never start filling in the brows from the center outward. Leave the center edges untouched, at least at first, since they may not need any product at all. Adding sharp lines to those edges is a surefire way to make your brows look “drawn on,” rather than natural.

Pencil

Pencil is another one of the most popular brow products. Pencils are nearly foolproof, and they’re one of the most precise ways to enhance your brows since each stroke looks like a little hair.

With a pencil, you can get a realistic, natural look, or build up to a dramatic one. To get the best results, start with light strokes in the most sparse areas, and add color gradually.

Mousse

Brow mousse (sometimes also called gel or pomade) looks like mascara, but for your brows.

Some mousses are tinted, while others are clear. They help keep your brow hairs in place, which is why many people layer clear mousse over pencils and powders.

However, you can also use a tinted mousse to add a touch of color. This works well for a very natural look since most of the color ends up on your existing hairs, rather than between them.

Mousse can’t change the outline of your brows—it just enhances their current shape. But if you layer it with other products, it can add both definition and intensity.

Pomade

These potted gel formulas (which are also called mousse sometimes) allow you to create super-bold, super-defined brows. If you want to look like a beauty blogger, this is the formula to try.

Use an angled brush to apply pomade, like you would for a powder. This formula defines and holds the shape of your brows better than powder, while also offering more precision. Build up to the intensity you want with hair-like strokes.

Wax

If you want a colorless way to set your powder or pencil, you can use a brow wax. Some waxes go on before other products to help keep them in place, while others go on afterward to set the color.

You’ll find brow waxes in both potted and stick formulas. Most clear waxes aren’t meant to be worn alone, so make sure to pick up the right tinted product (usually pencil or powder) to use with it. You might also find similar products called “brow primers” that go on first to help other products last longer.

Other Formulas

Finally, you can also find other interesting and innovative options for your brows.

From shimmering brow highlighters to fine-tipped markers, there’s a wealth of options to try. In addition to makeup, you might also see serums and primers that promise to help your brows look nicer or grow thicker (although there’s no guarantee that they’ll work).

If you’re just learning to do your brows, it’s best to start with something simple, like a pencil. But as you learn the techniques and looks you like best, you can move on to trying more unusual products.

A Note on Color

While shopping for products, you’ll also need to make sure to pick the shade that matches your brows best.

Surprisingly, the goal isn’t to match your hair color perfectly. This often creates a too-artificial look. Instead, try going a shade darker or lighter than your hair. Darker hair usually needs a slightly lighter pencil, while lighter hair needs a darker pencil.

For example, if you have black hair, try a brown pencil. If you have red hair, consider an ashy light brown. For blond hair, opt for a brown that matches your hair at its darkest. Sometimes, you might even need to blend two different shades to get a match.

Your brow products also need to sync with your skin tone. Consider your undertones: a cool-toned brow shade works best with cool-toned skin, and vice versa.

Wearing the right brow product in the right shade is key to pulling a makeup look together. With these tips, you can easily enhance your natural brows anytime you want.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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