Let’s admit it, not all brows are perfect, but they can be. Clean and neat, thick and bushy, feathery, or super defined, these are perfectly acceptable styles you can go for — note that thin, overly-plucked ones are off this list — and totally achievable too, thanks to today’s modern brow tools. But how are you supposed to choose between a pencil, powder or pomade, and which does the better job filling in your brows or creating natural, hair-like strokes? Ahead, we refresh you on the basics of five common eyebrow products, how best to use them, and our top recommendations for each category.
What they’re for : Brow pencils are the most versatile and basic tool you can have in your arsenal — and are really easy to use too. If you’ve ever held a pencil in your life, you’ll know how it works. Their primary goal is to help fill in and give volume to sparse areas of your brows, whether in between or near their tail end. Made ultra-slim, the brow pencil gives thin and natural-looking strokes that also help balance asymmetrical brows, or define your brow shape for a sleek set of arches.
How to use : The key here is to follow the natural direction of your brow hairs. Brush your brow hair up, then draw small, hair-like strokes to fill up sparse areas in the direction of your hair growth, from the front towards the tail of your brows. Some brow pencils come with a flatter edge for a softer effect that helps fill in larger areas. You can also use the spoolie to brush through the brows, which blends out the colour for a more natural look.
What they’re for : Highly popular since bushy brows became a look we love, brow gels are quick, easy, and virtually mistake-proof, since all they do is shape and groom your brow hairs and, sometimes, give a light tint to them. That makes all the difference though. Just like a good hairspray, brow gels keep your brow hairs in place throughout the day, and brushing them upwards also creates the illusion of fuller-looking brows. And while anyone with brows can benefit from its use, those with thick, plentiful hair will enjoy most from its natural yet neat look.
How to use : Unlike the brow pencil, the first step of using a brow gel is to actually brush it in the opposite direction of your hair growth first, in order for the pigment to catch on to your brows. Once that’s done, brush upwards or in the direction of your hair growth, where the gel will then smooth them down. Pick a clear brow gel if you have thick brows or if this is your final grooming step, while those with more sparse brows can opt for the tinted options.
What they’re for : Also good for beginners, brow powders give a softer, more natural look, compared to pencils or pomades. You may use them on their own or layered over other brow products. Powder formulas help set brow pencils, for instance, and are particularly useful for those with sparse brows or those looking to cover up sparse areas in the brows. Most brow powders come in a kit with an angled brush, though the Japanese seem to have mastered the tool, with 3-in-1 pens that combine an eyebrow pencil, eyebrow powder and eyebrow brush in one; the powder is dispensed via a dome-shaped sponge applicator.
How to use : Use an angled brush or the applicator that comes with the brow powder set to apply short strokes that fill in sparse areas of the brows. Once you’re done, comb through the brow hairs with a spoolie brush to further blend and soften the look.
What they’re for : Two words: Instagram brows. This refers to a defined, face-framing look highly popular on the social media app, with a precise arch that starts with a lighter shade before tapering into darker ends, almost like a gradient effect. Then again, brow pomades are more versatile than that. Creamy or with a gel-like texture, and often highly-pigmented, beauty pros love pomades for how it creates precise and natural hair-like strokes that mimic the look of real hairs. That sculpted-arch effect, and their long-lasting, smudge-proof wear, makes this a very powerful tool to own, though it does take a bit of mastering.
How to use : Don’t be intimidated though! Use it like you would a brow pencil, only that you’re going in with an angled brush instead. Pick up the pomade using the brush and wipe off any excess product on the back of your hand. Then, draw soft, hair-like strokes upward following the direction of hair growth, before blending these out with a spoolie. The effect is softer than you think. Just remember to keep the pomade jar tightly closed when not in use to prevent the product from drying out.
What they’re for : Similar to a brow gel and perhaps less common, brow waxes give more holding power and help lock sculpted brows in place. They gained traction during the Internet-famous ‘soap brows‘ hack, where people were brushing on bar soap to create bushy-looking brows. Specially-designed products, like the recommendations here, are a lot easier to use though, and help achieve a groomed, sculpted look without overt stiffness, residue, or mess. Perfect for taming unruly hair, and the look of fluffy, feathery brows.
How to use : Much like a brow gel, pick up the product using a spoolie and work the product back and forth, making sure it catches unto the brow hairs. Then, brush through them with upward motions, gently pressing down as you go. You may also use brow wax as a finishing step to make your brows look more defined.
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