How to Pick the Right Brow Product for Every Concern

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This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Pencils, pomades, powders, oh my! Not sure which product type will make your brows look their best? Here are the top tips from the pros.

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Pencils

What they are: “Pencils typically comprise pigment, wax and oils,” says Tim Quinn, Armani Beauty celebrity face designer. “Pigment for color depth; wax to bind and make application easier; and glycerin and dimethicone for skin conditioning.”

What they’re best for: Shaping, defining the arch and filling in sparse areas

Expert tip: Quinn suggests using the pencil to map out your shape. “Align the pencil from your mid-nostril to find your inner corner, just to the outside of your pupil to find your arch, and the outer corner of your eye to find where your brow should end. Then lightly fill in and comb through.”

One to try: Armani Beauty Smooth Silk Eyebrow Pencil ($30)

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Pomades

What they are: “Full-pigment, waterproof creams that are most often packaged in a pot and best applied with an angled brush,” says Anastasia Soare, founder of Anastasia Beverly Hills.

What they’re best for: Sculpting, darkening and disguising sparse areas— they’re also great for those with oily skin or anyone living in a humid climate who might benefit from a sweatproof option.

Expert tip: “Mix a small amount of pomade on the cap very well, almost like you’re cleaning your brush,” says Soare. “Start at the arch and work toward the tail, drawing in ‘hair.’ Apply the last bit of product on the brush to the center of your brows with less pressure—this area should be lighter than the arch and tail, like natural brows.”

One to try: Anastasia Beverly Hills DIPBROW Pomade ($21)

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Powders

What they are: These come in many different textures and pigment levels. “Usually, powders with a finer mill have a higher saturation of pigment and are easily buildable, whereas grittier powders tend to be much lower in pigment and don’t lend themselves to easily building color,” says Jared Bailey, global brow expert for Benefit Cosmetics. “Finer-milled powders also allow you to use thinner brushes, which can create more detail in the brow.”

What they’re best for: Those with fine brow hair who want to add a soft wash of color for a natural look.

Expert tip: “I like to apply them with a small applicator so you can ruffle the powder underneath the brow hair and straight onto the skin,” says Bailey. “This ensures the pigment lasts all day, as it adheres to oils in the skin.”

One to try: Benefit Cosmetics Foolproof Brow Powder ($24)

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Micro Pencils

What they are: According to Quinn, micro pencils—the tip is shorter and thinner than regular brow pencils, allowing for more precision and control— have emerged as a DIY technique to mimic the look of microblading.

What they’re best for: “Micro-fine points allow the user to sketch in individual ‘hairs’ where they’re needed,” says Quinn.

Expert tip: If you have dark hair, choose pencils that are one shade lighter than your natural brow color, and if your hair is light, go one shade darker. However, blonds often have a tricky time finding the right hue, so if this is the case, Soare suggests using your skin’s undertone as a guide. “’Taupe’ brow products usually have cool/ash undertones, while ‘Blond’ ones are more warm/golden.”

One to try: Arches & Halos Micro Defining Brow Pencil ($13)

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Tinted Gels

What they are: These are lightweight formulas—many have a mousse-like texture— that look like mascara, but with a smaller brush. They’re often called “brow mascaras,” and they produce a full, fluffy look.

What they’re best for: “These add natural-looking dimension and color to existing brow hair while providing flexible hold,” Soare says. They’re also very user-friendly and easy to apply on the go or in a hurry.

Expert tip: “Brush the product through your brows in short, upward strokes,” Soare says. “It can be used on its own or layered over other products.”

One to try: Milk Makeup KUSH Fiber Brow Gel ($20)

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Markers

What they are: Similar to fine-tipped markers made for writing, these products typically have a long-wearing, ink-like finish, and vary in opacity and viscosity.

What they’re best for: Bailey says they’re generally best-suited for those with sparse or thin brows who want to create the illusion of natural brow hair without the commitment of microblading (much like the effect of micro pencils, but with a different texture). “If you want a more natural look, I would choose a brow marker that has enough opacity to still see a hint of skin when applied, and a matte finish,” Bailey explains. “If the marker is more viscous (watery), it is better for creating wispy, feathery strokes. If it’s less-viscous (drier), it’s better for creating brows with lots of structure and definition.”

Expert tip: “Brow markers should be used with a light hand to create fine, hair-like strokes,” says Bailey. Using heavier pressure may result in the brows looking too dark or “drawn on.”

One to try: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color ($21)

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Arch Support

Modern eyebrow makeup lets us create arches where there aren’t really any—whether we overpluck, take a certain medication or experience thinning with age—but a fluffy, natural look usually requires more hair. To give barely there brows a youthful boost, swipe clear, peptide-rich Revitabrow Advanced Eyebrow Conditioner & Serum ($110) onto clean brows each night before bed.

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