The 12 Best Eyebrow Hold Gels of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold Clear Brow Gel keeps brows in place all day long

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 Best Eyebrow Hold Gels

InStyle / Jaclyn Mastropasqua

If you’ve been on BeautyTok lately, then you’re well aware that one of the biggest TikTok trends of the year is #fluffybrows — which, by the way, has over 168.5 million mentions on the app. For those that don’t know, fluffy brows are eyebrows that have been brushed up and set in place to look fuller. Where some people require extra strokes from an eyebrow pen or pencil, others can achieve the look with nothing more than an eyebrow hold gel. No matter which camp you fall in, having a trusty clear brow gel in your kit is the trick to nailing this face-framing makeup trend. 

Like most makeup products, though, many eyebrow hold gels exist. Because of this, it can be difficult to know which actually performs well. That’s where we come in. A group of 20 InStyle reviewers tested 23 of the most popular clear brow gels and ranked them on a scale of 1 to 5 in four key categories, including application, feel, performance, and overall look. 

Some of their less stellar notes detailed sticky textures and dry-feeling brows, to seemingly cemented brow hairs and off-putting scents. Naturally, those clear brow gels didn’t make the cut. Twelve did, though, including Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold Clear Brow Gel, which came out on top as the best overall. 

Best Overall

Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold Clear Brow Gel

5
Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold

Sephora

What We Love: It feels lightweight but has a very strong hold. 

What We Don’t Love: The large wand may be cumbersome to use if you have thinner, sparser brows.

After all of our testing, we found no eyebrow hold gel compared to Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold Clear Brow Gel. For starters, it has one of the largest wands — practically the size of a mascara wand — which makes it especially easy to swipe on. And since it’s on the larger side, our tester found that it only took one swipe per brow to fully fluff them up. 

“It didn't leave any film and left my eyebrows looking natural — as though I hadn't applied any brow gel at all,” our tester reveals, noting that her eyebrows stood in place without feeling or appearing stiff. Another characteristic we love about this product is the fact that it takes a couple of minutes to fully dry down, so you have ample time to comb them exactly as you like without worrying about them setting into place. 

“The Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold Clear Brow Gel is the gold standard in brows,” says lash and brow expert Jennifer Blair, who is the founder of the emerging eyelash extension franchise Deka Lash. “This gel is lightweight yet very versatile, so you can easily style your brows without smudging any color you may have added prior to using the gel to set. And it goes without saying that there's no flakiness, residue, or any type of buildup throughout the day.”

Price at time of publish: $22

Size: 0.64 ounces | Wear Time: 12 Hours | Finish: Polished

Best Budget

e.l.f. Clear Brow & Lash Mascara Crystal

4.8
e.l.f. Clear Brow & Lash Mascara Crystal

Target

What We Love: The texture is soft and airy, and the results look natural. 

What We Don’t Love: The formula irritates some people’s skin. 

In addition to being the best budget option, e.l.f. Clear Brow & Lash Mascara Crystal is a multitasking option that has an end for brows and one for lashes. “This product is perfect for building [fluff],” our tester says, noting that the formula is airy and smooth, which makes it easy to comb through. And all it takes is one dip into the product to perfect each brow. 

“It dries seamlessly: There is no residue, and it looks so natural — I think this product is perfect for any type of brow and is a great beginner option for people that are starting to fill in their eyebrows or are looking for that natural look,” she adds, revealing that it’s a great Glossier Boy Brow dupe.

Of course, the formula isn’t without any faults. “I found this sizzled a little on my skin,” Holmes admits. “While it might perform well due to the high polymer content, anyone with sensitive skin may find it too strong.” Additionally, there is very little product in the tube, so it might not last very long. But at less than $5 a pop, that might not be a dealbreaker for you.

Price at time of publish: $4

Size: 0.08 ounces | Wear Time: 6 to 8 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Splurge

Kimiko The Brow Sensei

5
THE BROW SENSEI

Kimiko

What We Love: It nourishes brows while shaping them beautifully. 

What We Don’t Love: Because the brush is so thin, you might need a few pass throughs to properly set thicker brows. 

“I love the Kimiko The Brow Sensei,” Holmes shares. “Founder Danielle Vincent is a master brow artist who spent a lot of time on her collection of products. The gel includes a multi-peptide complex, amino acid complex, vitamin E, ginger extract, red clover extract, and castor oil.” In other words, it doesn’t only make your brows look good, but it’s good for them, too. 

To see for ourselves, our reviewer put it to the test. “The texture is incredible,” she marvels. “It feels lightweight, hydrating, and is a slippery gel — in fact, the product is so lightweight that I touched my brush to make sure it came out.”

Beyond the texture of the gel, our reviewer calls out the long, thin spoolie, which easily presses brow hairs into place. Best of all, it dries down imperceptibly. “This eyebrow gel didn't flake whatsoever — there is no detectable residue on my brows, and the gel made them feel natural, even hydrated,” she exclaims. Keep in mind that because the brush is thin, you might need to dip into the gel a few times to adequately tame thicker brows. But, needless to say, if you’re willing to splurge, you now know which item to add to your cart. 

Price at time of publish: $35

Size: 0.07 ounces | Wear Time: 6 to 8 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Waterproof

NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP The Brow Glue Extreme Hold Eyebrow Gel

5
NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP The Brow Glue

Amazon

What We Love: The accessible price and the fact that it’s not sticky. 

What We Don’t Love: The brush is very small, and though we like that for precision, you'll need to dip into the gel a few times to get enough product.

When testing NYX The Brow Glue, our tester (who is a brow pro) found that the product was lightweight and easy to brush through brow hairs, especially due to the small spoolie, which made it easier to touch up specific areas of the arch. That said, since it comes with a tiny tip, it does require multiple passes to fully style each brow. 

Still, even after two coats of the gel, she found her arches looked beautifully styled without any signs of stiffness or flakiness. “This brow gel has a very comfortable feeling,” she says. “I would recommend this to everyone who needs a clear gel for personal and/or professional use.”

Don’t just take her word for it, though. “I really love the accessibility of NYX; they're high-performing products that are easy to find, easy to use, and always dependable,” Blair says. “NYX The Brow Glue is no different. Like with [most] brow gel, a little goes a long way when applying, but what stands out is how well it dries. There's no flakiness or buildup, and it's sure to last all day.”

Price at time of publish: $9

Size: 0.18 ounces | Wear Time: 6 to 12 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Lightweight

Kosas Air Brow Clear + Clean Lifting Treatment Eyebrow Gel with Lamination Effect

5
 Kosas Air Brow Fluff

Sephora

What We Love: The mini spoolie makes fluffing and tapering brows easier than ever. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s easy to accidentally apply too much. 

Kosas Air Brow Fluff & Hold Treatment Gel in Clear is beloved by over 54,000 Sephora shoppers — and we’re fans, too! A few of the things that stood out most about this eyebrow hold gel are its spoolie, ease of use, and staying power. “The application brush on this brow gel is amazing,” our tester marvels. “It's shorter than your average spoolie and has a particular shape that is ideal for eyebrow shaping — the instructions on the box indicate to use the flat side to fluff and the tapered point for shaping.” 

“I love how creamy this gel is — yet it dries clear and doesn’t flake as long as you don’t play with it once it sets,” shares brow expert Michele Holmes. “The hold is soft yet has staying power. It’s one of the best in the clean space. Plus, panthenol and biotin [which are in the formula] support healthy hair too.”

The only downside of this brow gel is that it does grab a lot of product, so it’s important to wipe off any excess on the edge of the tube so as to not over-coat your arches, which can lead to flaking.

Price at time of publish: $24

Size: 0.13 ounces | Wear Time: 8 to 12 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Long Wear

MAC Brow Set

5
MAC Brow Set

MAC

What We Love: It dries clear and flake-free, doesn’t have any residue, and leaves brows shaped to perfection all day long. 

What We Don’t Love: The spoolie’s length grabs too much product.

If you’re the type who wants to apply a product and forget about it, look no further than MAC Brow Set hold gel. “This gel is amazing,” our tester exclaims. “It’s clear as the description says and feels light without any flaking.” Additionally, she says that using one application was enough to set her brows and that she was able to brush them into shape before the product set.

The only shortcoming of this long-lasting eyebrow hold gel is that, due to the longer wand, our tester found that it easily picked up too much product, which, if directly applied, could overwhelm your arches. As such, she suggests wiping off the tip before applying it to your brows.

Price at time of publish: $20

Size: 0.28 ounces | Wear Time: 8 hours | Finish: Polished 

Best Conditioning

Ami Colé Ultra-Flex Brow Shaping Gel

5
 Ami Cole Ultra-Flex Brow

Ami Cole

What We Love: It stays flake free even after multiple coats — and it’s from a Black-owned beauty brand. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s a light to medium hold gel, so won’t work for everyone. 

Prefer natural-looking brows over ultra-polished ones? Ami Cole Ultra-Flex Brow Shaping Gel will make you swoon. “The product sets with a light hold that makes my brows feel soft and smooth, not waxy,” our tester reveals. “If I touch my brows with my fingertip, my hairs still move but settle back into place with ease.” In that sense, it’s a flexible brow gel that helps arches maintain their shape without being stiff — even after applying multiple coats, which our tester found was necessary to achieve her desired look. 

Beyond the hold, we love this gel's ease of application.“The applicator's spoolie has a long side to brush the brows into your desired shape and a short side to get a more detailed look (or to deal with unruly flyaway brows),” our tester explains. “The length of the bristles on the longer side is great — I really feel like I was able to get product on the hairs from root to tip. The short side is nice for the wispy ends of my brows.”

While our tester can’t sing enough praise for this conditioning brow gel, Holmes admits that if you have thicker, coarser brows, it may not be the best fit, as it doesn’t offer a strong hold.

Price at time of publish: $20

Size: 0.17 ounces | Wear Time: 8 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Multitasking

Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara

4.8
Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara

Target

What We Love: It’s a multitasking product because it’s a mascara, but it works for brows, too. 

What We Don’t Love: It feels cold and wet and dries slightly stiff. 

For those that love a multi-use product, Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara in clear works as an eyebrow hold gel, too. “The applicator brush is perfect — it's long enough to cover half of my eyebrow, which makes it so much easier to brush the hairs upward,” our tester says, noting that it takes a couple of strokes to shape and set brows. Additionally, she says that the formula dries down within two minutes, so you have time to tweak the style.

On the flipside, we aren’t the biggest fan of the texture of this brow gel. Our tester says it’s cold and wet to the touch and dries to a slightly stiff finish. Still, she says that if you have thin to medium-thick brows, it’s a great starter option. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Size: 0.44 ounces | Wear Time: 8 hours | Finish: Polished 

Best for Thick Brows

Makeup By Mario Master Hold Brow Gel

5
Makeup By Mario Master Hold Brow Gel

Sephora

What We Love: It has a unique brush that acts a spoolie-comb combo. 

What We Don’t Love: It feels stiff once dry, and the tube doesn’t hold very much product. 

Whether you have ultra-thick brows or simply like to secure your brow style in place, Makeup By Mario Master Hold Brow Gel is a great option. “The combination of the brush and the gel consistency makes shaping and molding my brows easy,” our tester reveals. “The applicator has spoolie bristles, but the cool thing is that one side has longer bristles that look like a comb, and the other side looks like a traditional spoolie with shorter bristles.” 

All in all, we find that the spoolie grabs the perfect amount of product in one dip. “The tool deposits the gel very evenly onto my eyebrows — there is no goopiness or excess product, but there is enough to actually make a difference,” our tester adds.

It’s worth noting, though, that this brow gel is not for the faint of heart. If your goal is to achieve soft, natural brows, this is not the gel for you. “I would say this gel has medium to strong hold,” our tester shares. “It dries down in about 30 seconds, and after one full minute, my brows feel pretty hard to the touch. So, I think for someone to enjoy it, they should really want something that will keep their hairs in place — this is not a light-hold gel.”

Our only other complaint is the value. “There is so little product in the tube,” our tester complains. “The tube is absolutely tiny, and this isn't cheap. I think if someone used this consistently, they would have to repurchase every few weeks.”

Price at time of publish: $22

Size: 0.1 ounces | Wear Time: 12 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best for Thin Brows

Joey Healy Brow Structure Clear Set

4.9
Brow Structure Clear Set

Joey Healy

What We Love: It’s very lightweight and doesn’t flake. 

What We Don’t Love: The product pools on the end of the applicator. 

With a spoolie that mimics a mascara brush, Joey Healy Brow Structure Clear Set streamlines styling arches in a single swipe. According to our tester, the gel easily molds brows into place without giving them a frozen finish. “It was very easy to mold and shape because the gel is lightweight,” she says, noting that it doesn’t clump or flake. 

Our tester isn’t the only one to give this brow gel high praise. “Joey Healy thought of everything here: This brow gel is strong yet soft, water resistant, adds subtle shine, works well with makeup, and you can use it on your lashes. Check, check, check,” Holmes exclaims. 

Price at time of publish: $25

Size: 0.25 ounces | Wear Time: 8 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Drugstore

W3ll People Expressionist Clear Brow Gel

5
W3ll People Expressionist Clear Brow Gel

Target

What We Love: The tapered brush makes application a breeze. 

What We Don’t Love: It takes a few minutes to set. 

W3ll People Expressionist Clear Brow Gel offers a lightweight, flexible hold that’s ideal for creating natural-looking arches. “The gel is cool and lightweight and doesn't dry immediately, leaving time for it to shape,” our tester says. “It set well into my brow hairs — without any flakes — and it doesn't leave them looking frozen in place.” 

Because of this, we highly recommend the product to anyone looking for an affordable, easy-to-use formula. Plus, since it’s formulated with aloe vera and olive oil, it doubles as a brow conditioner. Just be patient for it to set because it does take a few minutes (so you may not want to use it if you’re rushing out the door).

Price at time of publish: $16

Size: 0.24 ounces | Wear Time: 6 to 8 hours | Finish: Natural 

Best Applicator Brush

Hourglass Arch Brow Shaping Gel

5
Hourglass Arch Brow Shaping Gel

Sephora

What We Love: The lightweight gel is easy to maneuver with the short dual-sided brush. 

What We Don’t Love: It offers light hold, so it’s not great for all-day definition.

Hourglass Arch Brow Shaping Gel is a longtime best-seller that Holmes and over 4,000 Sephora shoppers support. What makes it so popular is its clear, lightweight formula that dries down invisibly for a flake-free finish that looks picture-perfect. A major characteristic of the gel that makes it so effective is its specialty brush that features a shorter silhouette lined with short and long bristles “to apply product in varying levels of intensity."

According to our tester, the bristles of the applicator are stiffer than a traditional spoolie, which makes it easy to control the application. “The applicator is very easy to use with its dual-sided bristles, allowing you to use it on different areas of your brow,” she adds. “It deposits an adequate amount of the gel onto my eyebrows — it initially seemed like a thin coat, but it was more than enough to tame my stray brow hairs.”

Once the gel is set, our tester says her brows look natural yet defined. “It feels so natural that I forget that I have it on,” she reveals. That said, because it has a light hold, this may not be great for those with thicker, unruly brow hairs.

Price at time of publish: $29

Size: 0.1 ounces | Wear Time: 8 hours | Finish: Natural 

Other Options You Might Like

Glossier Boy Brow

Although Glossier Boy Brow is a classic, our tester found that the formula may not be the best for unruly brows due to just how small the applicator is. That said, if you prefer a tiny brush to style every nook and cranny of your brow, this might be a fit for you. 

Sephora Clear Long-Lasting Brow Gel

The Sephora Clear Long-Lasting Brow Gel is beloved by over 18,000 Sephora shoppers thanks to its light to medium hold and accessible price point. During our testing, however, we found that the formula can get a bit clumpy and is better suited for those looking for a more natural look.

Thrive Causemetics Instant Brow Fix Shaping Eyebrow Gel

Thrive Causemetics Instant Brow Fix Shaping Eyebrow Gel gets rave reviews for its non-sticky, non-flaky formula. Still, during testing, we found that the brush is thinner than most, and the gel doesn't have the strongest hold, which makes it less than ideal for thicker brows. That said, if you have thin brows, you may adore this light-to-medium hold formula. 

Our Testing Process

To start, we spent about a week researching the top-rated clear eyebrow hold gels on the market. After honing in on online ratings, we spent 24 hours putting the 22 most popular gels to the test. We had each of our testers try the eyebrow hold gels so that they could analyze the performance of each one and write down their insights during the process. In doing so, our testers rated each gel on a scale of 1 to 5 for four key categories: Feel, application, performance, and overall look. Once the data was collected, we were able to narrow down the original pool of products to the 12 best eyebrow hold gels.

What to Keep in Mind

Ingredients

Not all brow gels are made with the same ingredients. As such, it’s helpful to know a few standout ingredients that can work a world of good for the appearance of your arches. Generally speaking, if you want healthy-looking definition, you’ll want to ensure that the formula of your choice is infused with some type of conditioner (like aloe vera, glycerin, and/or castor oil). Kimiko The Brow Sensei and W3ll People Expressionist Clear Brow Gel are both great conditioning options if you want to keep your brow hairs looking soft yet defined. 

Wear Time

If you’re someone who likes to apply their makeup and not think about it until you get back home after a long day, it’s essential that you choose a long-wearing brow gel formula. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep your tube on hand for midday touch-ups. Most brow gels will hold for six to eight hours, but some (including Makeup By Mario Master Hold Brow Gel and Anastasia Beverly Hills Strong Hold Clear Brow Gel) can last for up to 12 hours.

Finish

If you want natural-looking arches, opt for formulas that tout a natural finish (Hourglass Arch Brow Shaping Gel and Joey Healy Brow Structure Clear Set are great options). If you prefer a more intentionally made-up look, choose formulas that are described as silky or polished. One of our favorites is MAC Brow Set.

Your Questions, Answered

How do you apply clear brow gel?

In short: You swipe it on. “A little goes a long way,” Blair says. “I always lightly remove any excess gel from the brush before applying.” 

As far as applying it goes, Holmes says you can wear it on its own or over your favorite brow pencil, pen, or powder. “Brush the product up and out, creating a fan effect,” she says. “Taper the tails according to preference with the tip of the brush or smooth down with your finger.”

Celebrity brow expert Joey Healy tacks onto this, noting that there are three main concepts to keep in mind when applying clear brow gel. “You want to apply the gel vertically in the front of the brow, up and out on a 45-degree angle for the middle, denser part of the brow, and then kind of pinch the tail together at the end to avoid leaving any gaps at the end of the brow,” he explains.

What does clear brow gel do?

The beauty of clear brow gel is that it can be used to achieve the exact arch shape you want, even if your brows don’t naturally lay that way. “You can set the brows in place in your existing shape, or you can create a feathery full look by setting the brows upward, giving them the laminated look that's so popular,” Blair says. 

In short, it’s a must-have, Healy says. “Clear brow gel allows you to style the brows and organize the hairs,” he explains. “A lot of times, people think they need to trim the hair a lot in order to tame the brow, but in reality, they just need a bit of brow gel to keep everything in place.”

Is clear or tinted brow gel better?

That’s a personal preference. If your primary goal is to fluff and set your brows, go with clear; if you’re looking to create a denser look, a tinted option might better suit you. “Clear brow gel is like applying a chapstick, while tinted brow gel is like applying red lipstick — they both cover the lips and have similar benefits, except one is much quicker and requires less attention to detail,” Healy says. “I will say, sometimes it’s better to just use a pencil or powder to fill in the sparse areas of the brow and create your shape, and then go in with the clear brow gel to lock everything in place."

Why Shop With Us

Rebecca Norris has covered beauty for nearly 10 years. For this story, she compiled the insights and reviews of 20 InStyle testers to determine the best eyebrow hold gels of 2023. She also spoke with lash and brow expert Jennifer Blair of DekaLash, San Francisco-based brow expert Michele Holmes, and celebrity brow artist Joey Healy to discover what makes a high-quality clear brow gel, as well as which techniques make for the best application.

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