Brow Filler Breakdown: What's the Difference Between Powders, Pencils, and Pomades?
Chalk it up to the Cara Delevingne effect, but brow-enhancing products have been a constantly trending topic ever since the model's full set prompted all of us to step away from the tweezers, with a new formula hitting store shelves almost every week. Though we've always been familiar with pencils, gels, and powders, the rise of new innovations like pomades and liquid brow liners can make navigating the eye makeup section to find your perfect match can be slightly more challenging.
We put together a comprehensive guide on the most-popular brow formulas, tips on how to use each, and how to tell if the product is right for you. Keep reading to get all the details, and to find out exactly what to stock in your brow kit!
Must-Haves for Every Brow Kit
Regardless of the formula you prefer, there are a handful of universal products no good brow arsenal should be without. Of course, a handy spoolie brush like Dior's ($26; dior.com) and a sturdy pair of Tweezerman Tweezers ($16; sephora.com) are key in keeping your natural set groomed, as is a brow gel like NARS' ($23; narscosmetics.com). A clear version is always a safe bet, though tinted options add extra dimension, and if you feel that yours are a little too dark after filling them in, you can top your arches off in a gel one shade lighter to balance the effect.
Use a matte illuminator just under the arch to highlight your handiwork---we love Benefit's High Brow ($20; benefitcosmetics.com)---and just in case you accidentally color outside the lines, a concealer like Sephora's ($17; sephora.com) can easily fix the error.
Brow pencils were a standard product long before the term "on fleek" was ever added to our vocabulary, and are often the first product picked up on a journey to perfect arches, but not all are created equally. Look for a formula that is blendable and easy to apply, but not overly-soft---a too-dry pencil can tug and pull out your natural brow hairs, while a formula that goes too hard on the wax could shift or fade after being worn all day.
We love Bobbi Brown's classic version ($24; bobbibrown.com), and Anastasia's Brow Wiz ($21; sephora.com), which is ultra-skinny to create a precise finish. Pencils with a slanted tip like Burberry's Effortless Brow Definer ($33; nordstrom.com) can also aid with placing the perfect angle. If you prefer an HD effect, liquid versions like the Eyeko Brow Liner ($19; eyeko.com) come equipped with tapered felt-tip applicators and allow you to stencil in individual hairs. Unlike the inky black eyeliners we use to trace our lashes, the finished result of a liquid brow liner is a soft tint rather than an obvious strike.
Powder formulas like Urban Decay's Brow Box ($29; sephora.com), the duos from Zoey Van Jones ($22; zoeyvanjones.com) and Brett Freedman ($18; brettfreedman.com), as well as Cle de Peau's Brow and Eyeliner Compact ($70; barneys.com) impart a softer, more-natural appearance if you happen to press a little too hard with a pencil. Use an angled brush to apply the product, with the lighter shade placed on the beginning area of your brow for a seamless fade. Or, for an express method, stick a spoolie brush into the darker shadow pan, then comb the product through your hairs to distribute.
If your skin is on the dry side, brow powders may have trouble sticking to your arch, depending on the hue. Apply a light swipe of eye cream just underneath your brow bone to give the product a base to stick to, or extend your shadow primer's power by blending it all the way up.
Because cream-based formulas like Anastasia's Dipbrow ($18; sephora.com), Laura Mercier's Brow Definer ($20; lauramercier.com), and EcoBrow's Defining Wax ($26 each; ecobrow.com) have a more concentrated color payoff, working with pomades can be a little tricky, so we recommend using them once you've mastered the pencil and powder techniques.
After brushing through your brows, use an angled brush to pick up the color, and apply it to any sparse areas. Just a little goes a long way, so make sure to wipe off any excess product before the brush makes contact with your skin, and start out with a light hand, otherwise you may end up rocking the dreaded Sharpie-eque finish. Try to keep most of the color concentrated around your arch and tail area, with a minimal amount on the front portion. To avoid a blocked-in look on the beginning part of your brow, we recommend doing one light swipe along the bottom area, and blending it upward with a spoolie brush to diffuse the color.