No facial feature has gone through as many different trends as eyebrows: from bushy to overplucked to back to bushy, brows have seen it all. For good reason: changing the shape of your eyebrows is one of the quickest ways to change your entire look without having to resort to more extreme measures. To help you navigate the bewildering array of gels, pomades and waxes, here’s everything you need to know to get the perfect pair of arches.
To achieve long-lasting eyebrows you won’t need to touch up, you need a brow wax, either in a palette or pencil. Similar to primer, brow wax provides a canvas for eyebrow pencils and powders to stick to. To start, apply the wax along the outline of your eyebrow with a small angled brush, focusing on your arches. Then, using a spoolie brush—an eyebrow-shaping tool that looks like a mascara wand—lightly blend in the wax through the rest of your brow. Follow up with either an eyebrow pencil or powder.
Try: Benefit Brow Zings Tame & Shape Kit ($32). This powder and wax duo has everything you need to create expert-level arches, including two brushes and tiny tweezers.
Powder compacts allow you build up colour gradually. (Any mistakes can be easily wiped off, too). Most palettes come with two shades, so you can customize your colour. To start, lightly apply the lighter shade using an angled brush and then blend in the darker colour through the arch and tail.
Tip: For maximum staying power, layer the powder on top of brow wax. If you don’t have wax on hand, simply extend your eye-shadow primer all the way up to your eyebrows.
Try: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo ($30) comes in 11 duo-shades, plus it’s easy to blend and provides long-lasting colour.
These are helpful for filling in thinning or over-plucked eyebrows. Pencils can be challenging to work with, however. “If the colour is wrong or the application is too ‘drawn’ on, the brow can look very harsh and distracting,” says Toronto-based makeup artist Lucky Bromhead. “Using a pencil that is specifically designed for the brows usually has a more powdery consistency that is easier to work with, and using small, hair-like strokes will give a look that is more Cara Delevingne than Joan Crawford.” For application, start at the base of your brow (close to your nose) and slowly move outward. Bromhead suggests using a colour that’s half a shade lighter than your natural brows for a more natural effect (oil in our skin has the tendency to oxidize pigment, making it appear darker). And use a spoolie brush to help smooth out the strokes.
Tip: For a smoother application, always warm up your eyebrow pencil by applying it first on your hand before applying it to your brows.
Try: NYX Micro Brow Pencil ($12) is one of the cheapest brow pencils around, but it delivers draws like the much-raved about—and much pricier—Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil.
Clear and Tinted Gels
Brow gels are an easy quick-fix for an already naturally thick brow. Clear gel is the brow equivalent of hairspray: it helps tame and keep unruly hairs in place. And tinted gels are good for darkening blond hairs, covering up greys or even lightening an overly dark brow. To start, lightly brush the gel along and through your eyebrow, in short upward even strokes—focusing on the tail end.
Tip: Regularly wipe off excess product from your wand as product can build up over time, and make for a very messy application.
Try: Glossier Boy Brow ($20) has a massive cult following—and for good reason. With one swipe, it seamlessly tames and styles unruly arches.
Similar to clear and tinted gels, pomades offer all-day tinted coverage, but these cream-based formulas also allow for a more flexible hold. Pomades can be a trickier to use than pencils, powders, and gels, however. (If you’re not careful, you canend up with Vulcan eyebrows.) Start with a light hand, focusing on the arch of your eyebrow, and then diffuse the colour throughout with the spoolie.
Tip: Apply with a very light hand, and be sure to wipe off excess product from your brush.
Try: Maybelline New York Tattoo Studio Brow Pomade ($10) offers a lot of bang for your buck and it comes with a spoolie wand for expert application.
Brow markers may look like a Sharpie but that’s where the comparisons end. Felt-tipped markers are embedded with a sheer pigment that allows colour to built up gradually. Like eyebrow pencils, brow markers offer hair-like precision and control in drawing individual hairs and filling in sparse spots. They’re a great way to achieve a bolder long-lasting pair of waterproof brows. Simply apply subtle hair-like strokes along the length of your eyebrow, and in the direction of hair growth.
Tip: A little goes a long way with markers so use sparingly to avoid a drastic, overdrawn look.
Try: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color ($28) has a smudge, budge and water-proof formula. Plus, its ultra-soft liner tip is perfect for drawing in subtle yet precise hair-like strokes.
Tattoo pens allow for long-lasting, water-prooftinted eyebrows that will not only be there for you the next morning but also the day after that—and the day after that, too. They’re an excellent choice for darkening light-coloured eyebrows, and offer a more temporary alternative to more invasive procedures like microblading and microshading.The peelable variety is particularly fun to use: you simply apply it, let it dry, and then peel it off to unveil long-lasting tinted brows that last anywhere from three to seven days.
Tip: Keep Q-Tips on hand to quickly correct any application mishaps.
Try: Etude House Tint My Brows Gel ($11 USD) This peel-off tint lasts through sweat, water and gentle face wash too, giving you perfectly tinted brows that last up to five days.