Style

The Face Off: 5 Eyebrow Products

Caroline Donofrio eyebrows

Welcome to The Face Off, a new regular column. (Not to be confused with that movie from 1997.) Every month, I’ll test drive five products in the same category — makeup, skincare, hair, who knows what — and report back with the details. Our first order of business is eyebrows…

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, there is a scene where Holly meets Paul for the first time. She answers the door in her now-iconic sleep mask, then he loiters in her apartment as she gets ready for the day. A large part of her routine, along with shuffling about in her gamine way, involves brushing and penciling in her eyebrows. “Why,” I remember thinking, furrowing my own over-tweezed 2000-era brows, “would anyone pay so much attention to eyebrows?” A decade later, I had my answer, as well-groomed brows were suddenly everywhere. Brows are like a frame for your entire face — one finishing touch that makes all the difference.

To that end, here are today’s contenders:

Benefit Ka-BROW!, $24
Sometimes, I want my eyebrows to resemble aggressively voluminous caterpillars at rest on my face. To accomplish this, one needs to a) be Brooke Shields circa 1980, or b) use a very serious brow product. As its name suggests, Ka-BROW is such a product. The gel-cream lives in a little pot and is applied with the included brush. The formula is thick, lending brows serious volume. Careful, though, because a heavy hand can result in brows like this guy.
Verdict: Perfect for those who dream big.

Glossier Boy Brow, $16
No eyebrow roundup should exist without a mention of Boy Brow, which has become something of a cult product (heralded in many a Beauty Uniform). The name has always been a mystery to me (Am I meant to aspire to boyish brows? Are we implying that boys’ brows are better?) but the all-in-one pomade couldn’t be easier to use. Just a few swipes of the mascara-like wand gives your brows polished definition. The result is subtle — no face caterpillars here — but goes a long way.
Verdict: A solid everyday staple.

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color, $21
The package tells me the “innovative marker-like brush tip” makes it easy to “mimic hairs.” Indeed, the tip is so marker-like I feel like I’m conducting art class on my face. The waterproof formula does not budge. Because I am not a synchronized swimmer (indeed, I can barely swim beyond one sad, froggish motion), I’m not sure when I would require waterproof eyebrows. Even at the gym, I’ve never met an eyebrow product capable of sweat-melting off my face. But if this is something you’re after (who knows?) the marker is worth a try.
Verdict: Good for aquatic sports.

Revlon Colorstay Brow Mousse, $9
This mousse lives in a little pen, where, after a few clicks, it is dispensed onto a bulbous brush tip. The first time I attempted to use this, it looked like someone had drawn eyebrows on my face using Bosco chocolate syrup — dark, slick, scary. Though I heart chocolate syrup on ice cream, ’twas not the look I intended.
Verdict: All kinds of no.

Anastasia Brow Wiz, $21
As one who appreciates a product that can swing between subtle and dramatic, this is my personal favorite. The teeny tiny pencil lets you draw fine little lines, while the brush on the opposite end helps you blend it all in. Fill them in a lot, or boost them just a little. No matter your own brow preferences, this one can handle it all. It’s tiny, weighs nothing, and is easily stashed in your makeup bag. Win, win, win.
Verdict: Add to cart.

Do you currently use any eyebrow products? Have any recommendations? Please share!

P.S. My desert island product and a natural deodorant challenge.

  1. Gwen says...

    I’ve tried every pencil under the sun but the discovery of Shu Uemura’s hard formula eye brow pencil was a game changer for me. What’s special about this one is it only draws on your existing hair – if you get it on your skin you see pretty much nothing so it manages to create a look both defined and very natural. It is quite hard to get hold of here in London but a single pencil all the way from Japan lasts ages – I’ve used mine everyday for three years and it’s still got a couple of inches of life left!.

  2. Kati P says...

    Chiming in to add another vote for the elf brow pencil! I’ve used Benefit–it was fine. When I ran out, I used Anastasia Beverly Hills from Sephora. It was $22 and AWFUL. I had to toss it. Not that I didn’t want iridescent copper painted brows… Was tired of spending this much money so tried an elf pencil for $2 at CVS. AMAZED at the results. On my second one and use it every day. I’m fair with brown hair and it looks perfectly natural. You can build the shading as needed. And did I mention it’s a TENTH the price of the fancier items?

  3. Cindy says...

    Darn! Was hoping for photos :(

    • Zoe says...

      Yes! Would have been 100x more helpful with photos!

  4. Ann says...

    I have very thin blondish brows and the anastastia pencil and glossier boy brows have been my favorites for a long time.

  5. Maria says...

    Just came to say that ELF eyebrow pencil is like 3 bucks and wonderful to use. I’m on my 5th one.

  6. Christen says...

    Stroke a Brow by Ardell is amazing and a game changer (I’ve tried everything). Also NYX makes a dupe of the Anastasia pencil and it’s around $10 and amazing . I actually like it more than the Anastasia one which can be waxy and a little too light imo.

  7. Jen says...

    I fill mine in with a Sephora brow pencil, brush it out a bit with a mascara spindle brush (you can by them on Amazon)… then the magic- spray the spindle brush with extra hold hairspray and brush your brows into place how you like them… bam!

  8. Paula says...

    It’s missing photos :(

  9. Alanna says...

    love the idea of this series…but I would like to see photos! :)

    • Hannah says...

      me too! photos please!

  10. Anna B. says...

    As a blonde, the Sublimabrow eyebrow pencil in Taupe works perfectly! The Sable color is also good for lighter blonds than me. Great pencil/brush combination.

  11. Colleen says...

    About 25 years ago, around the ago of 10, I came across this massively long (seemed like a nearly a foot long in my memory) dark brown eyebrow pencil of my Mums, from her younger years. It was a Helena Rubinstein pencil. I remember it with such fondness. I’m sure I used it with the hardest of hand and maybe, only nearer to its end – years later but before it became sharpened down to one inch left of it with a cracked cover, did I finally have the finesse of applying it. It was the perfect brow pencil!

  12. Clarice says...

    The EveryBrow from Dollface Brows & Beauty is AMAZING! It’s a universal eyebrow pencil and it’s waterproof! It blends and applies so easily. I worked at Sephora and have tried almost every brow pencil and I find myself always going back to the EveryBrow. They also have the “All Set” Clear Brow Gel that is also an equally great product. You can’t go wrong with these products. Check them out!

  13. Christy S. says...

    Yes, thank you. My blonde brow product issues strictly have to do with color. I can’t stand that red hue. The boy brow everyone raves about is a one of the worst offenders IMO. I’ll be trying the Soap & Glory! What’s your opinion of the NYX in regard to color? Which color do you use? Thanks.

    • Jen says...

      I’m a blonde too and I love Sephora’s retractable eyebrow pencil in Honey Blonde… no red tone!

  14. Lauren says...

    Who has done microblading? Worth the time, cost, pain, etc?

    • Z says...

      I have! And I must say, it’s made a huge difference.

      Some background information: I’m 27 and I wear zero make-up. And no, it’s not a phase. Aside from weddings, I never have. It’s not that I have perfect skin, but more that a) I cannot be bothered and b) I am perfectly comfortable with how I look. Brows, on the other hand, are a different story. My brows have gone through everything from I-cannot-believe-the-lady-overplucked-my-brows, the I-don’t-have-time-to-have-them-shaped, to the unfortunate
      patchy hair loss due to seborrheic dermatitis. Even then, I have never attempted to fill them in with makeup.

      The change came once I started out with a series of Hi-Brow sessions, which helped me regain some shape. Pretty soon, I realized I just did not have time for the upkeep sessions (plus, it wasn’t cheap). I did the numbers, and realized microblading was a far better investment (and more convenient).

      Before you go on, I cannot emphasize this enough: find a good technician. I learned this the hard way, but thankfully I had mine salvaged in time. Of course, how often you need to have them retouched depends on your skin’s turnover rate.

      Also, an important note: the healing phase really ain’t pretty! But I will tell you this: I now get complimented on my brows pretty much all the time. Is it worth it? Heck yeah!

  15. india says...

    Laura Mercier is my go to!! I’ve been using their brow pencil for years and it never fails!! I have super dark brown hair (and brows) but use the ash blonde and its perfect. it creates the look like I’ve naturally got fuller brows without letting off that I’ve actually used anything!!

  16. Emily says...

    I can’t believe Wonder Brow isn’t on here! It’s the best product I’ve used and I’ve tried many. It stays on forever (even endures a day at the beach or swimming). I highly recommend! I get it on Amazon.

    • Sandy K says...

      YES! I love this product—I have even worn it to the beach!

  17. Em says...

    Yep, on the Anastasia bandwagon! I tried Boy Brow on the recommendation of everyone but ultimately wasn’t that impressed – seemed like there was almost nothing in the tube??

  18. Kendra says...

    I used to use gimme brow by benefit before they got rid it (it’s back now!) I got boybrow to fill the void but i like gimme brow better. It gives the perfect cool messy Gigi Hadid brows that I love. I also love the elf brow pencil. Cheap and gets the job done. You can’t beat $3

  19. sue says...

    I use ecobrow. It uses clean ingredients and looks very natural.

  20. sue says...

    I love ecobrow! It uses clean ingredients which is very important to me and looks very natural.

  21. Amy says...

    For my brow routine, I could not live without Everybrow as well and All Set clear brow gel by Dollface Brows and Beauty’s “Hiya! Beauty” line. Everybrow glides on with ease, making it super cinchy to apply! I love it because the spoolie is attached with a lid, so it’s great for commuting. And the all set keeps that brow growth that I have been working on (and am very proud of, I might add) all in place!! Love, love! Check them out! dollfacebrows.com

  22. I use Dollface Brows & beauty brow products! Their universal brow pencil called “Everybrow” is one of my favorite products along with their “all-set” clear brow gel. Everybrow is great because it glides on super easily and it’s also waterproof! It’s so easy to blend out which is also great because sometimes I’m a little heavy handed with products. The clear brow gel sets my brow in place without wearing too hard on my brow. Other gels I’ve tried in the past are so hard to get off and will sometimes take a couple of my brow hairs with them!! I wear a full face all day so both of these products are an absolute must and you can purchase via their website at Dollfacebrows.com

  23. Can’t live without my “hiya beauty” “Everybrow” universal brow pencil from Dollface Brows & Beauty! Waterfroof, easy to blend and goes on so smoothly!

  24. Aya Costantino says...

    1. Could you do side-by-side photos of your face with these products? I’d love to see a “face-off.” Regular/each product and then maybe a comparison of your top choices?
    2. I use Ardell’s Stroke-a-brow after watching Katie Jane Hughes’ tutorials for feathery, natural brows. It’s my favorite, most natural look I’ve found, though I have yet to be able to get the hair-like precision she’s mastered.
    3. Folks–I dyed my eyebrows today…BY MYSELF! It was a bit of a gamble but it turned out well. Just for Men beard and mustache dye (~$10 for what I think will last me months) and 5 minutes later my eyebrows look full and defined. It’s not quite as deft as a professional, but it’s pretty darn good!

    Also, I’d love for you to report about microblading. I’m so curious but I can’t seem to justify the hundreds of dollars.

  25. Allie says...

    I LOVE Brow Whiz, but there are too many good dupes (under $10!) for me to buy it anymore. The one I’m currently using is L’Oreal’s Brow Stylist Definer Eyebrow Pencil, which is, like, $9. I’ve also heard the NYX is really good.

  26. Alexa says...

    Any readers with microblading experience? I’m a blonde with light eyebrows and just scheduled an appointment. Would love advice and to hear others’ experiences!

    • Lori says...

      I have an appointment in a month. Hope anyone can chime in on their experience, specifically the pain! How painful was it?

    • Jo says...

      I just got mine done last Saturday and it has been LIFE. CHANGING. I have never worn much makeup normally but every day I would use a brow pencil, followed by brow powder blended with a little brush, then a tinted brow gel, and finally a setting spray to give some meaning to my sparse, sad little brows. Now this week I have literally worn no makeup to work – just my tinted moisturizer and chapstick – meaning I sleep an extra 15 minutes but still feel fabulous all day.

      My advice: shop around, look at all the pictures/reviews, and try to find someone with years of experience. It took me awhile but I found a place here in Koreatown in LA where the woman had 25 years of experience, and that costs a fraction of the place I was originally planning to use!

      I felt no pain at all for the first 25 minutes or so, but then I think the numbing cream wore off, and it was quite… uncomfortable. But when I got up from the table I immediately knew it was worth it, 100% recommend going for it!!

    • Aneke says...

      Blonde with light eyebrows that micro bladed here.. be prepared to be HORRIFIED for at least a week after the initial appointment. I looked like I had two large hairy caterpillars on my face, it was bad. Two weeks later, and after my refinement session loved it. Still do, no regrets! Pain is not that bad, its a scraping motion that gets a bit sensitive but nothing terrible.

      Also do not go to a big party that same night.. people will look at you quizzically the whole time you’re talking, trying to figure out what went wrong with your face.

    • Sharon says...

      I have dark blonde hair, but super light eyebrows. I’ve micro bladed twice (once before it was a “thing”, unless you were 60+; and a second time a few years back). Both experiences were positive, the eyebrows looked good and the coloring was subtle and on point with my hair. However, I didn’t think it lasted long enough at the perfect shade to make it worth the hassle. They look crazy dark for the first 2 weeks while they heal. They look good for about a year. And then they start to fade off and you’re back to filling them in all the time.

    • Sharon says...

      Pain is totally bearable! I did it once 10 years ago, before they had the numbing cream in regular rotation and it was OUCH… just like getting a tattoo, but on a very sensitive part of your face (brow bone was OUCH). But when I did it a few years back, it was much less painful. Just a bit annoying and starting to bug you but then they would move to the next spot. Nothing worse than laser treatments, normal female stuff. It didn’t last long enough for me to justify the expense, but who knows, I’ll probably try for a 3rd time in a few years ;-)

  27. Jen says...

    Anastasia Brow Wiz is the best! One life-changing tip I was given was to always go a shade darker than your brows. When you comb it through it softens.

  28. Vishakha Gupta says...

    Surprised not to see Anastasia DipBrow Pomade on here. One of my absolute favorites and it feels like amongst my friend group everyone and their sister uses it. It is pricey but lasts forever.

  29. Danielle says...

    Cover Girl Easy Breezy Brow in Soft Brown has become my holy grail eyebrow product. It’s similar to Boy Brow, in that it is a pomade in a mascara-style tube. It has a much larger brush and imparts more of an impact (I use this daily for work and going out, while Boy Brow is more of a weekend/casual look for me). The trick is to scrape the brush on the opening of the tube so that you don’t have too much product on the bristles. This will allow you to build the layers to your desired thickness. I love how it fills in the more sparse spots and picks up finer hairs towards the ends of my brows to add length. Bonus points for it being under ten bucks, something I can pick up at the grocery store, and now it’s certified as cruelty free!!

  30. Two drugstore options:
    NYX Micro Brow Pencil, which is such a great dupe for ABH I’m not sure why you’d pay the price (comes in a bunch of shades, too)
    ELF Brow Pencil, which isn’t as fine a tip but I find I like it better – still gives me believable brows but isn’t as fussy. Doesn’t come in as many shades, but the universal taupe color is able to stretch across quite a few hair colors!

  31. E says...

    As a person with alopecia areata (autoimmune condition that causes hair loss) who has gone through periods of not having eyebrows at all, I’ve tried nearly every eyebrow product on the market and Stila Cosmetics Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color is BY FAR the best thing I’ve found for creating eyebrows from scratch. It’s so precise that I’ve been asked if my brows are microbladed, which they’re not. Anything else I’ve tried smudges, melts off or otherwise just looks unequivocally fake. One drawback is it isn’t truly waterproof–if you get rained on it will run, so I wouldn’t imagine it would do well in the pool either.

  32. Jen says...

    The L’Oreal Brow Stylist Definer with a spoolie on the other end is my forever and only. Doesn’t budge and is cheap.

  33. em says...

    Love this new feature idea! And second the feedback that it would be great to see photos with each.

  34. Sarah M says...

    I’ve tried so many expensive eyebrow pencils and the $2.00 Elf eyebrow pencil I got at Target is by far my favorite.

  35. Lorna says...

    I agree. Pictures are helpful.

  36. Jenna says...

    Love the Anastasia Brow Wiz – the perfect cheap dupe for it is the NYX Micro Brow Pencil. As far as I can tell, it’s exactly the same product, applicator, etc. except its 1/3 of the price!

  37. Faith Armstrong says...

    I swear by Nicck Townsend “Brow Script Signature Brow Pencil” in the shade Audrey. Nick is the Eastcost’s Eyebrowking! Check out his site at niccktownsend.com and on Instragram @niccktownsendsalon

  38. Seja says...

    Such a great column! Thank you!

    An easy at home/organic/multi-use option:
    Comb brows into place, sprinkle some cocoa powder on the back of your hand, gently dip brush into powder, give brush a shake, then apply. Does wonder for this brunette’s brows!

  39. Nina says...

    some ideas: 1. Those crazy masks with cloth everyone tries and takes pictures of because we look INSANE! None of them seem to do anything but make my face cold. 2. lip stuff – I only use stains or long lasting colors because lipsticks shred off my lips. 3. natural toothpastes (esp the charcoal ones). 4. magnetic eyelashes and others (I love single ones for the edges of my eyes the magnetic ones freak me out) 5. nail products. 6. actual moisturizers that work for your face esp eye wrinkles. 7. dry shampoos. so many choices, so much stink! 8. and my personal favorite lately – color depositing shampoo. I’ve used three different kinds and my hair is currently partially blue – I get compliments all the time and LOVE it. I’ve tried pink, purple, and red. about to go to ulta this weekend for more (punky brand is my favorite)

  40. Nina says...

    NYX Eyebrow Powder Pencil in Ash Brown or Brunette. I have dark hair and oh so many brands make their browns reddish like NYX does for their dark brown eyebrow pencil (the powder pencil is different and my brows are not reddish). I have used this for years and love it. I have tiny little leftover nubbins everywhere – I’m never without it. It’s sometimes tough to find (get it at ulta) so I buy several when I see it. Most places that carry NYX only have the eyebrow pencil not the powder pencil. I also like Bliss’ wax pencil and powder pot but then you need a thin angled brush and the powder has spilled out which I hate.

  41. Catherine says...

    Love this, but I’d find it even more helpful to see photos for each?

    • Jen says...

      Same!! I expected photos.

    • Sara says...

      Me too!