The Best Brow Pencil
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The point of most makeup is to hide lines on the face, but there are a couple of key lines that women (and many men) spend a lot of money trying to enhance. Those lines, of course, shape the eyebrows. You can take your pick of products that care for those little hairs, including gels, powders and tweezers. But the easiest tool to use — and arguably the most effective — is the eyebrow pencil.
What exactly is in an eyebrow pencil? The exact shape, length and configuration may vary. The core of a regular pencil is graphite, but the core of an eyebrow pencil is usually a carefully formulated blend of pigments mixed with waxes and oils that help it bind to your brows. The cheapest pencils might be nothing more than that core wrapped in wax or wood (in which case you’ll have to sharpen it), but most eyebrow pencils are mechanical. You draw with one end, then style your brows with a brush on the back of the pencil.
In most cases, you won’t have to worry too much about the ingredient list on these pencils — if you can even find it. The chemical names might be long, but for the most part, they’re science-speak for “wax.” Pigments don’t really need preservatives, after all. Carbon black (which can irritate the eyes) and heavy metals (which can be downright toxic) are two red-flag ingredients to avoid, but you won’t find them in most modern pencils.
There are three important things you want an eyebrow pencil to do: Complement the color of your brows, put that color on precisely and stay put for as long as possible.
The first one might take a bit of trial and error. You’ll notice we said “complement” your eyebrow color, not “match.” That’s because pencils that are the same color or darker than your own brow hair will simply look like what they are: lines drawn onto your face. The trick is to make your brows look fuller, and a subtle interplay of colors will help create that texture. Go for a shade just a little lighter than your natural brow color.
Finding a pencil that goes on smoothly can also be tricky. Those with a higher concentration of oils can glide right on, but smudge too easily. Pencils with a more powdery texture might create a fuller look but require a lot more maintenance. You want something that binds to your hairs without looking waxy, and what works for one skin type may be a disaster on another face.
It’s best to start with a pencil that has a more rounded tip and work up to something sharper when you feel more comfortable. Pencils are the best for beginners because they’re easy to handle. Find the right tool and it won’t take long before your finished makeup is raising a few other eyebrows.
Our Picks For The Top Brow Pencils
- 1. NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Skinny Tip Micro Brow Pencil
- 2. L’Oreal Paris Waterproof Ultra-Fine Brow Pencil
- 3. e.l.f Instant Lift Dual-Sided Brow Pencil & Brush
- 4. Maybelline Total Temptation Matte Finish Brow Pencil
- 5. Anastasia Beverly Hills Smudge-Proof Retractable Brow Pencil
- 6. IT Cosmetics Brow Power Oval Tip Brow Pencil
NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP
Skinny Tip Micro Brow Pencil
Whatever look you want, this precise pencil with an ultra-slim tip can draw the line. It goes on smoothly but isn't too creamy, and creates texture with repeated applications. Use it alone for a slim line or with powder for thicker brows.
Plenty of TextureThick or thin brows can get well-sculpted with this pencil.
Waterproof Ultra-Fine Brow Pencil
The precise point on this pencil is easy to control with durable pigment. The fine tip is perfect for detail work and it leaves behind a brow color that can stand up to plenty of moisture. It's easy to layer if you want a little extra thickness.
Long-Lasting LinesThe fine tip makes it easy to get brows just the way you want.
Instant Lift Dual-Sided Brow Pencil & Brush
There are two sides to this tool for shaping, filling and defining, and both are easy to use. The pencil tip can last a long time and won't break easily. The brush can be used to fill out thick brows in a jiffy. This won't smear and stays on all day.
Good For DefinitionCustomize your eyebrows with this versatile tool.
Total Temptation Matte Finish Brow Pencil
There's no fear of flaking with this classic pencil. The tip has a slanted edge that lets users do pinpoint work or create thick lines with equal accuracy. You can expect it to last the day with minimal maintenance. It also has a spoolie brush tip.
Goes On SmoothThe more you use this versatile pencil, the better the lines look.
What to Look For
Everybody’s eyebrow routine is different, and that’s OK. Often, it will involve more than just an eyebrow pencil, but there’s a lot you can do with just this simple tool.
If you’re just starting out, use the pencil as a level to make sure that your natural brows are even. Many times they won’t be, and that’s fine — that’s what the pencil is for. Just mark where one brow is lower so that you touch it up later.
In general, your brows should begin just above where the edge of your nose is. (Again, you can hold the pencil against your face to find the line.) Sharpen your pencil and start there. Draw with short, slanted upward strokes, and “feather” your hairs out to the outer edge of the brow. You want to create lines that blend in with your own hairs. Blend the lines in with the brush on the other end of the pencil, and voila! You’re on your way to fuller brows.
Brow Pencil Rankings
More to Explore
You’ve heard that stress can give you grey hair, but recent research has found that it might not give you much hair at all — and that includes eyebrow hair. A 2021 study by an NIH-affiliated team of scientists found reduced hair growth in mice who were subjected to mildy stressful conditions over a period of months. Their adrenal glands work much like ours, and the stress hormones they produce were found to inhibit follicle growth.
The takeaway? If you’re trying to grow out your eyebrows for a big wedding or prom date, stop worrying about them and take a vacation. (Eyebrows tend to grow faster in warmer conditions, too.)