Experts Tell Me Brow Pencils Are Becoming Redundant—Here's What I Use Instead

I have had a turbulent relationship with my brows for as long as I can remember. When I was at school, people would make comments about my eyebrows being a "bushy monobrow." As a result, I started plucking my eyebrows from a very young age (probably around 9 or 10). As I grew into my teenage years, my brows got thinner and thinner. Despite the fact my brows hairs are thick and dark, I still felt inclined to scribble over them with brow pencil in a bid to fit in with my friends (who wouldn't leave the house without a prominently stencilled brow). 

As the years went on, however, thick, busy and unruly brows took centre stage, and I found myself longing for the brows of my childhood. To try to get my brows back to their natural state, I stopped plucking, waxing and threading and vowed that I would never take a pair of tweezers to them ever again. That was five years ago, and, with the exception of one or two appointments that couldn't be missed for work purposes, I've stuck to my guns. As a result, though, I have spent most of that time grappling with brow pencils in a bid to create some sort of illusion of fullness.

Only I'm no makeup artist. In fact, I'd say my makeup skills are subpar. And brow pencils, I have learned, are tools that should be reserved exclusively for those with a moderate level of makeup know-how. After four years of trying to create a brow look that says natural fullness without appearing too bold or drawn-on, around 12 months ago, I finally gave up. One day, after spending 20 minutes trying to get my brows right, I threw every brow pencil I owned (all three of them) in the bin. And I'll be honest; it felt totally liberating. Since then, I have embraced my natural brow shape every single day, simply fixing strands into place with a brow gel.

And while at the time my makeup-artist friends thought that was a mistake, now there seems to be a change in the air. Brow pencils are, in my opinion, finally exposed for what they are: a total nuisance. In fact, when I recently spoke with my go-to brow queen, Kallinika Aynsley, (seriously, if you're after a semi-permanent, full-looking brow, she's your girl), she confirmed what I already knew. "Brow pencils are literally becoming a thing of the past. People want a softer, more subtle look that is more easily achieved through low-maintenance semi-permanent options," she says. "In most cases, people are far too heavy-headed with pencils. Comb a brow gel (my favourite is YSL's Couture Brow) against the hairs, fluffing them up and groom into place. The less-is-more approach to brows reigns supreme—texture over flat, dull drawings wins."

So if, like me, you are just too damn busy to be spending your mornings wrestling a brow pencil in the name of full brows, I'm about to save you a lot of time. Keep scrolling for the 12 best brow gels that money can buy (and no, you won't need a pencil). 

1. BareMinerals Strength & Length Serum-Infused Brow Gel

Best For: One-Minute Brows

This is, without doubt, my best brow discovery of the past decade. If you have thicker brow strands, it's a game changer. With a plastic wand that really grabs onto the root of the brow, just swipe upwards for a really impressive, natural-looking lift. While other brow gels sometimes require a separate spoolie to lift strands first, this clever gel does it all in one. Oh, and the cherry on the cake? It's formulated with brow-loving conditioners to keep strands soft, strong and healthy.

2. Yves Saint Laurent Couture Brow

Best For: A Textured Look

Aynsley declares Couture Brow as her favourite brow gel of all time, and she's not alone. I know countless beauty editors and influencers who also swear by this product. While the brush itself is small and angled, allowing you to coat every single strand, the wand is wonderfully long, making it impressively easy to use.

3. Dior Diorshow On Set Brow

Best For: Fine Brows

If you have fine brows that require extra filling in, this product is for you. The small brush allows you to set hairs in place while the tint helps blend in sparse areas for a fuller look. It also doesn't cause brows to go stiff and crunchy unlike so many others out there.

4. Charlotte Tilbury Brow Fix

Best For: Immovable Fixing

I adore this product. It came my way when I first got into the laminated (read: super-lifted, shiny brow hairs) look, and it seems like the perfect brow weapon. If you want a natural look that has some flexibility and movement, this product won't be for you—where you apply it, it stays. My top tip? Remove as much excess from the brush as you possibly can to avoid white flaky bits cropping up throughout the day. 

5. Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Freeze

Best For: A Laminated Look

Speaking of laminated brows, the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Freeze is the product to buy if you want that Instagrammable, lifted, feathered look. Apply the gel to a clean spoolie, and work the product through your strands, lifting from root to tip. When you're done, run your finger along brows in a lifting motion to secure hairs to your forehead. I have recommended this product to countless friends, and they're all equally as obsessed.

6. Rose Inc Brow Renew Enriched Tinted Shaping Gel

Best For: Fluffiness

My day-to-day brow product is the aforementioned BareMinerals Strength and Length, but this gel from Rose Inc has quickly worked its way into my routine. The thick brush creates a full, fluffy look with unparalleled ease, and the buildable tint helps fill brows in without looking too bold.

7. Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Gel

Best For: Natural-Looking Tint

No beauty brand out there does brow products like Anastasia Beverly Hills, which makes sense considering Anastasia herself is deemed the queen of brows. Over the years, I must have gone through at least five tubes of this stuff. It delivers a natural-looking tint (perfect for those with super-blonde strands) and gives brows a suitable hold without a hint of discomfort.

8. E.l.f. Brow Lift

Best For: Affordability

New on the scene, this product is a clear dupe of the previously mentioned Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Freeze. It works in the exact same way, gives very similar results and only costs £6. Sure, it lacks the luxury vibe of Brow Freeze, but if you're looking to save a pretty penny, this stuff is how you do it.

9. Glossier Boy Brow

Best For: Flexible Hold

Boy Brow is widely considered to be one of the best brow gels of all time. In fact, I'd go as far as saying it was the product that put brow gels on the map. The formula is waxy and tacky, meaning it doesn't dry down on the brows; rather, it gives them a gentle but hard-wearing hold all day long. The brush is tiny, meaning it's easy to get every hair and distribute tint where you want it.

10. Schwarzkopf Got2b Glued 4 Brows & Edges 2 in 1 Hair Gel

Best For: Extreme Hold

When Schwarzkopf learned that beauty buffs were using their Got2b super-hold hair gel as a brow product, they stepped up. Influencers far and wide have relied on Got2b hair gel thanks to its intense holding properties and unlikeliness to flake. The only downside? It's messy. To answer our brow prayers, Schwarzkopf launched its formula in a strong-hold brow gel, complete with a handy spoolie to brush strands in place. Oh, and it works a treat on edges, too.

11. Benefit Gimme Brow+ Gel

Best For: Shade Range

Consider Gimme Brow+ brow gel royalty. In fact, it was Benefit that really put the importance of good brows on the makeup map. Although Gimme Brow+ is a great product thanks to its long-wearing hold, other gels have since come on the scene that give it a run for its money. Where others can't compete, however, is on shade offering. Whatever the tint you want to go for, Gimme Brow+ has you covered.

12. Iconic London Brow Silk

Best For: Natural-Looking Lift

While ABH Brow Freeze and E.l.f. Brow Fix have sticky, gel-like formulas that give brows a shiny, laminated finish, this product champions a more natural approach. Sitting somewhere between a wax and a soap, Brow Silk lifts brow strands but keeps them looking textured, full and fluffy. Simply wet the solid product, rub in the accompanying brush and zig-zag it through your brows.

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