Few of us can claim innocence when it comes to crimes against eyebrows, especially if you were around in the 90s and early noughties.
Thin, highly arched brows were once quite literally the height of cool, but those mean, spindly lines have since mellowed and the shape du jour is now - like our favourite glass of red - dramatic and full-bodied.
The bush, people, is back - for eyebrows, at least.
One reason? Like the transformative effects of a fringe, a set of well-groomed brows can help you roll back the years. Aside from the youthful benefits, they make you look polished, help frame the face and allow more light into your eye area, which in turn makes you look more awake. Bright eyed and bushy browed, if you will.
In 2020, they’re also the only parts of your face others can see when you’re out and about in the accessory of the year, a face covering. It may feel pointless to don a face-full of makeup when masked, but taming the hairy bits above your eyes can be a valuable act of self-care that could go some way to boosting your wellbeing - while also maximising the effectiveness of staring daggers at anyone displaying less than Covid-safe etiquette.
Brows are big business: we can now have them microbladed (tattooed on semi-permanently), tinted, threaded and waxed. But if you don’t have the time or inclination for such treatments, help is at hand with a world of brow products.
This MUA demonstrates how to create a natural brow look:
There are pencils, pomades, gels, powders, stencils, serums as well as products specifically for redheads, blondes and brunettes, who all have different needs in the brow department.
It can be bewildering for first-timers, so we spoke to Nilam Holmes, EyebrowQueen on getting the best from your brows:
Why do groomed brows matter?
“Your brows give your face a frame and balance. A groomed brow looks great on both men and women and can subtly change the way the face looks. Fluffy brows are all the rage at the moment but they still need to be tidy. Too many unruly hairs underneath the brows can close up the eyes and make it more difficult to apply make up. Trimming long wiry hairs - especially for men - can really rejuvenate the face too.”
What prep should you do before filling in your brows?
“Remove any excess foundation from the brows. Dust a tiny bit of powder over the brows to help absorb oils during the day. If you have very oily skin then a brow primer like Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Primer helps to give a non-slip base to work on.”
What’s the secret to natural-looking brows?
“The mistake most people make is to draw in the exact shape they have so they end up looking too ‘done’. I recommend you ‘enhance’ your natural shape with pencils or powder as these give the softest effect.
Stencils are good for beginners but are not always the unique shape for you. Start by softly filling in any sparse gaps first to balance the brows, then enhance the shape by lifting the arch or lengthening the tails. A soft colour, a light hand and feather-like strokes will always make the brows look natural.”
What is your foolproof tip to grooming and filling in brows?
“Less is more! Today’s trend is the fuller, fluffy brow so if you have a good shape to your brow, only place a little product in any gaps and use a fixing solution to create a fluffy texture to your brow. I also recommend tweezing brows after filling them in as opposed to before because you have a shape to follow.”
Whether you're after a power brow like Kim K and the OG bushy brow boss Cara Delevingne, or a subtle low-maintenance look that makes the best of what you have, here are the best brow products to invest in now.
See our favourites below
Best Eyebrow Serums for Regrowing Sparse Brows
Hankering for woke-up-like-this natural brows? Help is at hand with conditioning and nourishing serums, designed to strengthen and help regrow over plucked brows. Time and patience not provided.
RevitaLash Advanced Eyebrow Conditioner, 3ml
At over £100 for just 3ml, this stuff doesn’t come cheap but the mountains of praise from loyal customers shouldn’t be overlooked either. Containing a winning mix of ingredients designed to strengthen brittle hairs, they’re a tonic for stringy brows, promising results in 4 - 6 weeks. It’s a doddle to slip into your beauty routine too, requiring just one application a day.
Most promising Amazon review?: “Being past menopause I'd succumbed to that horrible feature of ageing; your eyebrows disappearing past the arch, leaving you with short, upwards-arrows for eyebrows. I really didn't expect much of this product, but felt I might as well try.
Within a couple of weeks I was seeing results and now would never be without it. Six weeks in, I have at least as much eyebrow past the arch as I ever had. Wow.”
RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum, 3ml
Repairing the scorched earth of your overplucked brows is RapidBrow, a hair boosting serum made with a unique blend of fortifying proteins, peptides and nourishing ingredients designed to feed your eyebrows back to fighting fit health in 60 days.
This one requires a twice-a-day application - use the mini brush to smooth it on after your morning shower and again after your nightly skincare routine. When tested on 102 people over 56 days, an impressive 93 per cent experienced thicker, fuller looking brows.
MONAT Lash and Brow Enhancing Serum, 9ml
Capixyl is an ingredient that offers less shedding and more growth - two ticks on your brow wishlist. Monat’s vegan-friendly serum, which works on lashes as well as brows, has this as well as Fision KeraVeg18, a vegetable-based alternative to animal-derived keratin which helps strengthen and improve the lustre of lashes and brows. Working together, this double-action formula promises to leave you with lustrous looking brows in next to no time. Twice-daily application for bigger brows.
Embryolisse Lashes & Brows Booster, 6.5ml
Offering a multi-faceted solution to anyone who wants to plump up their lash length as well as brow health, Embryolisse’s cruelty-free formula stimulates hair growth in all the right places.
The clear solution is applied with the mascara wand in the lid: simply brush on for enhanced lashes and fuller brows in 28 days. Suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.
£18.75 | Beauty Bay *On sale from £25
Best brow products for redheads, blondes and brunettes
MUA Brow Define Micro Eyebrow Pencil
Traditional eyebrow pencils can be hard to work with, dragging on the skin and tough to blend but the formula in MUA’s precision pen is just the right. It draws on well and thanks to the slightly creamy consistency will brush out into a nice blend with the help of the brush attached on the other end.
This is a worthy budget option for anyone who wants to try a brow product without making a sizeable dent in their finances. It does fade slightly in warm climates or after a full day’s wear so you might want to apply a setting spray or clear mascara over the top to keep your brows in place.
As well as blonde and brunette shades there is a grey option available too, great for anyone with salt and pepper locks.
Glossier Boy Brow + Brow Flick Duo
Much has been made of Glossier’s Boy Brow and it certainly helps boost the volume and colour of eyebrows. The small brush is perfect for applying the pomade in short strokes - the key to a full look is patience.
While Boy Brow fixes your existing hair into place (up and out is the 2020 look, guys) if you want a filled-in effect, you’re best off shaping with the Brow Flick pen first and using Boy Brow to fix everything in place.
M.A.C Eye Brows Styler
Available in a choice of eight shades, this clever pen has everything you need to keep your brows groomed on the go. The pencil is self-propelling and self-sharpening so you’ll never have to root around for a pencil sharpener when you’re in a fix, while the microfine tip allows you to make slim, hairlike strokes. The finer you go, the less likely you are to make mistakes. Once you’ve sketched out the borders and filled in the sparse spots, use the spoolie on the other end to brush out the hard lines.
Benefit goof proof eyebrow pencil
Perfect for light blondes to those with inky black hair, Benefit has a range of brow-taming products to choose from. Among our favourites is the goof proof pencil, so named because it’s impossible to mis-use - yes, even if you’re a rookie. It’s waterproof and there’s even a mini version that will fit in even the smallest of clutches (although it doesn’t come with a spoolie brush).
Another standout is the 4-in-1 Brow Contour Pen, which defines, highlights, and contours eyebrows in five shades. Sadly there isn’t anything for redheads specifically, but the lightest coloured pen could be an option.
Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel, 3ml
Just like tweezing, it can be easy to go overboard with brow products and end up with slugs taking up most of your forehead. This is why a gently buildable one is the key to creating a natural-looking brow. Enter this product from Hourglass, a coloured gel that volumises using fine fibres. The small brush makes it easy to apply and build body where you need it.
M.A.C Eye Brows Big Boost Fibre Gel
The makeup of professional MUAs, MAC products are well known for their staying power. You’ll get serious 24-hour longevity with this eyebrow gel, filled with small synthetic microfibres that build, define and shape brow hairs so you’re left with luxe-looking caterpillars. Better yet, it’s waterproof and sweat-proof too so you don’t have to worry about them dissolving in the rain or wiped off after a sweaty spell on public transport. Redheads should try shade Strut which has warm, fiery tones that’s ideal for copper tones.
Lime Crime Bushy Brow Pen, 0.7ml
Lime Crime’s first shot at a brow product is the small but mighty Bushy Brow Pen. Rather than a pencil, it's a needle-thin brush that lets you paint a bold pigment in and around your natural brow shape, so you can sport fresh eyebrow trends every day. Total newbies might need some practise mastering this tool but once you’ve got it down, it will be seamless. Available in shades suitable for all hair natural hair colours.
Charlotte Tilbury Brow Lift eyebrow pencil
Available in four shades from blonde to black, beauty queen Charlotte Tilbury’s brow pencil is the first step to taming unruly brows. Using it is simple: use the spoolie to brush hairs upwards and then use the pencil to fill in-between the hairs using short, regular strokes to imitate natural hair. If you fancy a softer, more filled-in effect (like the Insta-brow all over social media) just use the flat side of the pencil. Finish by combing through the brows with the brush.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Pen
Build up spindly brows back up to their full, bushy pen with ABH’s brand new brow pen. The fine tip allows you to draw super thin strokes that look just like real hair.
It's long-wearing and waterproof too, which means your brows should last until you use cleanser to take them off.
Hot tip: brows are rarely symmetrical so try to resist the urge to make them exactly the same. Follow each eyebrow's natural shape to get the best possible results. Remember, they're sisters - not twins.
Eyebrow Queen Brow Fix
This light setting lotion fixes hairs in place without feeling crispy or sticky. It comes with a pipette applicator and a spoolie so you can brush on however much you need to keep everything in place - that goes for pencils and pomades that you might have applied first for a fuller look too. Think of it as a final finishing step of your brow routine to keep them firmly in place all day long.
For truly anaemic brows, only a regrowth serum will do and we're tied between RevitaLash and RapidBrow. RevitaLash just nudges ahead thanks to the once-a-day application that even the most beauty routine-averse person can manage.
Meanwhile, for shaping and filling in, first timers and bargain hunters alike will do well with MUA Brow Define, a steal at just £2.50.