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.


(Image credit: @SHANNONLAWLOR)

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

2. Yves Saint Laurent Couture Brow

Best For: A Textured Look

3. Dior Diorshow On Set Brow

Best For: Fine Brows

4. Charlotte Tilbury Brow Fix

Best For: Immovable Fixing

5. Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Freeze

Best For: A Laminated Look

6. Rose Inc Brow Renew Enriched Tinted Shaping Gel

Best For: Fluffiness

7. Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Gel

Best For: Natural-Looking Tint

8. E.l.f. Brow Lift

Best For: Affordability

9. Glossier Boy Brow

Best For: Flexible Hold

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

Best For: Extreme Hold

11. Benefit Gimme Brow+ Gel

Best For: Shade Range

12. Iconic London Brow Silk

Best For: Natural-Looking Lift

Next up, a makeup artist just showed me how to avoid these five common mistakes.

Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous. Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics. While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best. When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.