Like many millennials, I can divide my life into two very distinct sections: before-brows and after-brows. Lucky for me, my before-brow period exists only in the memory of my mother and those who have access to my pre-2011 Facebook photos. Since making the life-changing decision to start caring about my eyebrows, I’ve been obsessed with the products that transform them from translucent whispers above my eye sockets to delicately manicured works of facial art (too much?). I have a brow tint I apply every 3–4 weeks and a brow/wax palette I’ve been loyal to for years, but I’ve long struggled (yes, struggled) to find a brow gel that meets my needs. So I enlisted the help of makeup aficionado Sable Yong—one of the few people I would trust with such a task—to test seven highly rated brow gels and help find the best brow gel in all the land. Keep reading to find out how the most popular options fared, and of course, which one she thinks is best. —Gyan
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The One for He or She Who Has Never Considered Brow Gel
Glossier Boy Brow, $16
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You can’t review brow gels this side of 2014 and not include Glossier Boy Brow. Even if you’re iffy on the product and the name, or resent the models’ preternaturally perfect brows and faces in the ads, Glossier Boy Brow is, dare I say, iconic. And, you know, it didn’t get there by sucking, so rest assured this is a solid option.
The Application: I find the hold to be more of the encouraging persuasion, as opposed to really grippy—it’ll make your brows look well-groomed but won’t necessarily set the hairs in any direction they don’t naturally want to stay in. What is great is that throughout its wear, Boy Brow doesn’t get stiff or flaky; it remains soft and flexible like a good boy (brow) should. The tint is forgiving for hasty swipers and buildable for double-swipers.
The Look: Perfectly natural but enhanced “I woke up like this” brows.
You should get this if: You want to look like a Glossier model. JK, but if you’re pretty happy with your natural brows and just wants to give them a modest amount more oomph.
The One That Works Hard, Plays Hard
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Some say Milk Makeup’s brow gel is the vegan version of Boy Brow, but I’m not sure I agree. It’s available in eight colors and, counter to the natural look of Boy Brow, its formula has tiny fibers that actually make your brows appear thicker—plus cannabis sativa oil for conditioning.
The Application: The pigment is fairly saturated, tinting and deepening your brows to really up their contrast. I find that making tiny strategic swipes throughout my brows, brushing them up and out, is the easiest way to control how defined I want them, as opposed to one painterly swoosh that might fully blot them with color. The hold is flexible and the pigment sets on the skin to resist smudging throughout its wear, which I find impressive and merciful.
The Look: The equivalent of that editorial slicked-back-wet-hair look models wear on magazine covers—strong, high-contrast, saturated.
You Should Get This If: You want your brows to look bolder than they may feel. And you like CBD in stuff.
The Instagram 2.0 Brow
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When you are not fucking around with your eyebrows, you go for this one. It is a full brow beat with a highly pigmented, waterproof, long-wear formula. There are 11 shades for all the brows around the world and while the packaging involves the standard tiny mascara brush in a tube, advanced brow painters can use the gel with a small angled liner brush to create hair-like strokes to further define their shape.
The Application: I find that I have to swipe with caution with this one because it’s so pigmented, but once I got the hang of it, I found it to be a really solid, versatile brow gel.
The Look: The shoulder pad of brow gels—you can really do some extreme defining with this gel because it’s a high-performance substance. That said, you don’t have to push it to the extreme, in which case you can have as finely detailed brow hairs as you want.
You should get this if: You want to dress your brows up in a power suit.
*The* Brow Gel Since Before They Were a Thing
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The internet remains divided between Gimme Brow devotees and Boy Brow converts; some say the latter is a dupe for the former—an $8 savings for 0.12g more product. That said, you do get more shade options (eight vs. four) and a slightly tackier hold with Gimme Brow, but I’m not going to tell you where to bet your $8. Also, I am still not sure what “gimme brow” is supposed to be a pun of, given the brand’s penchant for punny product names, but I guess it doesn’t matter because Gimme Brow remains a fan favorite.
The Application: Easy-peasy. It’s like driving an automatic on a smooth terrain. It goes on evenly with a generous tint that’s easy to control where you place it, feels soft and flexible throughout its wear, and lasts all day.
The Look: You really can’t overdo it with this one. While it’s not fibrous in formula, it manages to build your brow bulk smoothly and gracefully, like fancy hair pomade.
You should get this if: You tried it once, liked it, and can’t be asked to do more legwork in finding another brow gel you like—and don’t mind spending $24.
The Brow Gel for Perfectionists
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A luxury and cruelty-free option for luxury, cruelty-free brows, Hourglass combines the best of the fibrous formulas (with microfibers) in six shades of its lightweight formula that has a nice buildable pigment to take you from subtle to done-up in a number of swipes.
The Application: Super customizable, light, and buildable. The brush is unique in that one side has longer bristles than the other for you to sculpt and place the gel however you like. The hold is on the light side, I’d say, but the microfibers make building up your brow easy.
The Look: This is certainly the most “effortless” aesthetic of brow gels.
You should get this if: You like luxury. Or if you’re very Type-A about your brows and so far all other brow gel wands aren’t tailored enough for you to really groom them how you wish.
The Brow Gel That Doubles as a Stress Ball
Diorshow Pump N Brow, $27
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Audaciously and aptly named, this brow gel’s tube has a squeezable middle so you can “pump” more product onto the wand before pulling it out of the tube—genius! This is another “hairy” formula with microfibers mixed in for volume. There are five shades with a forgiving pigment level that has the tiniest hint of light-catching shimmer. The black shade doesn’t look super obvious on dark brows like mine, which is a detail I appreciate. The squishy tube is a strangely satisfying way to literally pump before you… brow.
The Application: Fun! Give the tube a couple squidges if you really want to glob it on, but otherwise, you can just sweep it on and it’ll give your brow hairs some heft in a flexible, tinted formula.
The Look: Like you’re Kaia Gerber when she’s raising a single eyebrow at Pete Davidson.
You should get this if: You’re the type of person who cuts open containers to get to the last bits of product or you want fancy, model-looking brows.
The One That Will Make You Rethink Brow Gels Completely
Flower Beauty Bubble Brow, $10
Okay, technically this is a tinted wax, not a gel. But hear me out—she has changed my life. Think of this as a brow gel that has made gains. It has done for me what no mere gel itself has, which is actually lock my brow hairs in place. It’s a molding formula that borrows from the makeup artist’s method of using soap on your brows. This only comes in two shades, a light and a dark, but the pigment is so translucent it doesn’t really matter that much. I must warn you that it’s currently sold out everywhere but will be restocked soon, according to the brand’s PR. I encourage you to set a Google alert for when it does, but in the meantime, I’ve found West Barn Co’s Soap Brows and Iconic London’s Brow Silk to be solid dupes.
The Application: It’s basically the same gesture as applying any brow gel with a slight packaging twist. Rather than the tiny spoolie brush in a tube situation, the product is in a pan with a spoolie brush in a narrow compact. You activate it by dipping the spoolie brush in water, then pick up a bit of product from the pan onto the brush. Then you brush it through your brows into whatever shape you desire (I recommend straight up and out) until it starts to stiffen, and once it’s set, it’s set.
The Look: This makes my brows look all fluffy and editorial, like they belong on one of those Australian Instagram beach babe models. I consistently get brow-specific compliments when I wear this. I may even get an Australian modeling contract as an eyebrow model. Time will tell.
You should get this if: You wish to look like a brow wunderkind, innocent and fierce all at once, worthy of being dished out on everyone’s Instagram explore feed.
Feature image via Getty.