Pencils, Powders & Pomades: How To Use The Best Product For Your Brow Goals
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Brow products truly run the gamut: pencils, powders, pomades, gels, and the list goes on and on. (Some even swear by a bar of glycerin soap to slick the delicate hairs in place.) Ultimately, the route you take is up to personal preference, but each brow product does yield slightly skewed results. Example: If you're looking to dial up the drama, you might not want to reach for eyebrow powder, which tends to result in a softer look.
So let's dive into the waters of brow styling, shall we? Below, experts break down each type of tool, who should use it, and how to wield them for your fluffiest arches yet:
Pencils work in two ways: You can create precise, hairlike strokes with a pointier tip, or you can create more of a natural, powdered effect with a softer edge. The former works best for filling in sparser areas, like a gappy tail, without creating any shadows. (Same goes for an eyebrow pen with a felt tip—both drawing tools are stellar for creating those tiny wisps.)
As for how to use them, esthetician and founder of Brow Down Studio René de la Garza suggests using light, upward strokes to mimic the brow hairs. "Apply more color saturation to the tail and a blended front of the brow," he notes, but make sure to keep light pressure and start slow, building up intensity as necessary. Fluff the brows with a spoolie to blend.
"Most people who want a more natural look opt for a powder to naturally disperse the product through the brow without too much definition," notes Melanie Marris, international brow stylist and founder of Brow Code. See, a powder itself is soft and pillowy, so it lends more of a diffused finish. Rather than creating wisps of hair, you're building up a soft shadow to help the brows appear fuller.
To use an eyebrow powder, grab a loosely packed angled brush. As brow expert Azi Sacks once told us about powdering brows, "It dispenses very softly and looks so natural." Dip the brush into your pigmented powder and sweep it on with soft, feathery strokes.
For more staying power, apply a wax in short, upward strokes before filling in the brows with powder (many compacts come dual-sided with both wax and powder; catch our rec below). That way, the pigment will have something to grab on to, so it won't smear.
"Pomades are generally used to achieve a really sleek, defined, long-lasting brow," Marris says. "However, they are also amazing at creating long-lasting, hairlike strokes on a fluffy laminated brow." Essentially: If you're looking for a powerful, bold brow, reach for a richly pigmented pomade.
Due to their creamy texture, pomades also offer a light hold (read: Your brows won't smudge off midday). To use them, all you'll need is a soft angled brush to sweep on the product. Marris recommends first lining underneath the brow shape and filling in from there (sort of like you're creating a stencil).
"Aim to leave the fronts of the brows sparse of product for a front-faded look," she explains, or "If you do want a more fluffy, fuller look, simply turn your angled brush on its side and apply hairlike strokes through the brow." She's partial to grabbing a dollop of pomade and working it off the back of her hand rather than repeatedly dipping the brush into the pot.
You can, of course, use a combination of products to achieve your desired result—like, say, a pencil to fill in the tails and a pomade to thicken and offer hold. But if you're overwhelmed by the sheer number of brow-styling options, consider this your beginner's guide.
Heal Your Skin.
Receive your FREE Doctor-Approved Beauty Guide
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.