Brows are a key feature in a makeup look. I recently told you about one of my favorite brow products, Chanel's le Sourcil de Chanel - Perfect Brows, but I also love a good brow pencil! Who needs more reason than that to conduct a Brow Pencil Death Match?
The combatants*: Clinique, Kevyn Aucoin, Bobbi Brown, MAC, and Urban Decay. Let's see how they stack up!
*It's not clear who invited the sheep.
Clinique- Instant Lift for Brows / Deep Brown
- Description: "Two-in-one automatic brow pencil and pearlized highlighter duo creates a contrast and definition that give eyes a virtual lift. First, fill in and shape brows with long-wearing natural-looking pencil. Then optically 'boost' brow arches with universal highlighter shade just below brow hairs."
- Packaging: A chubby silver pencil that's easy to hold. The brow pencil tip is slender, while the highlighter end is fatter (think MAC Shadestick). Both sides twist up and have caps to cover the ends.
- Shades: Deep Brown, Soft Brown, and Soft Blonde
- Application: The brow pencil side works well, being neither too dry or too creamy. The highlighter side was odd, having a bit too much sparkle to look natural. I found it brought attention to the fine blonde hairs on my brows (you know: the ones you can't pluck or wax) and made a dry area really stand out.
- Wear: This product lasts about 5 or 6 hours, but fell prey to fading after that time. It does smudge if touched.
- Reviewer's notes: The color I got, Deep Brown, was darker than I like but I could carry it off. This product is a little on the soft side, so use a light hand with the brow color. And I have "lost" the tip on the brow color side twice (once to breaking, once it just slid back down into the container), however it's still thicker than some of the other retractable pencils in this Death Match. I don't like the higlighter side at all for under the arch, but its nice for around the tear duct.
- Price: $15
- Grade: C+
- Description: "Instantly give your eyes a “lift” with defined eyebrows. These creamy, blendable pencils give you the natural look of eyebrow powder with the precision of a pencil and come with their own sharpener."
- Packaging: A standard-size pencil in Bobbi's standard black. The non-business end is colored to convey the pencil color. I did not receive a sharpener, so have no comment.
- Shades: Blonde (light brown), Mahoghany (dark brown), Grey (cool grey), Wheat (medium grey-brown), Ash (medium brown)
- Application: Smooth, but it's quite creamy so those of you with heavy hands will find this difficult to apply and get a fine line.
- Wear: This product lasts about 5 or 6 hours, but fell prey to fading after that time. It does smudge badly if touched. I recommend some sort of sealing product if you touch your face a lot.
- Reviewer's notes: I did not initially like the formula for this pencil, though, because I found it way to soft and smudgy. If I concentrate on using a very light hand I can get a fairly fine line. Combing through after application helps a great deal, as does setting it with a translucent powder (which helps increase wear). I prefer a taupe shade, and found the Blonde too warm-brown, and the Mahoghany way too dark. KUDOS for the two shades of grey! Finding grey brow pencils is extremely difficult, so yay on that. I also love anyone who sells a pencil accompanied by a sharpener.
- Price: $20
- Grade: B-
- Description: "Super slim pencils for filling in, shaping and defining the brows. Made with the thinnest lead available. Smudge to add warmth or draw individual hairs. Packaged in a slim, retractable tube. Accompanied by an attached brow spoolie."
- Packaging: Very slim metal pencil in KA black-fades-to-red, with caps on both ends of the tube. The color "lead" is retractable, and rolls up easily without the tip snapping off. The spoolie side is sturdy, though the bristles get linty if you don't put the cap back on.
- Shades: Blonde (warm, light-to-medium blonde), Auburn (reddish brown), and Brunette/Basic Brown (warm brown)
- Application: Stellar. Not too soft, not too dry or waxy. The color point is said to be the thinnest in the industry, and I believe it. It's incredibly easy to get a fine line that emulates a brow hair. The spoolie side is perfect for combing through to break-up any thick areas of pencil to really make the brows look natural.
- Wear: This product lasts for hours and hours. Does not fade, will smudge if you work at it.
- Reviewer's notes: This was one of Kevyn's first products and still one of his best sellers. If I'm remembering correctly (and I'm too lazy to go check his books) I think he recommended the taupey blonde shade for just about everyone (folks with black hair should use the brunette shade, while redheads will find the auburn to be helpful). It's quite easy to modify the depth of color by pressing more lightly or a bit more firmly.
- Price: $24
- Grade: A+
(You can get this at Beauty.com)
- Description: "Whip your brows into submission with this triple-action, double-ended wonder pencil: 1. Shape and fill by penciling on realistic, long-lasting color. 2. Use the brush – built into the cap – to put brows in their place. 3. A soft, clear wax pencils fixes brows and keeps them there. Your brows will be beaten, but you’ll never look better."
- Packaging: Typical pencil-size, with both brow color and brow wax that need to be sharpened. One of the caps comes with a little brow brush. Color of packaging is the usual UD purple. Both points sharpen easily.
- Shades: Brilliant Blonde (warm honey), Brown Bombshell (brilliant brown)
- Application: Love the pencil side, which glides right on. The wax side works equally well, though the point dulls quickly (though I found that to be a non-issue).
- Wear: This product lasts 6+ hours and sealing with the wax end kept the color from smudging.
- Reviewer's notes: I don't usually grab browns, preferring taupe for brows, but the brunette shade worked great and was really easy to work with. It was also a great match for my natural brow shade. I love having the waxy pencil on the other side, as I do usually seal my brow color with either a brow wax (which also keeps hairs in place) or translucent powder (which can look gunky if done wrong!). Great pencil!
- Price: $14
- Grade: A
- Description: "Self-propelling, self-sharpening, brow defining. Confidently adds what you need: shape, colour, density in one streamlined tool. Like a pen, creates its own just-right point. Provides definition, shape, deepens/fills in colour. Creates striking arches. Easy to tote around. No sharpener needed."
- Packaging: This pencil is very slender, in sleek shiny "MAC black". The blunt end is colored to reflect the shade inside. The twisting mechanism is smooth and easy.
- Shades: Fling (light taupe ash blonde), Stud (deep rich blackened brown), Lingering (soft taupe brown), Strut (midtone bronzed brown), Spiked (rich brunette), Velvetone (velvety black)
- Application: A great balance between soft and firm, this pencil goes on nicely without dragging. The point is quite slender, so it's easy to create a fine line.
- Wear: This product lasts about 5 or 6 hours without smudging, though it will fade away if you touch it frequently.
- Reviewer's notes: I prefer using Lingering on just about everyone, though really blonde brows are better suited for Fling. Strut is a bit more reddish, but I find that color very difficult to apply softly. Darkest brows call for Spiked, and Velvetone should only be used by those who are using it for stage or for an obviously intense (read: fake-looking) look.
- Price: $15
- Grade: A
The clear winner is Kevyn Aucoin's product, though MAC's and Urban Decay's come in a really, really close (tied!) second place. Lingering (MAC's pencil) is usually in my stash because it's easier to get (and cheaper) than Kevyn Aucoin's pencil, and I have the MAC product in every shade in my kit. I will always be partial to automatic, twist-up products for precision lines but that's a personal preference. UD's sharpenable pencil is still amazing; I just wish they provided a sharpener with it.