Many kids are born with delicate, wispy eyebrows, but I was born with a unibrow that only got bushier as I got older, requiring constant threading appointments to keep them from looking like the start of a Penny Dreadful werewolf transformation. (One brow salon even stopped charging me because it "felt like robbery.")
But thanks to the recent trend in big-as-hell eyebrows, my once-alienating "curse" is now my favorite part of my face. That said, my brows are still needy creatures that require daily taming, which is where brow gels come in. Unlike pencils and powders, which amp up sparse, tiny brows, gels enhance your current situation without adding too much bulk or drama.
Of course, not all gels are created equal, and some formulas straight-up suck. So to cut through the noise, I tested the most popular gels on the market for the ultimate brow-gel showdown. Check out the rankings, below.
I really wanted this one to be "easy breezy," but the thick, curved brush picked up too much gel, leaving little streaks on my brow bones and clumping my hairs together. On a positive note, the color payoff was high—it gave me a super-bold, Cara Delevingne look. Just make sure to use a light hand and lightly dab off the tip of the wand, first, if you try this one.
The wand in this gel is so chubby, you'd think it would create majorly amped-up brows. But the size actually made it difficult to hone in on my feathery hairs, and the formula was so sheer, it barely made an impact on my already-dark brows. Still, I'd try this if you're a brow newbie who wants a super-minimal finish.
The formula in this small-but-mighty tube is filled with tiny fibers that latch onto your hair to bulk up your brows with each swipe. For those with thin, sparse brows, this will be your holy grail, but, for me, the final look was a little over the top. Fair warning: Work quickly, because once this one sets, it's not budging.
It's hard to see on camera, but IRL, my brows looked 50-percent larger (I'd estimate). That's a look I'm all about on a Saturday night, but maybe not for a no-makeup makeup day. For those of you who want an even bolder finish, first brush your brow hairs in the opposite direction (toward your nose), then brush them back to coat each side of the hair.
I'm in love with this applicator: It has a long, super-skinny spoolie, so I was able to brush the gel onto individual hairs and small sections of my brows, giving them a more natural, gradual-looking shade. The precision was 100, and it left behind a shine that rivaled a horse's mane.
The spiky, ball-shaped spoolie looks more like a Medieval flail than a brow brush, but I promise it's completely foolproof. Just wiggle the tip through your brows, and the formula-loaded bristles will coat every single hair with just one swipe. Whether you're a first-time gel user or a master-level crafter, this is easily the best drugstore gel I've tried.
Winner winner, buy Emily Weiss dinner! This ultra-pigmented formula is a cult-favorite, and for good reason: The itty-bitty spoolie brushes on the perfect amount of buildable pigment and never stains skin.
Plus, it remains workable for a few full minutes, adds natural-looking volume, and it never feels stiff. I applied this one Friday morning, danced my ass off until sunrise, and woke up for brunch to the exact same brows.