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 teen dram-edy werewolf transformation. (One brow salon even stopped charging me because it "felt like robbery.") But thanks to the recent beauty trend of strong, full 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 and sculpting, which is where brow gels come in.
Unlike pencils and powders, which amp up sparse, tiny brows, eyebrow gels enhance your current situation without adding too much bulk or drama. For a wet hot American summer, clear brow gels are indispensable, as they can create some structure on an otherwise bare, laid-back face. And if you color your hair on the regular, brow gels can provide a quick fix if your arches don't exactly match your new hue. Gels are a bushy brow must-have for keeping those hairs in place—but of course, not all gels are created equal, and some formulas just straight-up suck. So to cut through the noise, we've rounded up the most popular gels on the market for the ultimate brow-gel showdown. Whether you're looking to create a feathered soap-brow or going for a bold and bushy Charlie Howard-inspired brow, ahead, you'll find the perfect brow gel formulas to tackle all of your power brow needs.
The Best Beginner-Friendly Gel
Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel
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. Try this if you're a brow newbie who wants a super-minimal finish.
The Budget Pick
NYX Tinted Brow Mascara
If you're ballin' on a budget, you can't do better than this option from NYX. Essentially a bigger and bolder dupe of Boy Brow, its waxy formula coats hairs evenly without leaving a stiff finish. It'll make you look like you were born with thick brows, even if yours are naturally sparse.
The Best Buildable Gel
Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel
The versatility of this brow gel is unmatched. Whether you're going for an off-duty, no-makeup makeup brow, or a gorgeously groomed stand-out brow, the buildable coverage of this fiber gel can do it all. And it certainly stand the test of time. This gel glides on super easy and has more of a soft flexible hold, so feel free to create a perfectly imperfect, untamed brow.
The Best Gel For A Bold Finish
Benefit Cosmetics Gimme Brow+ Volumizing Eyebrow Gel
It's hard to see on camera, but IRL, my brows looked 50 percent larger (by my estimation). 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 (towards your nose), then brush them back to coat each side of the hair.
Glossier Boy Brow
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.
The Best Volumizing Gel
Charlotte Tilbury Legendary Brows Eyebrow Gel
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 Best Brow-Nurturing Gel
Kosas Air Brow Clear + Clean Lifting Treatment Eyebrow Gel
This one seems to be an instant fan favorite—Katie Sturino tells us it's in her everyday lineup—and we can see why. Its got nurturing ingredients that treat your brows the same way your haircare treats the rest of your strands, and it provides that oh-so-in fluffed up look.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Brow Wow Duo Brow Powder Pencil and Tinted Gel
If you've got little bare spots that even a brow gel can't seem to hide, reach for this double-sided option. One contains a thin pencil to help create faux hairs, while the gel grabs onto each hair to add lift and pigment. Added bonus: it's majorly on sale.
Merit Brow 1980 Volumizing Eyebrow Pomade Gel
Sometimes you're going to want a crazy party brow, and others, you want something barely-there. This is the perfect medium that has become an everyday staple in this house. The formula is nice and slick so it glides through the brows, and it dries down with a slight gloss that makes your hairs look healthier than ever.
The Drugstore Find
Maybelline Tattoo Studio Eyebrow Gel
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.
The Carry-On Gel
Wander Beauty Frame Your Face Precise Eyebrow Gel
All of Wander's products are ideal for your on-the-go tote, and this clear gel will make sure your brows are fluffy and set—no matter how long your layover.
The Best Waterproof Gel
Urban Decay Brow Finish Gel
Seal the deal with this waterproof formula. Urban Decay's Brow Finish Gel comes in both a clear and shimmering finish called "Midnight Cowboy". The best part of this brow gel is that it really pins the brow hairs down and doesn't leave behind a flaky residue. It's super long-lasting, so be prepared for its slightly stiff finish. At least you'll know your brow shape isn't going to break any time soon!
The Best Strengthening Gel
Make Up For Ever Brow Gel
Tame and strengthen your brows with this aloe vera-packed formula. This non-sticky, fiber gel works to freeze those thick and unruly hairs in place. The beauty of this brow gel is that it doesn't leave my brows stiff. A hack for super defined brows: Use the tip of the spoolie to comb the inner corners of your brows upwards and slick down the outer corners with the base of the spoolie brush.
The Best Longwear Gel
UOMA Beauty BROW-FRO Blow Out Gel
Keep your brows sculpted all throughout the day and into the night with Brow-Fro. The tapered applicator brush does wonders for forming full and fluffy brows. Sparse eyebrows can certainly benefit from this defining gel. But Beware: the color payoff is really bold, so a little goes a long way.
The Best Defining Gel
COVERGIRL Easy Breezy Brow Shape & Define Eyebrow Mascara
The color payoff on this little guy is 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 Best All-Natural Gel
MILK MAKEUP KUSH Fiber Brow Gel
This brow gel is formulated with cannabis oil and beeswax to naturally fill in and condition the brows without smudging. The unsung hero of this gel is the amazing hold it offers. If you have thick unruly brows, you'll want to reach for this gel to lock those hairs in place for a long-lasting sculpted effect. However, if you're in search of a super bold color pay-off this may not be the gel for you.
Chelsea Hall is the Assistant Fashion and Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she covers celebrity style, fashion trends, skincare, makeup and anything else tied into the world of fashion and beauty
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