If eyes are the windows to the soul, than your eyebrows are surely the frame.
Whether that frame is natural and bushy in the style of Brooke Shields circa 1980, full and defined à la Kim Kardashian or neat and clean like a wholesome Cate Blanchett tends to be somewhat personal – and sway a little bit with the trends of the day.
But here’s one thing that doesn’t change: a badly done brow is never in style. You know, one that is too drawn on, too harsh or too dark. You will just look like an angry bird.
I mean, sheesh, even the do-gooding goddess Angelina Jolie looks terrible with an overdrawn eye.
It’s a look that suits absolutely no one.
Showdown: Brush v. Pencil
This is also one area where a makeup brush is truly superior to an eye pencil in most every way. Even if you are going for a strongly defined brow look, a brush will still do you better than a pencil.
A brush simply lays down powder or gel in a softer manner in line with the brush hair. Even if you use a spoolie brush to feather out a penciled-in brow, it’s just never going to look as soft unless you are extremely skilled. Plus, when you use a spoolie to smooth things out, you can smear or flake product outside of the brow line.
Ultimately, it’s always better to use an approach that is idiot proof because when you’re in a hurry or otherwise distracted, bad things can happen.
So, What Brush?
This is where things get fun, as there are a few considerations.
You are going to want an angled brow brush that is somewhat stiff for tracing your brown line.
You’re also going to want a longer handle here, so that your hand doesn’t obstruct your view of your brow line when using the brush to apply brow powder, gel, wax or mousse. (Speaking of which: Yes! Brow mousse is a thing! It supposedly goes on easy like a gel or wax but the dry off is supposedly more natural.)
Now, how raked should the angle be and how stiff? Without getting a protractor out here, we think a mild angle, somewhere between 20° and 40°. In terms of stiffness, we think the brush should be stiff enough to bend a tiny bit – think firm – but not hard to the touch.
A word of caution: If you get an angled brow brush whose toe width is too small, or narrow, it’s going to take more time than it needs to in order to get the job done, so look for a brush whose toe width isn’t absolutely tiny, as some on the market absolutely are. Anything too small and you’ll just be spending more time on your brows than necessary.
Generally speaking, if you’re just going to be using this brush with powder, you may want to consider a real animal hair brush, like Louise Young’s #31 sable brush. If you’re using the wet or sticky products, such as gel or mouse, you may want to stick with a synthetic, as the dampness of the product may attract bacteria and a synthetic brush will do better in not giving bacteria organic material on which to breed.
Here are our top eyebrow brush choices (although we repeat our complaint that brush sellers aren’t providing enough marketing information in terms of brush materials used or actual specifications on widths and lengths, an area where Hakuhodo USA performs with excellence.)
1. Real Techniques brow brush. This brush is not sold individually and is only available in the Starter Set. ($17) We think this is the best value angled brow brush on the market. Synthetic.
2. Sigma E75 Angled Brow Brush. ($14) This also belongs in the value category and is a solid brush. Looks like it could be a duo fiber but marketing materials don’t say. We’ll get an answer and post it here.
3. Anastasia Beverly Hills Duo Brow/Eye Liner Angled Cut Spooley Brush. ($18) Synthetic. A good combo brush from Anastasia, a leader in brow care.
4. Smashbox Angle Brow Brush #12. ($20) This is one of the most highly reviewed brow brushes on the market. The MakeupGeek says she uses this one every day. It has good stiffness that doesn’t pick up too much color and it is just wide enough to lay down color in a way that looks natural. Again, no info on the fiber material.
5. Louise Young 31 Angled Sable Brow Brush. ($21) Sable. Lovely for powders. Probably less so for gels, waxes, etc. Elegant handle design. No information on the length of brush or width of toe.
6. MAC Cosmetics offers two brushes that fit the bill here: the 208 Angled Brow Brush ($20), which has a blend of synthetic and natural fibers, and the 266 Small Angle Brush ($20), which doesn’t list fiber materials. Both brushes are popular and get high marks.
7. Laura Mercier Brow Definer brush. ($25) This is a high quality, classic stiff angled eyebrow brush. Synthetic. Just over 6″ long. Pleasant toe width.
8. Hakuhodo S163 angled eye brow brush. ($41) This is our splurge recommendation, although it seems to be sold out at the time of this posting, which should tell you something about its beauty. The ferrule: 24-karat gold plated brass. The hair: water badger. The long and elegant handle: wood covered in Hakuhodo’s popular and sexy vermillion color.
As a substitute, look at this gorgeous substitute from Hakuhodo’s “on-the-go” line above. The Misako Portable Eyebrow Brush handle is shorter than we’d like for this purpose, but the brush is downright stunning. Just like well-done eyebrows.
There are excellent technique tips in this first Emma Pickles video to avoid harsh lines …
Even More Information