In the realm of beauty sins, ignoring your own eyebrows is tantamount to treason–not that that’s ever stopped me. Despite their visibility every waking hour of my rough-hewed life, I don’t touch my brows and instead, allow them to embody the mediocre, mismatched, parenthetical enigmas that came to me naturally through years of bad waxing. Yes, I’ve been a traitor to my own face. However, that was then and this is now. I recently got a sneak peek at the best brow products of 2020, and I’m confident they’re dazzling enough to convert even the most brow-delinquent among us.
Over the past few years, brows have been elevated from bushy afterthoughts to the main event. Scroll through Instagram or peruse the runways and you’ll find them every which way: maximized to peacock-levels, accessorized with color, painted on stroke-by-stroke with painstaking precision. No longer are eyebrows just there to punctuate our foreheads, they’re the focal point for personal expression nearly as much as their much-poppier counterparts, lips and lids. Consumers have strong and disparate preferences on their desired level of commitment–some desire a quick au naturale grooming while others yet want the time-intensive microbladed look. In order to provide a pencil for every proclivity, Sephora Collection dropped a spate of five different products designed to suit your particular brow agenda, dubbed Big Brow Energy.
At Sephora, “brow products are some of the most replenished,” according to Beth Hayes, Vice President of Sephora Collection, meaning that shoppers are not only dabbling in brows or viewing them as a passing fad (the way of nose highlighter) but incorporating them into their daily makeup regimens. Sephora Collection, Sephora’s in-house brand, boasts the unique advantage of access to every single product review on Sephora.com. Within the beauty industry, a hullabaloo has been raised over the legitimacy and integrity of customer reviews. For its part, Sephora takes the review process incredibly seriously and actually consults reviews when deciding what products to reformulate or launch. “We will remove reviews if a person hasn’t purchased the product,” says Hayes, who also confirmed that they don’t remove negative reviews. ” We want to prevent someone else from having a bad experience.”
After scrutinizing thousands of reviews, Hayes and the Sephora Collection team identified a common thread. The customer-loved Retractable Eye Pencil would benefit from an upgrade. It was one of the top-rated, best-selling products, but the feedback suggested a simple addition: a spoolie on one end to comb through brows. Sephora Collection endeavored to make the update but didn’t stop there. Through cross-brand research of all of the most popular brow perfectors at Sephora stores, they identified four other formulas they’d introduce alongside it–challenging premium brands with Sephora Collection prices.
Each product costs $12 and eschews outer packaging in favor of sustainability, in line with Sephora Collection’s eco-friendly initiative. But how does one create a product that people pay upwards of $22 for the cost of a burrito with guac? The answer lies in the approach: saving on marketing costs and utilizing home-field advantage. In layman’s terms, I’m about to let you in on a beauty industry secret. Most quality products, regardless of price, are produced at the same factories with the same ingredients. To pull back the curtain even further, Sephora Collection invited me to tour the Schwan Factory in Heroldsberg, Germany–the birthplace of Big Brow Energy (and many of your other fave makeup pencils).
According to Sephora Collection, Schwan–a cheery yet pristine factory surrounded by rolling hills in rural Germany–owns the pencil market, including cosmetics. Within its well-oiled walls, pencils of all kinds are produced with that signature German precision. “There is no room for creativity,” a factory employee tells me about the process, which yields a million pencils every day.
It’s exhilarating to watch the progression from color matching to assembly. Every fiber of my ASMR-bent brain lit up, as our German tour guides peppered us with surprising facts. Apparently, a surgeon ideated the first makeup pencil when they realized the surgical pencil used for pre-op markings would actually give killer definition to eyebrows. Sexy historical knowledge aside, the tour guides know a thing or two about practical makeup matters as well. “Always close the cap after you use a brow pencil because if you don’t, it will shrink and break and the application is drier. If it’s dry, it’s more like rubber,” they suggest.
When I get my hands on the products to test them out, I actually feel comfortable with every tool, even the ones devised for more emphatic brow ~lewks~. Not one of them is out of the playing field for recovering brow ignoramuses like me. Below, my honest thoughts on each formula.
The OG best-seller is now crowned with a spoolie. The superfine tip allows you to fill in gaps and holes, rendering it ideal for any user.
Perhaps you literally want Big Brow Energy? This tinted formula beefs up skimpy brows and locks hair in place for the long haul.
My favorite of the lot, this pencil comes with a slightly thicker, triangular tip that allows you to shape your entire brow line in no time.
Snag the microbladed look sans needles with this precise pen, which allows you to create little hair-like strokes that add up to Instagram brows.
Maybe all you want to do is groom’ em with a clear formula that won’t feel stiff or sticky. No judgment.
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