The 12 Best Drugstore Eyebrow Pencils of 2023 for Defined, Natural-Looking Brows

Dotdash Meredith and Yahoo Inc. may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below.

From high arches to fluffy brows, you can achieve any look you want without breaking the bank.

<p>InStyle / Kristin Kempa</p>

InStyle / Kristin Kempa

Whether you’re building from scratch or fine-tuning your arches, it takes time to master your brow technique. Crafting sculpted brows, drawing sharp tails, or even just filling in sparse gaps requires a light hand, expert precision — and the help of a high quality, well designed pencil.

An eyebrow pencil is the easiest tool for accomplishing any brow goal with ease and minimal effort. And even better, you don’t need to splurge on a fancy product to become a great brow architect. Eyebrow pencils from trusted drugstore makeup brands rival their pricier friends in both formula and features. Today’s drugstore eyebrow pencils are often dual-sided, with a thin applicator on one end and a spoolie on the other, so you can fill in sparse areas then blend the color through your brows.

Related:The 12 Best Eyebrow Hold Gels of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Best Overall: Maybelline New York Brow Ultra Slim Defining Eyebrow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The slim pencil allows you to create precise hair strokes and the lightweight, long-lasting gel formula glides easily across brows.

What We Don’t Love: It runs out quickly.

Boasting a super skinny tip to allow for ultimate precision and a richly pigmented formula, the Maybelline brow-defining pencil is a worthy competitor against pricier options. The lightweight and creamy pencil texture slides seamlessly through brow hairs without looking clumpy or overdone. It also doesn’t leave behind a waxy residue.

On one side of the dual-ended pencil is a 1.5 mm tip for mimicking quick hair-like strokes and subtly defining arches, and on the other is a soft spoolie that will blend out the shades to create a natural finish.

With seven colorways, including warm and cool tones of shades from blonde to black, we doubt you’ll have any trouble finding a match for your natural hair color without needing to press down too hard in the hope of a more concentrated hue. What’s more, the gel-like texture is smudge-proof, preventing the shades from bleeding outside your browline, even after long hours of wear.

We’re glad it only requires a light hand to create a thick, natural brow shape, because the tip dulls fairly quickly, but that is the nature of a retractable pencil.

Price at time of publish: $8

Shades: 7 | Type: Gel | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Smudgeproof : NYX Professional Makeup Lift N Snatch! Brow Tint Pen

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: You can build up your desired intensity with this fine-tipped, flexible brush.

What We Don’t Love: Learning how to use the liquid formula requires some trial and error.

Although brow trends may seem fleeting, with all eyes on bleached brows one day and full, straight shapes the next, we think that lush, defined brows are always on trend.

Recommended by professional makeup artist Bobbie Riley, the standout feature of NYX’s Brow Tint Pen is the flexible brush with a sharply pointed tip. You can hold it at an angle to fill in patchy spots or turn it flat for when you want thicker lines. This thoughtful design makes it easy to manipulate the brush as you build arches, feather out ends, and fill in gaps to define your brows in mere seconds.

Filled with smooth, saturated tints, these pens are available in 10 shades and feel light as a feather on skin, as opposed to the heavy, thick feeling of some pomades. They’re also smudgeproof and buildable, so you can customize the exact shade depth you want, so once you’ve mastered your application technique, the color will stay right in place for up to 16 hours.

Price at time of publish: $12

 Shades: 10 | Type: Liquid pen | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Waterproof: L'Oreal Paris Brow Stylist Definer Eyebrow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The budge-proof formula keeps your brows in place all all-day, holding up against sweat, water, and humidity.

What We Don’t Love: The tip is fragile and can break when you press down too hard.

When humidity and high temperatures trigger brow sweat, Riley says this waterproof L’Oreal pencil will keep your face framers in check. You’ll be able to expertly draw thin hair strokes with the pencil’s 0.5MM tip with a formula that won’t smudge, leave harsh lines, or form clumps — even after pool parties or steam room sessions. Although the pencil’s texture does have a crayon-like waxy finish, you can easily brush it out with the spoolie side for a look that is totally au naturel.

If you want a strong, sculpted look, you can do that too, since each of the ten shades are super buildable and simple to buff into brows.

The mechanical pencil twists out easily, but we’d suggest only working with a small amount of product at a time, as the tip is a tad fragile and can break easily.

Price at time of publish: $8

Shades: 10 | Type: Gel | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Blondes: Milani Stay Put Precision Brow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: It’s easy to create small brushstrokes and build definition with the pencil’s slim tip and range of soft shades.

What We Don’t Love: The colors aren’t very pigmented.

Ask any one of our editors (or Bethenny Frankel) about Milani’s skin tints, foundations, or lipsticks, and they’ll tell you they’re on par with luxury brands. Brow expert and founder of Michele Holmes Studio and Rye Beauty, Michele Holmes, swears by their brow pencil.

She loves how easy this brow pencil is to use, from start to finish. Simply use the slender pencil tip to draw on hair-like strokes. Since the neutral shades are softer than some of the highly pigmented options on this list, it's easy to blend into brows if you think you’ve overdone it, making it a perfect fit for any novice (or the impatient). Beginners will also love the lack of touch-ups required from this enduring formula that stays locked in place, even without topping off with a brow gel.

The shades aren’t super pigmented, but we like it better that way for beginners anyway.

Price at time of publish: $9

Shades: 6 | Finish: Natural | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Tinted Gel: L'Oréal Paris Unbelieva-Brow Longwear Brow Gel

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: This two-in-one product lets you fill in your brows with the tinted gel, which also works to keep them securely in place without using a sticky formula.

What We Don’t Love: Using the doe-foot brush applicator requires some skill.

For anyone looking to save time or streamline their routine, this option from L’Oreal is an eyebrow pencil and brow gel hybrid. Riley recommends this gel due to its flat applicator and angled brush, which will shape, fill, and fluff in one fell swoop.

Lightly apply one of the five shades using the doe-foot applicator, then comb the color through to fluff it out using a spoolie. To get a more sculpted look, you can use an angled brush to outline your brows first.

The creamy consistency, deep color and thick brush can make the application tricky at first — you only need a teeny amount — but once you get your technique down, the payoff is superb. Once combed out, the gel formula settles nicely into your brows for a runway-ready effect.

Price at time of publish: $15

Shades: 5 | Finish: Gel | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Natural Look: e.l.f. Instant Lift Brow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

Read Full Review:My Defined but Natural-Looking Brows Are Thanks to This $3 Pencil — and 18,000 Other People Love It, Too

What We Love: The rich shades, fine-point pencil, and nourishing ingredients enhance your natural brows.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not smudge-proof.

With just a few flicks of this creamy pencil’s skinny tip, you can shape brows by mimicking the look of actual brow hair. We’re not even upset that it only comes in five shades, because they can be drawn on lightly or with pressure to fit a wide range of brow colors.

The formula’s inclusion of grapeseed oil, an ingredient that can help promote hair growth and vitamin E, may contribute to your natural brows looking fuller over time.

Even though the texture isn't totally smudge-proof, the affordable price allows you to spend a little extra on an accompanying brow gel, we like this pick from Maybelline, to set them in place.

Price at time of publish: $3

Shades: 5 | Finish: Cream | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Gray Hair: Revlon Colorstay Brow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The sharp angled tip makes drawing exact strokes extremely easy.

What We Don’t Love: The color range is more suited for brunettes.

The key behind any snatched brow is mastering those exact, upward strokes, but it can be challenging to not draw too far outside the natural browline, especially with a straight-tipped applicator. However, Holmes says that this option is “great for those who aren’t as skilled at precision pencils.”

This tool will do the hard work for you as the angled tip already mimics the slanted direction you want your brows to take, and it has a sharp end rather than a rounded tip to draw those straight, fine lines that we see on the likes of Emilia Clarke and Margot Robbie.

The color palette is more suited toward darker hair colors, but blondes may have more luck with one of the shades offered by Revlon’s ColorStay Micro Brow Pencil.

Price at time of publish: $9

Shades: 6 | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Shade Range: Joah Beauty Brow Down To Me: Precision Brow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The cream-to-powder formula is simple to apply and blends evenly, and it’s available in 10 shades.

What We Don’t Love: The color is subtle, which means that building a more intense look can take some time.

As a blonde with sparse brows, I can’t tell you the amount of energy I’ve exerted trying to find a shade that wasn’t too faint or too dark — and I know redheads and dark brunettes can sympathize. That is, until Riley told me about Joah — a clean brand inspired by South Korean beauty trends.

Joah divides their color range into cool and warm tones across shades from light to dark, so you can find your perfect match. I gravitate towards the cool taupe color to match my dirty blonde hair.

Its micro tip and cream formula, which settles into a fine powder once it's applied, provides a natural finish for brows; they’ll look just like your own, just a little more fine-tuned.

The pencil has you covered if you just need to fill in a few sparse areas, but since they’re not highly-pigmented, it can take time to build up the colors if you want bolder results.

Price at time of publish: $9

Shades: 10 | Finish: Powder | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Sparse Brows: Honest Beauty Eyebrow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The formula contains jojoba oil for a creamy, buildable, and long-lasting formula.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t include a sharpener.

Although some eyebrow tools now may have all the bells and whistles, we’re partial to an old-fashioned pencil when we want to nail those sharp points and Audrey Hepburn-style straight brows.

Co-founded by Jessica Alba, the Honest Company makes their bestselling brow pencil from recycled paper and nourishing ingredients, like jojoba seed oil. “It’s dermatologist-tested, cruelty-free, and has a creamy formula that makes blending a breeze,” says Holmes.

Its sturdy design and staying power also mean you won’t have to worry about breakage or frequent touchups. Available in five soft shades, each of which is well-suited for a natural finish or a more intense look if you take the time to build them up.

We wish it came with a sharpener, but its clean formula and commitment to creating sustainable products earns our forgiveness.

Price at time of publish: $13

Shades: 5  | Finish: Matte, natural | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Longwear: Maybelline TattooStudio Waterproof Eyebrow Gel

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The gel keeps your look locked in place for up to two days.

What We Don’t Love: You have to wait for the formula to dry.

From the moment you step out the door, your brows are subject to smudges and smears, but this gel is a solid defense against the elements. The brand boasts it lasts up to two days, promising to hold out against hours at the beach or the sweltering summer concerts.

Featuring a spoolie applicator with a sculpted tip, you can shape your brows using the same motion and technique as you do for mascara. Then just buff the color into brows, and you’re done without needing to reach for another product. Plus, it only takes a small dab of one of the eight shades, which come in auburn and brown, as well as light and dark blonde hues, to see your brows increase in thickness.

Although we wouldn’t apply it in a rush (it takes some time for the formula to dry), the wait is worth the reward.

Price at time of publish: $10

Shades: 8 | Finish: Gel | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Thin Brows: NYX Precision Brow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: The wide tip covers a larger surface area so you can fill and shape your brows faster.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not smudge-proof.

We’ve all spent too much time trying to make our eyebrows match, and while we can’t promise this pencil will make them identical, it will create a quicker look. Makeup artist Gabrielle Alvarez tells us the large, thick flat tip makes for a faster and hassle-free process.

As a bonus, no one will mistake these realistic hues for hairs that aren’t really your own, especially once you brush them out with the spoolie.

Add the coordinating eyebrow glue to your cart to steer clear of smudging and you’ve found yourself a near-perfect product.

Price at time of publish: $11

Shades: 8 | Finish: Gel | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Redheads: Arches & Halos Micro Defining Brow Pencil

Buy at

Buy at

What We Love: Your brows will look luscious with this creamy vegan formula that leaves out all the harsh chemicals.

What We Don’t Love: The fine tip means a longer application if you're going for bushy brows.

Filled with good-for-you ingredients, Holmes says that this long-wearing, dual-sided pencil is ideal for mastering those itty, bitty brush strokes to fill in sparse areas. Its blendable formula staves off block brows with a fine tip, while the soft spoolie on the other side expertly brushes out the color into your natural shape.

The pencil feels so lightweight on your brows that you may question how well it works, but trust us, the color payoff is terrific, especially for those with red undertones. The auburn shade is a true red that doesn’t leave behind an orange tint.

We also love that the formula has been tested by both dermatologists and ophthalmologists, who have deemed it safe for sensitive eyes.

Price at time of publish: $13

Shades: 8 | Finish: Gel | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What to Keep in Mind


Holmes often chooses a twist-up applicator style, like the Milani Stay Put Precision Brow Pencil, because it doesn’t require a cap (you just twist it down into the packaging) and travels easily. Plus, since they have varying head sizes — you can choose a micro pencil for hair-like strokes or one with a thicker end for more definition.

However, if you like your brows filled from tip to tail, she recommends a pencil that features a wide tip and an angled lead, such as the Revlon Colorstay Brow Pencil, because you’ll be able to shade a large area in just a few strokes.

Alvarez also prefers a mechanical pencil, telling us that she likes to slice off the end of a rounded tip to get a hard edge better for defining. And while this is preferable for those with less brow hair, she says that “for a naturally full brow, you may prefer a larger brow pencil, as it can be quick just to add a touch more color and fullness to an already defined shape.”


Eyebrow pencils should apply smoothly without clumping or dragging, and formulas with conditioning ingredients, such as jojoba oil and shea butter, can help achieve that easy-glide effect and provide a natural-looking finish. However, formulas that are too moisturizing tend to smudge easily, especially if you have oily lids, in which case a waxier formula may last longer on your skin.


To determine your eyebrow shape, Holmes recommends measuring the front of your brows and working your way to the tail. “To find the start of the brow, balance your pencil vertically on your nose where the dimple on the base of your nose lives and make a small dot near the front of your eyebrow,” she says.

Holmes adds that if you have a skinny or wide nose base, use the width of your eye as your guide to know how far the space should be between the middle of your eyes.

Your Questions, Answered

How do you use an eyebrow pencil?

Start by using a spoolie to brush your brows into your desired shape. From there, simply fill in the areas you want with short, quick strokes. Alternatively, you can shade sections with a light hand, says Holmes. Just be careful not to press down too hard and cause the pencil to flake, resulting in a chunky, thicker look.

A more sculpted style requires finding your arch, which you can do by looking in the mirror, raising your eyebrows up, and marking the highest point of your upper arch line. To help visualize this, think of looking at a rollercoaster from the side. “If the roller coaster is all the way up, mark the point at the top just before it makes the descent to the bottom, i.e., the tail,” says Holmes.

What are some ways to extend the wear of your eyebrow pencil?

Pro tip from Alvarez: Adding eye primer under the pencil or a bit of brow powder on top provides it with a better grip that’ll last longer throughout the day. Riley also recommends topping it off with a brow gel to keep your look locked in place.

When using your pencil, Holmes cautions against pressing down too hard, which can wear the lead down, as well as keeping the sharpener clean to avoid an uneven tip, and to twist mechanical designs down before applying the cap so they won’t break.

“If there is a brush on the back be sure to give it a little shampoo cleanse to keep it fresh and free of dead skin cells,” she adds.

How do you pick the right color for your eyebrows?

It really comes down to personal preference, says Alvarez. Do you want a bold look? Stick with a shade darker than your natural hair color. Looking for something a bit softer? Go one shade lighter than the color you find along your hairline.

Still, what reigns true for most, says Alvarez, is that our eyebrows are typically a cooler tone than our hair color, meaning that “even if your hair is warmer, look for a cooler, taupe tone that will mimic your natural brow hairs,” she says.

Holmes recommends blondes use a cool taupe shade, light brunettes stick with soft browns, and darker hair should look for medium brows. For black hair, she says that “cool deep dark browns tend to look better than black pencils, which can sometimes make your brows look cold and a little harsh.”

Why Shop with Us

Irene Richardson is a writer covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she researched dozens of eyebrow pencils and consulted three sought-after makeup artists, Michele Holmes, Bobbie Riley, and Gabrielle Alvarez.

Related:The 9 Best Lash Growth Serums of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

For more InStyle news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on InStyle.