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Eyebrow Pencils vs. Pens: A Breakdown Of These Brow Staples


06 Apr 2023

Close your eyes and take a moment to picture your dream eyebrows. Maybe they’re full, fluffy, and feathered; or perhaps, they’re thin and angular. If your ideal arches aren’t the ones you were born with, eyebrow makeup can help you create your desired shape. You can make your arches look fuller with the help of an eyebrow pencil or fill in sparse spots with a tinted brow pen. What’s key is reaching for the right product (at the right time). Whether you should use a pencil or pen largely comes down to your desired look.

If you’re not sure which type of brow product better suits your needs, don’t worry—we’re here to help. Ahead, we’ll break down the differences between eyebrow pencils and pens and explain the benefits of both. You’ll also learn how to do your eyebrows with these two makeup bag staples. Find out how to achieve those dream arches, ahead.

What Are Eyebrow Pencils Used For?

Eyebrow pencils come in a variety of forms, but usually, they’re sharpenable or retractable pencils with a waxy, crayon-like formula (much like pencil eyeliner). They’re typically used to fill in and darken sparse eyebrows.

At NYX Professional Makeup, we have a handful of different brow pencils to choose from, including the classic Micro Brow Pencil. This eyebrow pencil boasts an ultra-thin, retractable tip ideal for drawing precise lines and details. It comes in 12 versatile shades that are creamy and pigmented and has an attached miniature spoolie brush that can be used to help tame, shape, and brush brows into place.

Alternatively, check out the Fill & Fluff Eyebrow Pomade Pencil. It has a waxy, pigmented formula—almost like a crayon—but the thin, teardrop-shaped tip makes drawing details easy. You can create fine lines to fill in sparse areas with hair-like strokes or blend out your color using the attached micro spoolie brush for a softer effect.

What Are Brow Pens Used For?

Eyebrow pens look a bit like skinny markers and generally have a flexible felt tip, akin to liquid eyeliner pens. They’re well-suited for drawing individual hair-like strokes and can be used to add natural-looking definition to sparse or asymmetrical eyebrows.

If you’re interested in trying a brow pen, take our Lift & Snatch Brow Tint Pen for a whirl. Available in 10 shades, this micro-tipped pen gives you the control needed to create thin or thick lines and define your arches. Plus, it delivers up to 16 hours of smudge and transfer-resistant wear.

What’s The Difference Between Eyebrow Pencils and Pens?

The most obvious difference between eyebrow pencils and pens is texture: Pencils are solid and waxier, while pens have a lighter, more fluid formula. These characteristics mean that pencils are well-suited for blending and blurring, while pens are best for drawing defined lines that won’t be blended out. The brow style you’re after will play a significant role in determining whether an eyebrow pencil or pen is best for you.

When To Use an Eyebrow Pencil

We suggest using an eyebrow pencil:

  • When you want to darken light brows
  • To create more dimension
  • If you’re doing an ombré or blended eyebrow look
  • When you want to accentuate your natural eyebrow shape

When To Use an Eyebrow Pen

We recommend using a brow pen:

  • To help make sparse brows look thicker
  • When creating natural-looking eyebrows from scratch
  • When adding subtle definition
  • To draw individual hair-like strokes
  • To create lifted brow looks

When To Use an Eyebrow Pencil

If you’re looking to learn how to fill in your eyebrows with a pencil, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Pick a shade slightly lighter than your natural brow color
  • Avoid filling in the very front of your eyebrows
  • Draw lines in the direction of hair growth
  • Use light pressure
  • Blend for a softer, subtler finish
  • For long-lasting hold, set with a brow gel

How To Use a Brow Pen

Using a brow pen is equally easy. Here’s what to do:

  • Use a color that matches or is slightly lighter than your natural brow color
  • If creating eyebrows from scratch, use two shades for dimension—this helps create a more natural brow look
  • Draw short, thin strokes where hair is sparse
  • Draw in the direction of hair growth for a natural effect, or upward for a lifted brow look
  • Don’t blend

Next: Brow pencils and pens can be used to color in eyebrows, but for hold, you’ll usually want a brow gel or mascara. Learn how to do eyebrow makeup with these staples in our article How To Use Tinted Brow Mascara: Top Tips, Revealed.


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