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Eyebrows were breakout stars of 2021, and their influence is continuing well into 2022. "Eyebrows have the power to completely change the look and shape of your face," says makeup artist Katrina Klein, who notes their impact on everything from eye placement to overall youthfulness. Once dubbed by Klein to be the "second most" important focus of her makeup looks after achieving a fresh complexion, their full and fluffy prominence has become such a focus in beauty that many now regret their pasts of over-plucking.
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Brow expert Kristie Streicher says, "People are embracing their natural shape and fullness in a way like never before." She notes that lockdown gave people the perfect opportunity to leave their brows untouched and to emphasize regrowth. "You're seeing it a lot more on the screen, as well; a bunch of untouched brows, and it looks great." There are even new methods and techniques for application, with an emphasis on fullness, fluffy volume, and height.
Hence our search for the best brow gels with the perfect amount of tint, hold, ease of application, and gentle removal. We certainly have our options—tinted vs. clear; creamy vs. microfiber-infused; different brush tapers and circumferences; and a bevy of added ingredients for benefits. We spent several weeks applying different brow gels to assess how well they styled our eyebrows, stayed in place, maintained their texture, and wiped clean.
Here are the best brow gels we tested.
Best Overall: Glossier Boy Brow
Separates and combs each strand during application
Stays put with impressive hold
Leaves behind no residue
Infused with oleic acid, lecithin, and soluble collagen
Could deliver a better effect of fullness
Who else recommends it? Harper's Bazaar, Allure, and Vogue also selected Glossier Boy Brow.
What do Buyers Say? 4,600+ Glossier reviewers rated it four stars or above.
The clear, creamy brow gel became our tester's new go-to—that's how much this pomade for brows stood out. The cruelty-free product applies seamlessly to the brow, neatly combing each strand into the desired style, including the on-trend "upswept" position. While leaving behind no residue, the formula manages to hold its shape impressively well without leaving the brow strands feeling crunchy or stiff. It also features added brow-enhancing ingredients, such as oleic acid, lecithin, and soluble collagen to make brow care part of the experience.
This is a product that can be worn all day with a single application courtesy of a short, non-tapered spoolie. Should you choose to touch them up, the product will not leave residue behind. Yet to apply, it only requires a single swipe—in other words, there is no "back brushing" required. This makes it foolproof to use and great for beginners.
When it comes to removal, the product comes off easily whether you use a cleansing balm, cleansing oil, or micellar water on a cotton pad. As far as beauty hype goes, this is one product that measures up.
Formula and Type: Creamy pomade-like | Color Range: Black, brown, auburn, blond, clear | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Budget: CoverGirl Easy Breezy Brow Setting Gel
No flaking or smudging
Stiff, precise brush
If you are seeking a clear formula that will help you style your brows, this is a fantastic drugstore pick. They call it a "setting formula" in that it will help your brows stay in the shape they are styled into; however, the stiff, precise spoolie that it comes with is excellent for fluffing the brows. The tester did so using a technique called "back brushing," in which you first apply the formula onto the brows in the opposite direction of hair growth to coat each strand thoroughly. Even with a heavier application, the formula did not leave residue or smudge, making it ideal for reapplying, should you choose to do so in the afternoon.
The brand infuses the formula with argan oil and biotin for added benefits to the hair, and it is cruelty-free.
Formula and Type: Matte gel | Color Range: Clear, light, medium, dark | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Budget, Runner-Up: e.l.f. Cosmetics Wow Brow Gel
Delicate microfibers are still easy to apply
No untinted version
If you like microfiber formulas to help add volume to your brows, this is easily the best drugstore option. The one difficulty with microfiber formulas tends to be that they can be messy upon application unless you use a very precise brush; e.l.f. understood the assignment. The brush makes application a breeze without making a mess around the edges of your browline, and without leaving any residue behind. It also gives you the added boost of color that many of us crave. However, because it's not a gel, it won't provide you with the same amount of hold that you will get from a straight-up gel or pomade.
Formula and Type: Microfiber cream | Color Range: Deep brown, brunette, neutral brown, taupe | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best With Brow Growth Benefits: Wander Beauty Frame Your Face Precise Brow Gel
Tapered, cone-like precision brush
Hinoki essential oil to support hair growth
Two of the shades virtually similar
This formula became a favorite early on for its impeccable hold and its precise, cone-shaped, tapered brush. The efficiency of the formula allowed the tester to achieve the desired style and hold without leaving behind any clumps, residue, or smudging. With a quality that is somehow similar to hairspray for the brows, you will feel the slightest bit of texture upon heavier application.
The brush is another phenomenon unto itself, allowing for the seamless coating of each strand in very few swipes. (While less important when using a clear formula, tinted gels become more difficult to manipulate when you have to apply more.) As a final perk, the cruelty-free formula incorporates Hinoki essential oil, which is said to support hair growth—something that almost everyone is seeking these days.
Formula and Type: Gel | Color Range: Clear, blonde, taupe, dark brown | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Tinted: Thrive Causmetics Instant Brow Fix Semi-Permanent Eyebrow Gel
Infused with vitamin B5 to promote growth
The cool thing about this brow gel is that it literally deposits pigment onto the brow using Semi-Permanent Micropigment Technology, which relays smudgeproof, waterproof tint that lasts all day—and colors your brows over time. This helps the brow to look fuller by catching all the peach fuzz and baby hairs that might otherwise go unnoticed.
It does so via a precise, tapered brush with an adjustable angle that helps when styling the brow's tail. The company incorporates vitamin B5 (also known as pantothenic acid) into the formula to give thinning brows some added oomph, and it notes that the product can even be used to cover gray roots in your hair between visits to the salon.
Formula and Type: Gel | Color Range: Christina (light-dark blonde), Audrey (dark blonde-medium brunette), Serena (dark brunette-black) | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Hold: Benefit Cosmetics 24-HR Brow Setter Brow Gel with Lamination Effect
Applies over other products well
Hard to remove
For results that look like brow lamination, this clear setting gel is the way to go, whether worn alone or over drawn-in enhancements with a pencil or felt-tip pen. The tester applied this product on one brow with another product on the other for comparison. This gel maintained the brushed-up appearance long after the other side fell, and it was easier to apply due to its clear color. The only caveat is to ensure that the silicone bristles do not impart extra product, as that can cause the hairs to clump when drying (although still maintaining the general shape you style them into).
Formula and Type: Gel | Color Range: Clear | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Volume: Kosas Air Brow Tinted Clean Volumizing Eyebrow Gel
Great shade range
Biodegradable microfibers for volume
Leaves residue if too much is applied
This is a top pick for fluffy brows with airy volume via a custom triangular spoolie. The clean formula achieves the effect by using biodegradable microfiber that takes the earth into consideration. It also comes in 10 different shades (including gray!) that make it inclusive for brows of all tones. As an added perk, it's formulated with brow care in mind, adding castor oil, panthenol pro-vitamin B5, and biotinoyl tripeptide-1 to enhance the pigmented cosmetic with care for the individual brow strands.
Formula and Type: Microfiber mousse | Color Range: Taupe, honey blonde, soft brown, medium chocolate brown, auburn, medium brown, dark brown, brown-black, black, gray | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Our top pick for the best eyebrow gel was Glossier Boy Brow for its ease of styling sans residue. Another favorite was Wander Beauty Frame Your Face Precise Brow Gel, which offers a precise brush, impressive hold, and added brow growth benefits via Hinoki essential oil. If you prefer tinted brow gels, Thrive Causemetics Instant Brow Fix Semi-Permanent Eyebrow Gel applies beautifully and helps to darken the brow hairs over time. As far as setting gels, Benefit Cosmetics 24-HR Brow Setter offers impressive hold and can be worn alone or styled over your filled-in brows.
How We Tested
Over several weeks, beauty editor Jessica Ourisman (who has written for several outlets on the topic of eyebrows) tried on the eyebrow gels featured in this article. She paid special attention to those that were best suited for the on-trend "fluffy" brow aesthetic. Some of them stood out as clear winners, which required a closer look—for instance, comparing two by applying one on each eyebrow to see which outperformed the other. Others looked beautiful upon application, but lost their lifted effect quickly, which was noted. For extra long-lasting and waterproof formulas, Jessica underwent mild workouts to determine how they held up. As for removal, she double-cleansed with a balm or oil, and/or used Orveda Eye Make-Up Remover and Pro-Fortifying Lash Serum for any residual product and made sure to note whether a product caused any brow hair loss.
Other Options We Tested
Uoma Beauty Brow-Fro Blow Out Volumizing Gel Pomade
This is a fantastic brow gel for volume, but the only problem with this tinted gel was that it clumped upon application.
L'Oréal Unbelieva-Brow Longwear Topcoat
This product offers the best hold of all the drugstore eyebrow gels. However, removal was the issue—it pulled out an eyebrow hair—which is a fatal error among brow gels.
Huda Beauty #BombBrows Full 'N Fluffy Volumizing Fiber Gel
This microfiber gel goes on beautifully, leaving a feathered aesthetic in its wake. However, the applicator itself is so thin that it makes application difficult, and the formula itself did not even hold for the duration of the entire makeup application.
Meet the Expert
What to Look For in a Brow Gel
Clear vs. Tinted
Clear brow gels can be used simply to shape the brow or applied over a brow that has been filled in with a pencil or felt-tip marker. Our tester notes that finding a gel that hardens into place without flaking is especially important. Thus, texture, hold, and residue remain the priorities. "For clear, I like a great hold but it can't be too stiff, sticky, or flaky," says Streicher.
If, on the other hand, you would like a one-and-done gel, seek out a tinted iteration. "For those looking to add a bit more color to their brows, I always keep Glossier Boy Brow in my makeup bag," says Shaughnessy Otsuji, cosmetic tattoo artist.
"When it comes to styling brows, I am all about that brushed-up runway brow," says Otsuji. "I typically look for a clear, strong brow gel that lasts all day, like Benefit's 24-HR Brow Setter." The important thing is to find a formula that evenly coats the brow without clumping, and that does not dry into a texture you dislike.
Otsuji also adds a word of warning when it comes to long-hold formulas. "A lot of strong-hold products can harden, crack, and flake throughout the day as our faces move," she says. "I have found the best workaround for this is to simply use a very small amount of brow gel to keep some flexibility to the product." Noting that a thin layer of product dries more evenly across the brows, she recommends that you blot away the excess to avoid too much flaking.
Gel vs. Microfiber
If you are in search of volume or feathery edges, formulas that are infused with microfibers will help you achieve that look. "For tinted brow gels, I like mine with microfibers for added fluff," Streicher says. "These are especially great to use on thin, fine, and light brows. All those tiny microfibers give major volume once they're dispersed up and around all sides of the brow hair." She recommends Kosas Air Brow Tinted Volumizing Gel (above) for this.
For added volume, Streicher recommends back brushing or backcombing. "Starting at the tail of your brow, and working toward the front, use one hand to hold the brow skin taut, and the other to make short feather strokes," she says. "Push up and into the hair against the growth pattern." She notes that this is the "flip-over-and-shake-it-out" move for your hair, just for your brows.
The ideal brow product removes gently, without necessitating any excessive rubbing or tugging against the gentle follicles. "I am a big fan of double cleansing," Otsuji notes. "Using an oil or makeup-removing cleanser first will help gently break down any makeup and stronghold brow gels without too much rubbing or irritation." She adds that it's also a good idea to keep your brows moisturized and nourished overnight following your cleansing regimen.
What Is Byrdie Verified?
Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.
Why Trust Byrdie
Jessica Ourisman has been a beauty editor since 2016, also covering the fashion, wellness, and lifestyle verticals. She has a passion for covering topics related to the "mind-body-beauty" connection. After receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego, she went on to receive a master's at Columbia University. She has lived and worked in New York and Paris and now resides in Los Angeles.
13 Best Eyebrow Gels for a Natural, Fluffed-Up Look. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-eyebrow-gel
The 15 Best Eyebrow Gels For Expert-Level Shaping. Harper's Bazaar. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/makeup/g39505021/best-eyebrow-gel/
Want Effortlessly Full Arches? Swap Your Brow Pencil for a Gel. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/the-best-eyebrow-gels