Eyebrows have never been bigger. Both literally, as we’re all now embracing thicker, fuller face-framers, but also when it comes to the huge choice of products and salon treatments.
The latest to go mainstream is microblading – a form of semi-permanent brow tattooing, where tiny needles scratch the skin’s surface and deposit pigment creating the illusion of fuller brows. These can last anywhere between one and three years depending on your skin type.
But while its biggest attraction is the amount of time and energy it can save you on brow tinting, shaping and products, the big drawback is the treatment’s price – which often starts at around £300. That’s where the latest DIY solution comes in.
“Microfilling pens are similar to felt pens, with finer or multi-pronged nibs,” explains Laurretta Power, head of artistry at Benefit. “The formula is more liquid with an opaque matte finish; all of these factors add to the illusion of microbladed brows.”
These will benefit anyone looking to fill in gaps or sparse areas, add shape, colour or dimension. And they’re also a good option for those that have already had their eyebrows microbladed and are looking for something to use in-between treatments as they fade.
How we tested
There’s a fine line between using the right pen to create full, youthful brows that will rival Lily Collins’s and using the wrong pen and ending up with the fake, drawn-on brows we all dread. To make sure the latter doesn’t happen we tested our way through the latest, so you don’t have to.
We rated them on how easy and fuss-free they are to use, how well they mirrored the microblading technique and how realistic the strokes and pigment looked – this was made an even harder task as our tester has blonde eyebrows that are difficult to mimic.
The best eyebrow pens for 2021 are:
Best overall – Benefit brow microfilling pen: £22.50, Boots.com
Best shade range – Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pen: £23, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for filling gaps – Glossier brow flick: £15, Glossier.com
Best for ease of use – Guerlain mad eyes brow framer: £29.57, Feelunique.com
Best pen and pencil in one – Urban Decay brow blade: £18, Boots.com
Best for unruly brows – Kevyn Aucoin true feather brow marker gel duo: £22, Spacenk.com
Best for versatility – Milk Makeup kush triple brow pen: £23, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for dark brows – Ciate London microblade effect brow pen: £9.50, Qvcuk.com
Best value for money – Lottie London arch rival: £6.95, Feelunique.com
Best for day to night – NYX lift and snatch brow tint pen: £8, Lookfantastic.com
Benefit brow microfilling pen
If there’s a beauty brand we trust with our eyebrows it’s Benefit. Therefore, it’s only natural that they would have a fool-proof microblading pen in their vast brow collection that can give the illusion of the most lust-worthy arches – even if you plucked them to extinction in the Nineties or Noughties.
It couldn’t be easier to use, as the fine, three-pronged tip draws on hair-like strokes that blend in naturally with existing hairs, fills in gaps and elongates the tail if there are no hairs there in the first place. There are only four shades to choose from, but they are versatile enough to cover most hair colours. Expect it to stay budge-proof, smudge-proof and even waterproof (we tested it) until you use an oil cleanser for removal.
Buy now £22.50, Boots.com
Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pen
Best: Shade range
Here’s another impressive brow-enhancer to add to the brand’s line-up of stellar arch-perfecters. With a generous nine shade range, there’s a natural-looking colour to suit all from blonde to granite, and everything in-between. This super-fine tipped pen draws natural-looking hair-like strokes, so you can fill in gaps with precision, as well as create fuller-looking arches with ease. It’ll stay in place until you’re ready to take it off and we found it even withstands heat, sweat and water.
Buy now £23.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Glossier brow flick
Best: For filling gaps
Thinking this would sit more on the natural side of the beauty fence, like with most Glossier products, we actually found this highly pigmented, and brilliant for filling in gaps in brows before going over with a fibre gel. Use the single brush-tip in a downward angle to brush on fine and sheer hair-like detail, creating volume, as well extending the tail for a longer frame. We tested the blonde shade which is on the darker side with a copper mix to it, perfect for redheads too.
Buy now £15.00, Glossier.com
Guerlain mad eyes brow framer
Best: For ease of use
For those that can’t get to grips with the steady hand, skill or patience it sometimes takes to perfect brow make-up, you’ll love how easy this is to use. Simply twist at one end and the fibre brow gel comes onto the multi-nibbed rubber brush applicator on the other. A quick, light sweep is all it takes for the most even and filled out, natural-looking face-framers.
We found the trick is to use a minimal amount, wipe off excess on your hand before use and you can’t go wrong – you can always apply more as it’s easy to build on the volume.
Buy now £29.57, Feelunique.com
Urban Decay brow blade
Best: Pen and pencil in one
This two-in-one is ideal for creating fuller, thicker and bolder brows that still look natural. With a pencil on one end, create shape, shade and fill in gaps with the soft and creamy waterproof formula that’s budge-proof until you choose to remove it. Flip it over and you’ll find a super-fine ink stain pen that creates micro-strokes, faking hair-like detailing that builds dimension.
You’ll find you can’t go wrong using short strokes and a light touch. And there’s an impressive nine shades to choose from to match every skin tone and brow colour.
Buy now £18.00, Boots.com
Kevyn Aucoin true feather brow marker gel duo
Best: For unruly brows
This dual-ended option has a fine precision brush that makes light work of filling out arches with brow-like strokes for seamless oomph that blends with your natural brow hairs. Once you’re happy with the volume, simply turn the pen over and use the clear setting gel to keep hairs and pigment in place all day without any stiffness. There are 4 shades to pick from that blend well across all hair colours. Expect brows still to look soft and convincingly realistic until you’re ready to remove.
Buy now £22.00, Spacenk.com
Milk Makeup kush triple brow pen
Best: For versatility
Once you get used to the angled, triple-tipped felt applicator, you can both define the shape of your brow with the edge or create feathery strokes that build volume from front to tail-end. The key with this one is to use a very light hand if you don’t want an intense colour pay off, and short flick of the wrists to create the faux brow-hairs. It’s another great option for colour, with eight shades across the brow-colour spectrum to choose from.
Buy now £23.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Ciate London microblade effect brow pen
Best: For dark brows
Boasting a four-pronged tip, you’ll be mistaken (like we were) if you think this is tricky to use. The bigger tip makes fast work of filling in larger brows. Use just a touch of light pressure and a few quick swipes and you’ll create the look of hair texture for that microbladed effect.
The only disappointment is that there isn’t a blonde option in the line-up. The soft brown is the lightest out of three shades and is only suitable for darker blondes unless you like a contrast brow, but darker brows will love it.
Buy now £9.50, Qvcuk.com
Lottie London arch rival
Best: Value for money
If we had blind-tested this brow pen, we wouldn’t have guessed you could get change from a £10 note. It performs just as well as its pricier counterparts in both creating a natural-looking fuller brow and longevity. The four-pronged tip makes light work of drawing on fine, feathery detailed strokes that mirror the appearance of natural brow hairs. There are five shades to choose from and we can report the blonde shade will be realistic on even the most fair-haired.
Buy now £6.95, Feelunique.com
NYX lift and snatch brow tint pen
Best: For day to night
From subtle blend-in arches to more dramatic sleek and sharp face-framers, this pen’s sheer, tinted and buildable formula works for natural day wear or full-on make-up alike. Create micro hairs with the sharp point and light pressure or thicker faux-looking hairs at an angle and with a heavier hand. Once it’s dry, it’s going nowhere. We found it melt proof even on a warm day. And we applaud the selection of varied shades it comes in – there’s even a beautiful auburn.
Buy now £8.00, Lookfantastic.com
Eyebrow pens FAQs
How to use eyebrow pens?
Simple to use, always apply onto clean, dry and foundation-free skin for best results. Use short, hair-stroke flicks to get the effect, and “use a gentle touch, the more pressure the thicker the hair strokes will look,” advises Laurretta. And always, as we’ve learned, store tip side down ready for the next use to stop them drying out.
The verdict: Eyebrow pens
While it’s tough to pick a winner in this line-up, our best buy is the Benefit brow microfilling pen for its ability to create natural-looking hair-like strokes similar to brows that have had the semi-permanent treatment. If you prefer a single pointed tip with more precision, the Urban Decay brow blade should be your go-to.
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If you’re looking to make a statement with your eyes, read our review of best waterproof mascaras that won’t smudge, crumble or smear