Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Product Review: Brow Gels

I like my eyebrows.

Back in the 80's it was popular to wear eyebrows really thin.  Like, pencil thin.  Girls would pluck their eyebrows until there was nothing but a skinny line, leaving lots of room for colorful and bright eyeshadows that reached up to the hairline (okay, not that high, but pretty high).  I plucked my eyebrows but never to that extreme.  I was so afraid of messing up my brows and having to draw them in, which also scared me because, what if I accidentally rubbed my eyes and the pencil smeared?!  I was too much of a self-conscious coward to let that happen.  Hence, my brows were always groomed but on the bushy-er side.

Come to find out now, it was a good thing I didn't over-pluck!  Brows tend to thin out as we get older (like the hair on our heads), and women who over-plucked their brows are finding that the hairs don't grow back.  To make matters worse, thicker brows are what's in vogue now, so those pencil thin brows are dated and (ugh!) aging.  My brows are thinner than they were back in the day, but they are definitely not a barely-there line over my eyes.  They have a nice shape, and since they are mostly dark they don't look thin.

I say "mostly dark" because my brows are starting to rebel and turn white.  That is not cool.  At first there was one.  Then two.  When I found three white eyebrows I knew I was gonna have to take action.

Dying my brows is not one of the options I considered.  I've read that, while there are women that dye their eyebrows and even salons that do this type of service, it's actually illegal.  These products are harsh - hence why the packaging on hair dyes says to test on a small patch before actually using the product - and I don't want to put harsh chemicals on my already sensitive face.  My alternative was going to have to be makeup - but what?

I didn't want a brow pomade.  It's not that I'm knocking brow pomades.  They're great for folks that have pencil thin brows, or nonexistent brows.  It just isn't what I need.  I wanted something that would cover my white brows (albeit it temporarily) while also keeping them tame.  Yeah, that's another thing I've found out about getting older.  Eyebrows misbehave.  They become unruly.  I needed a product that would make them stay in their place like good little brows.  Enter the brow gel.

Similar to mascara but for the brows, these gels can be transparent (for women who like the color of their brows) or colored (for those of us who don't).  They can be light for blondes, or dark for brunettes.  They even come in auburn or red, though in my opinion they don't look as natural.  This sounded like something that could work for me, so I was on the hunt.

Like all other makeup, there are drugstore brands of brow gels and there are high end brands (read: cheap vs. expensive).  Before I dished out $18-$25 on a tube of brow gel, I wanted to experiment with them and see how they worked.  I turned to YouTube tutorials for inspiration and a little education.  Anastasia of Beverly Hills was clearly the high end favorite, with her brow wiz, brow pencils, brow pomades and gels.  But her tinted brow gel costs $22.  The second popular option is by Benefit.  The product is called Gimme Brow, and it's marketed as a product that not only tints and sets brows in place, it makes them look thicker, which means less work for those of us who just want to make our brows look slightly fuller without having to draw them in.  The price on this product was a more moderate $18 - still higher than I wanted to pay just to test it out.  Off to Walmart I went to see what I could find.

Side note here: I absolutely HATE shopping for makeup at my local Walmart.  Folks think all the product is there for the testing, and all I ever find are packages that have been opened.  Why must people be so disgusting?  Recently our Walmart did some remodeling and the makeup section is kind of closed off in an attempt to keep people from stealing or opening packages they don't intend to buy.  It helps - if the person at the register is actually there, which isn't always the case.  Still, I had to go to Walmart for groceries anyway, so I checked out the Revlon section.  There I found their Brow Fantasy Pencil and Gel.

    This was the best of both worlds: a brow pencil AND a gel, for $6.99.  I could give it a try and see if I liked it without breaking the bank.  I snatched it up and used it as soon as I got home.

And I liked it!  The pencil is too fat, and needs to be sharpened regularly or else it draws too thick of a line.  The gel worked really well at taming and lightening my brows (I got the light brown gel).  I totally enjoyed it - for the six weeks it lasted.  Yes, the product is nice, but there's not a whole lot of it.  Again, that's the issue I have with a lot of drugstore brands.  They appear to be more economical, but in the end they cost more because they have to be replaced so much more often.

Since the pencil on my Brow Fantasy Pencil and Gel had barely been used, I decided to try a different brow gel, one that would only have the gel.  Maybelline has a Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara that has gotten some attention, so I decided to give it a go.  I usually steer away from Maybelline products because I've had allergic reactions to it in the past, but products get reformulated everyday, so I figured I'd give it a try.

I used it once, and thought I would die.  The fragrance is so strong, and so long lasting, that it gave me a headache.  I could smell it on my face for hours!  And honestly, it didn't make my brows look any better.  I could still see the white hairs because it didn't color them at all.  I knew I would not be able to use this, so I quickly returned it to Walmart.

I was tempted to just order the Gimme Brow from Ulta - suck it up and dish out the $18 instead of putting myself through all this torture!  But I did see another review for a product that was touted as a dupe for the Benefit product, one by L'Oreal called the Brow Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara (quite the mouthful, I know).  I was intrigued because none of the other products had been called a dupe for the Gimme Brow.  I decided I'd give it one more try with the drugstore brand, then I'd order the Gimme Brow.  At least I felt like I'd covered all my bases.

I got the Brow Plumper at Walmart for, I believe, $7.99.  Slightly more expensive than the other drugstore brands, but then L'Oreal usually is.  I also decided to get it in medium to dark, since my other options were light to medium and transparent.  I'm not a blonde, so I didn't want to go too light.  This product is a dream!  There is no fragrance, which is great for me.  It tints my brows but not harshly, so it doesn't look like my brows are jet black.  It goes on slightly wet but dries quickly, and those brows are set in place like cement!  They are not budging!  Yet it comes off easily with cleansing wipes or my facial cleanser.  I've been using it for about a month now and I'm loving how natural yet fuller my brows look.  I can use this on its own for a quick makeup look, or, if I want something more dramatic, I can use my Revlon pencil to shape and color in my brows, then use the Brow Plumper to finish off the look.

This past weekend my daughter and I took a little trip to Ulta to get some makeup for her (more on that in another post).  I decided to take a look at the Benefit Gimme Brow to see the wand and product, so I could compare it to the L'Oreal brow gel.  As soon as I opened the tube, I was glad I hadn't ordered it.  It has fragrance!  It wasn't even a pleasant fragrance as far as I was concerned.  I had my daughter smell it, and she immediately made a face.  Proof once more that what's popular isn't what's best, at least not for everyone.

So, the winner in the brow gel contest for me is, by far, L'Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara with its no fragrance, full coverage formula.  I'm so glad I did my homework because this one is going to be my go-to brow product from now on!  Do you have a favorite?  Let me know what you like/dislike in the brow product category!

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