Through the years, brow shapes have changed with the trends but one burning question remains the same: What eyebrow product shade to use? Choosing an eyebrow color can be a tricky decision. If you choose a color that is too light or dark—the desired finish of a natural brow will look drastically different from what you intended. The oversaturation of brow products to achieve the perfect brows, whether thick or thin, can seem intimidating. Thankfully, with the variety available, there is a well-suited shade for everyone.
Seeing as brows are about as diverse as hair color and skin tone, we desperately wanted an expert opinion on what shades are suitable for creating natural-looking fullness and shape. We turned to Jessica Payne, makeup artist and former director of Blushington, for the key tips on how to make sure we’re getting it right.
Here’s our expert-approved guide on how to find the right eyebrow color.
Pro Tip: Always Go Lighter
There is one thing that Payne is adamant about for all hair shades: lighter is always better. “No matter what, always go a shade lighter,” she explains. “Even with brunettes, I will sometimes use a blonde hue.” Why is this so important? “If you try to match your brow color exactly to your hair color, you run the risk of it looking unnatural, which is exactly the opposite of the desired effect,” says Payne.
Brow Shades for Dark Black Hair
“For dark-black hair, I’ll even use a dark brunette pencil instead of black. For deeper skin tones, you can use a black eyebrow pencil lightly over a brunette shadow to make it look more prominent but not overdone,” explains Payne. Experimenting with deep brown and black pencils is key to finding what shade looks best for you.
Try IT Cosmetics’ universal pencil—it comes in one color and is universally flattering for all brow shades, making it an ideal choice. A unique oval-shaped tip allows for maximum control in creating natural shape and style. If you go on too dark, your brows won’t look realistic. Add the color gradually if you like a darker brow.
Brow Shades for Medium Brown Hair
“For brunettes, stick with softer browns—nothing too harsh,” Payne specifies. Stay within a pencil color range that is one or two shades from your brunette locks. Choose a pencil that is the color of your highlight if your hair has a hint of red, and choose a pencil that is the color of your base if your hair is a cool, ash brown.
For a softer brunette hue, we recommend Anastasia’s best-selling brow pencil in Soft Brown. This pencil has an ultra-fine tip that allows you to draw in hairs to combat sparseness and to build a fuller, more defined brow.
Swatch the back of your hand to check the undertone of the pencil. Brown eyebrow pencils can appear red or gray upon application.
Brow Shades for Blonde Hair
“For blondes, I usually need to mix in something with a warm undertone so the color doesn’t look gray,” says Payne. If your blonde hair has a cool undertone, taupe is an ideal shade when choosing a pencil.
For cooler-toned blondes we like the NYX Fill n’ Fluff Eyebrow Pencil Pomade, which is a great universally-flattering option.
If your blonde hair has a warm undertone, however, then you may want a warmer shade like this one from Bobbi Brown. This brow pencil promises to last for 16 hours, and the precise tip allows you to create shape and fullness easily. When you’ve finished applying, brush through eyebrows with the spoolie on the end of the pencil to ensure brow hairs are all going in the same direction.
Brow Shades for Redheads
“If you have any red in your hair, add some red warm tones as well. My secret tip is to use a gold mascara to set the brow products because it looks more natural and hair-like,” says Payne. Top Benefit’s brow pencil in “Warm Auburn” with a gold-hued mascara.
This auburn shade is perfect for redheads because it adds definition with just the right amount of pigment along with a slim tip that makes it easy to apply. Added bonus? It comes in several red shades to fit any kind of red hair tone you might have. Try Lancôme’s Monsieur Big Color Lash Topcoat ($12) in “01 Gold.”
A gold-pigmented mascara gives a pop of color to both eyes and brows. The subtle hint of metallic blends seamlessly into the brow to help it look naturally more full.
Brow Shades for Gray Hair
Gray hair is beautiful but often underrepresented in the brow products category. For gray hair, most dark taupe brow pencils will make eyebrows look natural. However, the aforementioned Precisely, My Brow pencil from Benefit is available in gray if you want that option instead.