Friday, September 14, 2012

The Challenge of Having Cool-toned Brows

I discussed the importance of eyebrow grooming in an earlier article, but this post addresses brow color.  If, like me, you are completely cool-toned, where any hint of warm color on your face makes you look dirty or ill, you already know how hard it can be to find an appropriate brow color.

In my late teens into my 20s, brow products seemed of little importance to the face I presented to the world. My ashy brows were full and well shaped; maintenance required tweezing and occasionally smoothing down unruly hairs with a brow comb or clear mascara to keep everything tidy. In my late 20s, I began neatening the lower edges with Clinique Brow Shaper and a stiff brush. But in the last few years, my eyebrows suddenly demanded attention when I noticed hair thinning, especially toward the outer edges (the tail) and in the middle of the thickest part toward the bridge of the nose. The brow hair had also become noticeably softer and wispier, and new growth was lighter—not white or grey (yet), but not the normal ash-colored hairs I'd seen in the mirror for decades.

Turning back to Clinique, I quickly discovered that filling in the bare patches was essential for creating a frame for the face, and that when my brows were full, I could wear less makeup overall. However, if you are cool toned (not cool neutral), be prepared to slog through multiple products telling lies about what color they are. Hopefully I can help you slog a little less.

Beauty pundits claim that if you are dark haired, you should choose a brow color 1-2 shades lighter than your hair color, and if you are light haired or grey (or white) you should choose a brow color 1-2 shades darker. I say throw out the rules and try on the product. Only you will know what looks most natural on you.

For my face and level of natural contrast, my brow color must be a little darker than my dark ash blonde hair. My brows have always been darker than my hair, and—unlike the hair on my  head, which takes on gold and red highlights from the sun—my brows are 100% ash and cool without a trace of highlight color (warmth). And therein lies the challenge.

Clinique's Brow Shaper in Shaping Charcoaled served me well for almost 20 years. Don't think of a charcoal briquet you'd toss in the grill, which is almost blue black. Clinque's product is a mid-toned grey color with a whisper of brown. Though it's a powder, it's waxier than eyeshadow. Perfect for those of us with ashy brows, even fair-skinned blondes because you can comb out any excess to bring the saturation down. Overall, it is an outstanding product, and although there are only four colors from which to choose, I would guess that 90% of us could find a decent match from one of the offerings. My alabaster-skinned, True Autumn mother, for example, wears Wheat.
Unfortunately, Charcoaled has recently started to appear too dark, as my brows have begun to fade and thin. I have also noticed a difference in how my brows appear as the dark ash blonde hair on my head has begun to turn grey. I am about 5% grey with the lighter hairs concentrated in one cool-ashy stripe near my part.

Because this change in my base hair color cooled the skin further, as well as reduced the contrast, I embarked on the hunt for a lighter replacement in the same hue, never imagining it would be so difficult. And yet I have spent three baffling years looking for an appropriate brow color, failing time after time after time. All the while, I have been fuming inside, wondering why on earth it should be so hard.

The problem is that designers and manufacturers don't seem to understand that ASH is a COOL GREY color, whether it's wood ash, paper ash, or charcoal ash. All you need do is look at the tip of a burning cigarette, or shovel out the refuse from a wood fire, and you can see that those lightweight, flyaway particles are grey and cool, not warm or golden brown or reddish brown.


Does that look warm and brown to you?  (source)

Yet almost every single color I purchased with the word "ash" in its name or description contained visible yellow in it. Sometimes red. Even reviews on Makeup Alley confused me. Did I have special eyes, where only I could see the warmth? I doubt it.

So doubled my efforts, hoping to find the perfect brow color to replace the utilitarian Clinique Brow Shaper, knowing it had to be out there.

I liked Laura Mercier Brow Definer in Warm (Warm Brunette), which is strangely named because Warm is actually a mostly cool mid-toned charcoal brown. Unfortunately, Warm presented the same issue as Charcoaled, being a bit too dark. Ultimately, the color just wasn't cool enough.





I next tried the two other colors in Mercier's Brow Definer formula, Soft and Fair:
  • Soft (Deep Blonde/Light Brunette) was a lighter, neutral-leaning brown that was too warm for me with its red undertones. It turned my ashy brows auburn, but it might be a good option for cool-neutral skin tones.

  • Fair (Light Blonde) was downright warm. Whoever has been calling this color "ash" and "cool" in reviews must be looking at it in a parallel universe, not on mine. Or their skin is very warm toned. Light is a light-brown warm color with visible yellow undertones, which I could see the moment I unscrewed the lid.

And why do brands automatically think that if you are blonde, you are a golden blonde? Because it's been the Hollywood standard for decades (even though there were plenty of platinum blondes in Hollywood's golden era). Aren't there a ton of ash blondes/light ash brunettes walking around in the world or are we such a minority we don't matter?

Other brands and colors I tried and rejected in the last couple years (just so you don't have to):
  • Clinique Brow Shaper in Taupe and Wheat, both too warm. I should have known better with Wheat, but Taupe seemed promising. It was a failure. Taupe is a warm taupe that is mostly brown.

  • Clinique Superfine Liner for Brows in Soft Blonde — too warm/yellow. Even now I can see yellow in the product swatch, so I have no idea why I even bought it. Desperation.


  • MAC Impeccable Brow Pencil, Dirty Blonde. One would think this would be an ashy color, since "dirty blonde" is often synonymous with "mouse brown," which by its definition is grey brown. And when I first pulled the cap off, I danced with joy because it looked perfect. Alas, it was not to be, as it was too warm. It looks as though MAC discontinued the color anyway.


  • Chantecaille Brow Definer in Ash Blonde. This pencil looked extremely promising, but the online color swatches shown below were completely misleading. In fact, if this pencil doesn't put out a golden blonde stripe, I will eat it. Or I would if I still had it, but I sent it back immediately and without  a shred of guilt due to its false advertising.


  • Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel in Granite. Satisfactory in hue, Granite was too dark. Moreover, gel products deposit color on the hairs, like mascara—they do virtually nothing to fill in bare patches, unless you want to poke wet color onto the skin and brush it out with the wand.


  • Becca Brow Powder, Fair. The online color looked very promising, doesn't it? Alas, it was not correct. The second I lifted the lid I could tell it would be wrong, and it was, indeed, too warm and golden brown against my skin. (UPDATE: Becca Brow Powder in Ash is excellent. It looks like a dark charcoal in the pan, but like many Becca products, it applies sheer and I can brush it out. It's still a little dark, but I actually prefer it to Clinique Charcoaled.)



  • Three Custom Colors Brow Powder, #2. The product writeup says "ideal for ash blondes or those with light ash brown, gray or salt and pepper hair." OK, maybe if you want orange/yellow-tinted brows.



  • Prescriptives Groom Stick for Brows in Clove.  One of the best I tried in a twist-up pencil, but my skin projected the whisper of red undertones, so it was not an idea product on me. It's also too dark, but I do have one of these in my dressing table and I still use it occasionally.



Failing with traditional brow products, I next experimented with non-conventional items (e.g., eyeshadow) as brow color:
  • Bobbi Brown (matte) eyeshadows in Cement, Grey, and Slate and the Long-wear Cream Eyeshadows in Cement and Slate ... all turned yellow on me, much the way they do on my eyelids—although Slate comes closest to being acceptable in hue but too high in chroma.
  • Maybelline Color Tattoo 24 Hour Eyeshadow in Tough as Taupe. Not bad, but I didn't care for the crispy eyebrows the cream shadow created. Also, just too dark. (Great for eyeshadow, though.)
  • MAC (matte/matte2) Eyeshadows in Coquette, Wedge, Omega, Mystery, and Concrete—all too warm and/or sludgy. Copperplate was the best of the MAC eyeshadows I tried in my brow hairs but still too warm.
  • Prescriptives U-Pick eyeshadow, Pewter. Almost identical to Clinique Charcoaled with less staying power. Bah.
  • Chantecaille Lasting Eye Shade in Zinc and Patchouli. Colors were wrong, and the powder blew off my brows when my cat sneezed across the room.
All failures. I am sure there were many other attempts and failures, but I have forgotten them.

And yet, the news isn't all bad. You didn't think I was going to just write a post about how nasty the choices are and how we ash blondes/browns are left in the dust, did you?

There does seem to be an almost-good-enough solution: Yves Saint Laurent Eyebrow Pencil 004 ... in  Ash. And it really IS ash; in fact the online swatch at Nordstrom is very realistic.


The texture is interesting. It's quite hard, similar to Shu Uemura's hard brow pencil formula, but not quite as hard. I immediately thought of Shu when I first swatched 004 on the back of my hand and noticed it deposited almost no color, that I had to sweep back and forth several times until the pencil deposited enough color I could see. It showed up better when I applied eye primer before swatching.

The following two photos are comparisons (in different light) of the standby color I've worn for years, along with some recently tried-and-rejected products. All are compared to YSL Ash for color context.

Indirect sunlight


You can see how Laura Mercier's Fair and Soft clash against my pink undertones. Even Shu's Seal Brown has warm red undertones I'd never noticed before. Mercier's Warm isn't bad and Clinique's Charcoaled is a near-perfect color, but both are too dark. YSL's Ash (which I had to gunk on heavily to get it to show up) was the winner, but it it is far from perfect because my skin projects yellow undertones that don't appear to be visible when looking directly at the pencil "lead".



Natural indoor lighting


I am still in arranged-marriage honeymoon phase with the Yves Saint Laurent Eyebrow Pencil, and since pencils have never been my first choice, I have one product left to try, which is on its way to me: Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Ash Blonde/Cool Taupe. Dare I hope they mean what they say when they say "ash?" It looks very promising, and if the reviews are to be trusted, it really is cool toned, but the product image ... .well, let's just say I have my doubts.


The above Nordstrom swatch makes the duo appear warm, but when I see it in context with Anastasia's Golden Blonde duo, it looks much less warm.


Bottom line: The YSL pencil is, so far, the best new color I have come across in years for purely cool-toned skin that is fair.

UPDATE March 2013: The Anastasia Duo powder product was a disappointment, as I found nothing ashy about it whatsoever. It appeared yellow. Also, over time the YSL Ash pencil appeared more and more warm. The product I have been using for the last few weeks is an eyeshadow: Inglot 349M, a lighter and cooler version of MAC Omega.  Perfect in hue, right chroma, and good staying power. It's pretty good, but the search is far from over.

UPDATE Dec 2013: I'm still searching. The Shiseido brow pencil in Natural Black is pretty excellent. It's not really black, more a medium cool grey that I can feather on to the desired intensity. Also, consider checking out Bobbi Brown's newish eyeshadow called Cool Ivory. It's everything I wanted Cement to be. They look similar in the pan, but Cool Ivory is decidedly more ash (cool). I've been using it as brow filler and a subtle contour, and it's pretty good but not perfect.


Laura Mercier, Chantecaille, Clinique and YSL, and Anastasia product images from Nordstrom. Becca and 3CC from Dermstore. MAC taken by me.

78 comments:

  1. What a great post. I have always found it quite difficult to find a brow colour that isn't too warm as i have ash brows. I do have neutral skin tone, I don't really lean cool or warm so can get away with a tiny bit of warmth in my brows but not a lot. I will definitely be checking out the YSL pencil. Thank you. x

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    1. If your skin tone is neutral and you can handle a bit of warmth, then you are very fortunate, as a whole sea of possibilities opens up for you! I used to think I was cool-neutral but never really understood why some of my makeup looked so bad on me when I loved the color in the pan or tube or compact so much. Now I know. Some of us just cannot handle any warmth on our faces.

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  2. Hey Zuzu! I hear your frustration. I'm having a problem getting one to blend in with my crazy red hair and it's just as rough I tell you. Most of them are auburn and look too dark on me. I need something more red, more copper and there just isn't one out there. I'm thinking I should make my own line now. :)

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    1. Hi Tracy, Yikes I have been away for a while. Look at your gorgeous red hair! I wonder if the golden, wheaty Clinique powder would work for you. My mother used to be a natural auburn and is now strawberry red (100% grey), and I bought her Clinque's Wheat. Her brows had turned completely blonde. Not grey, but blonde. I guess we have all kinds of weird and unexpected things to look forward to as we approach our 70s. :^)

      Have you tried MAC Mulch? It's THE most gorgeous color in the pot/pan. If I recall, it was a coppery bronze with red undertones. I think it was either Satin or Velvet finish ... if I recall, it had the tiniest bit of sheen, but that isn't a bad thing on the eyebrows, as most of our skins produce oil under our brows. If not Mulch, maybe Coppering or Red Brick? Or Make Up For Ever Red Copper 61, which might have been discontinued, and might also be too dark. Another one that springs to mind is Urban Decay Chopper, but I think MAC Mulch would be my first stop! Otherwise, I bet you'd find something in one of the more arty mineral lines.

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    2. I just took a quick peek at MAC's web site. Mulch looks perfect ... as long as it isn't too dark against your very fair skin. Maybe Antiqued would work, too, MAC describes that as "Ash brown with bronze." Sounds really pretty! Embark, and old MAC faithful is a reddish brown, but that looks like it could be super pigmented. And Club is red-brown with pearl ... um, green pearl, but maybe the green wouldn't show up, lol. Finally, there's corduroy. And that's pretty much it for red-brown-bronze colors from MAC.

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    3. Thanks Zuzu! You've been a great help! I'll be looking into these, especially Coppering-I have that and it's one of my fave MAC Shades. I dont think I have Mulch, but I will look into that too!

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  3. Holy cow, the YSL Ash makes Shu Seal Brown look downright red against your skin! Glad you found something that works.

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    1. Doesn't it though?? So far, I am really liking the YSL.

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  4. I use the Anastasia brow powder in the ash blonde/cool taupe combo, it's been my go-to for years. I hope it works for you!

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    1. Glad to hear it! I can't wait to try it, and if it isn't just perfect, well, at least I have the YSL to fall back on, and I could always start experimenting with mineral shadows. I probably even have some Alima eyeshadow samples kicking around that I had never thought to try.

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  5. What a helpful post! I also have a problem with everything turning orangey on me. Have you ever tried the Shiseido eye pencils? I think they are all pretty cool-toned. Also, have you tried using any of the lash and brow growth enhancers now on the market? There are so many out there, and I have found they all work really well to keep my brows from getting too sparse.

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    1. I have never tried Shiseido brow colors. Funny, despite their selling an HG product I have been using since the late 80s (Pureness blotting papers), it's not a brand I tend to think of for cosmetics, but it should be worth looking at their Ash Blonde and Light Brown pencils. My issue is I'd have to buy it unseen. Shiseido pulled out of my local Sephoras a few years ago, and none of the department stores carries it. I'd have to drive into the city, but Christmas shopping is only a month or so away!

      Yes, I have tried several of the lash enhancers on my brows. The enhancers gave me crazy-long lashes (too long), which wasn't something I needed because they were smashing up against the lenses of my sunglasses. I have always had very long lashes, but I lost volume there, too. Sadly the lash enhancers did nothing to increase volume of my eyelashes or eyebrows. Maybe I will ask my dermatologist for a prescription the next time I see her, which is soon, so thanks for the reminder.

      Can I ask which one you're using on your brows? I have tried Lashpix and another one I can't remember (probably because it didn't even augment my eyelashes). Revitalash, maybe?

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    2. Shiseido is an elusive brand! I am so disappointed they are no longer in Sephora (available on-line only). I use a variety of products on both my lashes and brows for growth. I use Latisse about once a week (I find it very irritating to my eyelids) and after I use it on my lashes, whatever is left on the brush I apply to my brows. I use a Rimmel lash and brow enhancer only on my brows a few times a week because it didn't really do anything for my lashes and I want to use it up. I use an old Peter Thomas Roth lash product on my brows also. Unless a product has a disposable applicator, (like the Latisse) I don't use it on my lashes and brows at the same time because of potential contamination. Whenever I complain to SAs that everything turns orange on me they look at me like I'm nuts!

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    3. We're the anti Oompa Loompas!

      Thanks for letting me know which brow products are working for you. I don't cross use mine for brows and lashes, either. I purchased 3 at a time once, used one for lashes, one for brows, and haven't used the third yet.

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  6. I think the following pencil will be perfect for you:

    Shiseido Natural Eyebrow Pencil - # BR704 Ash Blond

    I'm using "Natural Black" from this serial, Shiseido are masters in creating natural shades that fit perfectly people's coloring.

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    1. Thanks, Goya. Nina above also recommended Shiseido, and I have looked at their web site. Both Ash Blonde and Light Brown look very promising.

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    2. Yes, I agree Shiseido has great brow pencils and a good match for my brow color. Once I've used up the YSL, I'll purchase the Shiseido. Their SA did a makeover on me a few weeks ago. Simply wonderful cheek blush and brow pencils. I wish they would come up with more cool toned foundations with less oils.

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    3. OK, I am determined now to try the Shiseido, especially since I only liked one half of the Anastasia brow powder, which arrived yesterday.

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    4. I'm with Chris: indeed Shiseido got wonderful cheek blush! :) Highly recommended!

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    5. Agree. I have the blush in Carnation. Amazing texture and finish—just not cool toned enough for me, which is the story of my life.

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  7. hi!!!! i'm starting to have the same problems and, i think i have the same eyebrow color as you. my eyebrows look almost light black and when i had my hair colored, they decided to make my hair the same color! what a disaster. i actually look way better when my hair is lighter with blonde in it. anyway, i just heard that makeup forever have a new line of brow products. have you heard about them? i'm sorry but, i don't know the name. they look like they come in small tubes and i think they have a large selection of colors. are you near a sephora? when i go over to the mall, i'm going to look at these. right now, i'm just brushing my brows back even though, i know they need to be filled in. every person at the cosmetic counter makes me look ridiculous and very "theatrical". let me know what you think about makeup forever, these are new products. i'm going to look at ysl. thankyou very much!! xo. wendy

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    1. Yes, light black! People think I am delusional when I tell them I have black eyelashes, maybe because black is not expected on someone with my skin and natural hair coloring, but black they are. I just had a good, long look at my brows. I'd always thought they were charcoal, but that's just a muted down black, isn't it.

      Sorry about your hair mishap! I once went dark ash brown (which on me looked nearly black), and although the huge was extremely flattering--it gave me that Victorian, sickly faded-waif look--it was WAY too dark.

      As for MUFE, the only product I'd never heard of was the Aqua Brow, though I am not sure if it's new or not. It certainly looks interesting, more like a cream eyeshadow, but their online swatches all look way too warm--not that I can trust a computer monitor combined with the typical crappy product swatches most brands and/or web sites put out. (Are you listening Neiman Marcus?)

      I have your same challenge at the makeup counter. I leave with Groucho Marx brows. ALWAYS too dark and too red.

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  8. Have you seen my swatches of the Anastasia duo?

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    1. No! Your blog popped up in my search with the picture of all the duos, and I think I saw swatches of Strawburn, but not any others. I will go back and have a look. Are you using the Ash Blonde? We have similar coloring, though I think you can usually go warmer than I can.

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    2. Sorry I missed your reply. Did you find it? I swatched all the duos. Have them for my pro kit.

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  9. I hope the YSL pencil is The One.

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  10. Thanks, this is the exact problem I am currently having. I was about to try Maybelline's Tough as Taupe, but I don't think I want crunchy brows, either. The thing I absolutely love about your blog is that we seem to have the same coloring (down to the slightly graying hair), so I can pretty much just use your shade recommendations, and come out right. Thanks for doing all the trial and error work for me!

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    1. To be fair, it wasn't too crunchy. I was over exaggerating slightly and probably overdid the application; I definitely could have smoothed out the result with a brow brush afterward. In any case, Tough as Taupe is an excellent eyeshadow for cool-toned women. So if you were to buy it with that in mind, you could always test it on your brows. ;)

      Crunchy or no, I still found it to be the tiniest bit too dark. But perhaps I have gotten so used to seeing myself with my fading brows that I have forgotten what filled-in brows look like. When I examine photos of myself in my teens/early 20s, my brows looked much darker than they do now, and I was using no makeup on them back then.

      But brow behavior definitely changes as we age. I used to have to tweeze stray hairs every 2-3 days, and now I do it once a month ... maybe. And the hairs that grow in are fine, not wiry, and also they tend to be blonde. Like my mother's. *sniffle*

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  11. I hear you! It's actually kind of a difficult thing, brows, because I don't think the "rules" that everyone goes by (who made these up, by the way?) apply to everyone in the general, blankety sense that is implied. I'm warm toned, with olive undertones. My hair is dark, but lighter toward the front where it gets a lot of sun, contact with cleansers, etc. My brows are absolutely NOT red or warm, and when I try warm colors, it looks horrendous. When I try lighter shades, this is also a lot of fail. Right now I'm using a theBalm shadow that looks quite dark, cool and matte in the pan, and translates as a natural brow color for me. REBEL. :)

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    1. That sounds like you've found the perfect fit. Does the eyeshadow stay put all day or do you have to push a primer into the hairs? I have found that many eyeshadows don't last well unless they are the "staining"/super-pigmented kind. Bobbi Brown eyeshadows really stay put but none works for me. Not even her Grey (!), which is really a warm, grey-laced brown. Boo hoo.

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    2. Hm, you know, I don't really notice any fading over the day, but I do finish my brows with MAC Brow Set in Clear, because my brow hairs otherwise become unruly.

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  12. I have black hair and dark brown brows... I have used Shu but my favorite so far is YSL brown pencil #5. It is not easy to find... most YSL counters don't carry #5 but it really works on me, no reddish tone at all! My next favorite is makeup forever brown gel but even that has a bit of warmth in it, I think YSL brow pencil is under-rated, glad you found it, I love mine and I hope you continue to enjoy it: )

    Daisy

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    1. Hi Daisy, I bought my YSL pencil from Nordstrom (free shipping), and they definitely had the 005 in stock.

      We could probably do some gentle stockpiling of these pencils, since they seem to be much harder than typical wax-based pencils, so I imagine they'd last a good long while. I've heard it can take years to use up one of the Shu hard formula pencils!

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  13. Thanks so much for this very thorough review. If you haven't already tried it, I think that the Trish McEvoy Precision Brow Shaper in Natural Brunette might be another good option for you.

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    1. Thank you. I have always been so interested in seeing TM makeup and brushes, but hadn't seen her line at any of the department stores around me. I just did a store locator search and was surprised to see she's sold at my local Nordstrom. Either it's a new thing or her counter is tucked away out of sight. I am definitely going to have a look. I really like the texture of her Eye Definers and would like to check out the colors. The Precision Brow Shaper gives me an extra excuse to go.

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  14. Thanks so much for the great post. I have also struggled with getting the right shade for my brows that doesn't leave me with an unnatural orange tint. I don't know if I am warm or cool but I am blonde with green eyes. My skin is usually matched to pink toned foundations, probably about NW 20. The pencil that works for me is the Anastasia
    ash blonde (its the burgundy one) and also the La Prairie pencil in taupe. I also like the anastasia powder in ash blonde.
    Thanks so much for the great blog. I really enjoy your posts.

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    1. I have pink skin, too (NW 15/20), so I am very glad to hear the Anastasia ash brow colors are working for you. I just added the La Prairie pencil in Taupe to my Nordstrom wish list so I remember to check it out when I next go to Bloomingdale's. Thanks for the tip!

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  16. I'm using Shu Uemura in Stone Grey. It's great for cool toned brows, better than Seal Brown.

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    1. Not on me!! I was so certain Stone Grey would be The One, but when I received it and then swatched it on the back of my hand next to Seal Brown, I was shocked to see that Stone Grey was actually warmer on my skin!

      I took comparison photos but I can't seem to locate them now. If I can find it, I'll post it. I can't re-swatch because I sold Stone Grey in the recent blog sale.

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  17. Interesting. I might have to try the YSL. I too have cool toned although SA's instantly think Asian and warm. But no, I used to bleach my eyebrows to allow my brow pencils to look decent on me. I know when I bleach them they go straight to blonde in about 6 mins. No orange or red which I wish my hair would do on my head. I do like my MUFE and do find it warm at times so I use it with Maybelline Tough as taupe. I will have to check out the YSL now!

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    1. Now there's a woman after my own heart! Make your brows bend to your will so you can make them look the way you want them to! So you've been using TaT on them? I should really give it another go, only thing time use a much lighter hand. I was using my Smashbox brush, which is super stiff. I should probably give it a go with a softer angle, like the MAC 166.

      Meanwhile, that's a pretty ignorant stance of SAs. It's not the overtones of the skin but the undertones, which determine our coloring. I'm sure we all know plenty of Asian women who rock hot pink and blue red!

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  18. I'm using the Chantecaille one at the moment and I am now wondering if it looks wrong on me and I hadn't noticed :) I'll look forward to your thoughts on the anastasia powder as thats the next one I am thinking of getting x

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    1. You seem to able to handle far more warmth in makeup than I can, so I am sure Ash looks great on you. Come to think of it, have you ever posted your brows? I have seen many EOTDs and arm and hand swatches, but I do not recall ever seeing your lips or brows!

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    2. Think I have done the odd lip pic here and there but I tend to avoid brow posting as my pores are so bad between them ;) x

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  19. I use the YSL as well and it does a fairly nice job of filling in the blanks. I too, have cool skin tone and finding the correct color was and still is a challenge. I now have a crop of white hairs dotting my sparse brows (horrors)! Fortunately, years ago, I lucked out with a smart and savvy Lancome SA who introduced me to Lancome's "brow expert" which looks like mascara, but for eye brows. No yellow, red, or ash, just a perfect match to cover my graying brows. Some days I just use this product as it covers well and looks natural.

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    1. Thanks for the info about Lancome's Brow Expert, Chris. I really do love easy makeup and swiping some goo on my brow hairs sounds wonderfully easy. I don't know if I have grey in my brows yet ... it looks like blonde baby-fine, downy hairs growing in, but maybe I am just blind to my own aging process. :^) Let's just say those light hairs do not match the greys on my head, a color I like. I find it perplexing that the brow hair growing in these days is more like a child's hair, not like a typical coarse brow hair I used to have to pluck out. *sigh*

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  20. Have you tried Shiseido pencil in Natural Black? That has been my HG for years- the perfect light, cool grey for my brows.

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    1. I have not tried that. OK, that does it. I am going to look at nordstrom.com to see if they are selling this eyebrow pencil! Light cool grey sounds too good to be true. :)

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  21. I have this issue as well (no surprise there). LM Brow Definer in Warm is dark enough, but it does take my brows a hint warmer than they are naturally, so I do wish they had an even ashier shade. Black brows are hardest to match.

    Bother, I missed your blogsale. I've been out of the loop.

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    1. Try the Shiseido in Natural Black. I think it's The One for me! It really is a light cool grey that you could certainly build up to near black if you wished. No warmth that I can detect, which I was getting from LM, Anastasia, Px, and Shu.

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  22. Light-bulb moment!! I've recently had fine bleach highlights put into my dark brown barnet to tone in the greying hair: my skin tone has changed too and I was reluctant to keep my hair the same colour as in my salad days as it begins to look 'wiggy' and makes one look Gothic in the most unflattering sense.

    So, it was the Bobbi Brown eyeshadow in Birch that I've been using for years that was making me look decidedly odd: I couldn't work out what was amiss until I stumbled upon your blog. I love using a shadow rather than a pencil but went into town to find the YSL. I had taken the name, not the number, and tried them all until I found the one that suited - No. 4. Returning home, I was relieved to find this was the one you'd recommended: the SA insisted it was called Neuilly (isn't that in Germany?)!

    It's looking good and I'm so grateful for your resesarches - do you use a slick of eyebrow 'glue' afterwards? I have found that not only have my once prolific brows thinned but somehow the lack of hairs render them more droopy. Maybe I should visit a threading outfit?

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    1. Eyebrow glue? Is that like crewcut wax? :D My brow hairs aren't droopy yet, even though they have thinned. I have been brushing them up since high school (when they were much thicker and a bit unruly) and in recent years, I started trimming the tail with my very sharp Gingher needlepoint scissors.

      Sorry for the confusion over the YSL pencil. Did I not mention its number? One of the web sites was calling it Ash, but I do believe it's sold only under its number, 004. In any case, I am very glad it's working for you. I never imagined brows could be such a pain.

      Have you tried Bobbi Brown Grey eyeshadow? If you are cool or cool/neutral, it might work for you. It's not really Grey but a cool-neutral taupe, and BB uses it on almost all her models. I *ADORE* it in the pan, but all BB eyeshadows are too warm for me, alas.

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    2. For pussywillow - that's funny that the SA told you the color was called "Neuilly." That's the town in France where YSL is headquartered and the name is on the packaging! I believe YSL only makes 4 colors of the brow pencil - 2,3,4, and 5.

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  23. I use an eyeshadow in a victoria jackson "get addicted" palette i got years ago because i've had such a hard time finding a match for me in any actual meant-for-the-eyebrow gel/powder/liner or other product. everything is too darn warm. the only exception that i've found is a prestige eyeliner pencil in "sage" . It's not as green as it sounds! It's actually a pretty perfect fit for ashy light-medium brown brows. You can get it at Ulta and it's pretty inexpensive as well.

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  24. I also am a blonde with ash brows. A makeup artist friend recommended to me that I should try a greenish-taupe powder to fill-in, and while I was shocked by the thought of looking like an extra from Oz, the effect was perfect. However, I have grown my own brows in more fully now and tint them, so I prefer to use a pencil to simply fill in sparse areas. (I use a level 5/1 ash brown tint on them - not a red or golden tone in sight.) During a recent Sephora outing (on a day when I was due for a brow tint, a Sephora employee approached me and said, "excuse me, but could I try something on you? We have a new product, and I've been told it works on any color brows, but I've not tried it on your shade yet?" Ok, sure, why not? She pulled out her new Dior "Diorshow Brow Styler Ultra-Fine Precision Brow Pencil" and went to work on my brows with the pencil end and the brush end. When she showed me the result, I was thrilled!

    Then I asked about what shade she used, and she revealed that the product only comes in one shade - a Universal Shade. Whaaaaa? How can that be? She laughed as she told me she had used the same pencil on asian women, african-American women and older grey-haired ladies with a blue tint - all successfully. Frankly, I don't care what kind of voodoo this product uses, because it is a perfect match for my brows. Lifelong problem - solved!

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    1. What a joy to find your perfect match! I haven't been to Sephora since Christmas, but I have added Diorshow pencil to my list of items to check out, thank you.

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  25. oh my, you're a woman after my own heart. You have saved me countless hours and £s! I shall be going straight to the clinique, I think, which should suit my dark brows.

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    1. If you have access to a Becca counter, you might also take a look at their brow powder in Ash. I have abandoned YSL, and I have been wearing the Becca Ash for months now. It's a tiny bit cooler and more sheer than Clinique Charcoaled. I recently started alternating Becca Ash with an elea blake mineral eyeshadow in the color Pleasing, which is a min-toned grey, pure grey, no brown.

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  26. Thank you for such a thorough review.
    I'd suggest you try some Japanese brands because they have colors best matching black hair, so I guess the hues might be what you want. Like SUQQU, Kate, Cle de Peau Beaute, they all have very renowned brow powder products.

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    1. I've been intrigued by SUQQU since I saw Lisa Eldridge use the brow pen in a video, but I believe the color she used has moss undertones, which will warm it up for me. It's challenging for me to get Suqqu products, now that Dolly Leo Apothecary has closed, but I can certainly take a look at CdP, thank you.

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  27. I find illamasqua eyebrow cake in gaze is perfect for me. I'm pale and I've got quite golden hair (I think from the sun) but my brows are very cool toned, dark Brown almost grey. Any of the warmer browns look very artificial. It is good because it can be soft or bold and you can use it wet but then it looks very dark and unnatural. Some people like it like that though!

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    1. I have always been curious about Feline Gaze and wondered if it might be too warm. I don't think my local Sephora carries the brow color, just eyeshadow, blush, lips, and nails. I just added FG it to my wish list and will pick it up soon. Thanks for the reminder.

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  28. I'm so happy to have stumbled upon this post! I was seriously thinking it was just me and no one else seemed to have this problem. Up until the past few years I have been able to limp by without having to worry about my brows too much. I used MAC Omega if I HAD to. Recently, not only have my brows started thinning but I'm also going white. Ugh! I have medium ash blonde with no (and I mean no) warmth to my color. It's baffled me in my search that everything that states it's an ash product has warmth to it! What's the point in calling it ASH blonde?

    Right now I'm using the Ulta brand Ash Blonde pencil but it's still too warm for me (plus I prefer powder). I'm going to check out the Clinique Brow Shaper in Charcoaled. Maybe I can get away with it using a super light hand. If not, I'm going to check out the YSL pencil as well.

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    1. Jennifer, I still turn to Clinique all these years later, and my first purchase was in 1989! You might also take a look at the Inglot 349M eyeshadow I mentioned in the update, if you have access (sold in some Macy's). It's so much better than MAC Omega for cool brows. I can put it on in the dark and would never be too dark.

      Because of those new white hairs, and the fact that powder doesn't stick to them (powder stains the skin beneath), I am about to try the Lancome Brow Groomer and will report back. I should really do a new post of all the colors I have tried since I published this one!

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  29. Stila waterproof eyebrow pen in medium is a true ash brown. It goes on much better than a brow pencil or powder. http://www.stilacosmetics.com/product/stay-all-day-waterproof-brow-color.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search

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    1. Susan, I can't believe I missed your comment. I'm adding this pen to my list to check out during my next Sephora trip. I like the idea of the felt tip applicators, like Suqqu, but would prefer to pay Stila prices. (:

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  30. Oh my God!!!
    I am sooooo glad I found this.
    I was starting to think I'm the only one obsessing about the right shade; trying to solve the used-to-be-blonde-but-turned-mousy hair while still having totally transparent natural eyebrows.. has been crazy and everything I tried to far looked orange on me.
    I am so glad you wrote this. I'll definitely try out the YSL you mentioned.

    Please, DO inform us if there are any updates and.. thank you!!

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    1. I do have an update! Bobbi Brown recently put out a new powder eyeshadow color called Cool Ivory. Sounds crazy, but on me, it's a pale dusty greige. Good for filling in sparse, cool-toned brows, and it absolutely does not turn yellow or orange on me. Her eyeshadows work great in the brow area because they are so pigmented and the pigment seems to sink into my skin. I love it so much, I've been using the same e/s as a subtle crease contour.

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  31. Have you tried smashbox eyeshadow Sable or the brow trio?
    I dind sable cool toned but a litte to light for me.
    They dont sell individuals anymore but the color is in a palette for blue eyes (ot in a pot if you happen to find the discontinued product).
    You should go to a store and try it (before buying... Off course.
    And how about makeup forever? (I havent try it).

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    1. Thanks for the tips. I've been curious about the MUFE brow product, but not all colors are available in stores, and I really want to test it first, since so many end up being duds. I don't know if I've ever owned a Smashbox product, so I'll have to add it to my list to look at during my next Sephora trip.

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  32. hey all, having a similar problem; i have natural light blonde/ashy hair, brows are much more of an ash color though... i just started getting into "doing my brows" and holy canoli what have i got myself into- i cannot find my shade, and i have tried ALOT of product (i dont even want to know the amount of money ive spent!) just purchased the bare minerals pencil in -universal light.. yeahhh its not very light, so another fail... im sure my perfect shade is somewhere out there :/ but the reason im commenting is because my mom gave me an automatic eyebrow pencil that came in a pack of 3 i believe?...she kept one, gave one to myself and one to my grandmother(who has grey hair and veryyyyy sparse eyebrows) and my mom has brown hair... and this pencil actually works for all three of us, its crazy to think one pencil would match a grey,brown,and light blonde hair color... it's called brow power(universal brow pencil) by IT Cosmetics... im guessing they only sell the one shade because it doesnt have a shade name or number, but def. think it will benefit alot of people who've commented on this - its mostly grey with a slight slight tint of brown, light strokes for light color, deeper strokes for darker, very good product, so far the best out of eveything ive tried; litttttle too grey for me but hope this helps all my fellow perfect brow shade seekers! :)

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  33. hey all, having a similar problem; i have natural light blonde/ashy hair, brows are much more of an ash color though... i just started getting into "doing my brows" and holy canoli what have i got myself into- i cannot find my shade, and i have tried ALOT of product (i dont even want to know the amount of money ive spent!) just purchased the bare minerals pencil in -universal light.. yeahhh its not very light, so another fail... im sure my perfect shade is somewhere out there :/ but the reason im commenting is because my mom gave me an automatic eyebrow pencil that came in a pack of 3 i believe?...she kept one, gave one to myself and one to my grandmother(who has grey hair and veryyyyy sparse eyebrows) and my mom has brown hair... and this pencil actually works for all three of us, its crazy to think one pencil would match a grey,brown,and light blonde hair color... it's called brow power(universal brow pencil) by IT Cosmetics... im guessing they only sell the one shade because it doesnt have a shade name or number, but def. think it will benefit alot of people who've commented on this - its mostly grey with a slight slight tint of brown, light strokes for light color, deeper strokes for darker, very good product, so far the best out of eveything ive tried; litttttle too grey for me but hope this helps all my fellow perfect brow shade seekers! :)

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  34. As well, Im seeking an ash- toned eyebrow product (preferably pencil) ... I have light ash blonde hair but my brows are much more ash-y ... I've tried ALOT of product, if someone totaled up the amount i've spent on it all, id probably have a heart-attack... but any who - even though i'm still on the hunt for my "perfect shade", I did come very close with IT Cosmetics Brow Power (Universal Brow Pencil) My mom actually gave it to me, it came in a set of 3 I believe, she gave one to my grandmother (who has grey hair) kept one for herself (brown hair) and gave the last to myself (blonde hair) and believe it or not, it matches all of our brows perdy darn close...Im almost positive its just the one shade that they sell; little too grey for me (best of what I have though!) but def. think it will help some you fellow - perfect shade chasers! :)

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  35. Helloo!

    I absolutely understand your problem. I have been searching myself for a good ash/taupe cool toned shade for my eyebrows for such a long time. They sold me MAC Omega on the MAC counter and as you said, it is way to warm toned, recently I got Anastasia Beverly Hills dipbrow pomade in blonde, because a lot of blonde youtube gurus use ist now as their holy grail brow product and I liked how it looked on them on camera, but in real life when I tried it out on my eyebrows I can see a yellow undertone that I absolutely don't like, so no holy grail for me...
    I have an eyeshadow palette from NYX - nude on nude palette and I am using the 2nd shade in the top row next to the white. It looks darker than I first thought on my brows and it is now almost gone because I still did not find the perfect ash toned brow product. It was my rescue for having somewhat ashtoned eyebrows.
    I found a link here of the palette:

    http://themakeuptrain.com/2012/04/21/simply-the-best-nyx-nude-on-nude-natural-look-palette/

    I am really interested in trying out Anastasia Bevery Hills brow wiz or brow powder in ash or medium ash.

    Wish you a nice day,

    lot of greetings,

    Eva

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    1. Hi Eva, thank you for the tip/link. I have been quite pleased with the NYX products I've tried.

      My latest experiment has been with Alima Pure satin-matte eyeshadow in Bramble. It's not perfect but it's better than most.

      I hope you find your forever color with Anastasia.

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  36. Hi...just wondered if you have tried the Bare Minerals
    "shadow liners"? Have learned a lot of helpful info from your post!

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