Saturday, April 9, 2016

REVIEW: Colourpop Brow Pencils

If any company has figured out how to use social media trends and YouTube "beauty guru" saturation to its advantage, it's Colourpop. As soon as a certain color or look is about to explode, Colourpop manages to create an entire product line in its $5-6 price range, package them up prettily for the most-watched bloggers, and send out those press samples so the videos and posts can pop up just before the launch date. Some people consider this sneaky or unprofessional, but quite frankly, it's a typical business practice...and it's clearly working for them.

Weirdly enough, the Colourpop brand hasn't worked so well for me. Yes, I know, I gave the original lip products and the blushes 4 out of 5 points, and a 4 on my blog generally means, "Yeah, it's pretty good." But if you pay close attention to the way I write, you'll notice that there are plenty of products I rate highly that do not work for me personally. I mean, if a foundation is really beautiful but doesn't suit my skin tone, or if a lipstick isn't to my usual taste but does most of what it promises, I'm not going to knock it. That's what happened with the Colourpop stuff I tried: I could see why people liked it, and I wouldn't be adverse to recommending it, but it wasn't my speed.

So I held off on trying more Colourpop products until they released a few new items. Since my blush/highlighter review, they've released liquid lipsticks (in matte and satin formulas), bronzers, eye liners, and brow products (in cream pot and pencil formulas). That was enough new stuff for me to place an order and give it another go.

Natural light on top, flash on the bottom. From left to right: Colourpop Brow Pencils in Bangin' Brunette and Dope Taupe, Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz in Medium Brown, Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade in Ash Brown, Milk Makeup Gel Brow Pencil in Pilsner.

Because I've finally admitted to myself that I'm too damn lazy to apply potted products a la Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow, I got two of the Colourpop Brow Pencils instead. The shades I purchased were Bangin' Brunette, a "true brunette brown," and Dope Taupe, a "soft taupe--the most versatile of them all." Swatched up against other products in my collection, neither is quite like the ashy brown I usually favor: Bangin' Brunette is darker and less gray, Dope Taupe is lighter and warmer.

Still, eight shades seems impressive, right?

Meh, maybe more in theory than in practice. I find that budget brow products tend to run a bit warm/red, and the Colourpop range doesn't seem to be any different. Dope Taupe looks nearly orange on my brows, and while Bangin' Brunette is definitely doable for me, it's still not what I'd call "ashy." Looking at swatches of the full range on other websites, it definitely looks like the range leans neutral to warm. I will also note that the pencil and pot formulas show slight differences between shades, though this may be due to how thick the formulas are when swatched.

With that said, I think most people will be able to find a shade in the range that works for them. I'm hoping they'll release a light gray or charcoal shade for our silver foxes out there, since the supposedly "universal taupe" they've produced is far warmer than the taupe offering in most brow product ranges.

Dope Taupe on left, Bangin' Brunette on right. Why is my face so round in that left picture?!

Colourpop claims that these pencils can be used to draw on individual hairs, but I have to disagree. The formula is just too soft and creamy for that. That's not to say it's always going to look painted on and fake--using featherlight strokes gave me full, but not painted on, brows--but actual individual hairs will be tough for the average user to swing. In this way, the formula reminds me of the Milk Makeup Gel Brow Pencil. (If you want individual hairs, by the way, you'll likely want a cream you can draw on with a brush, or a slightly harder pencil.)

The wear on these is above average. You won't get the "takes you through a war" performance of ABH Dipbrow; I noticed that this product smeared a little when I walked to work one day. It was raining, though, and I was walking half a mile with no coat or umbrella. In those conditions, "smeared a little" is really not bad. Honestly, it's on par with a lot of other brow products and should serve you well in most standard conditions.

Now, let's talk about the packaging. For $5, you get .09 grams of product. Yes, it's small, but this is comparable to the $21-a-pencil Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz, which clocks in at 0.085 grams. It comes with a brow spoolie on the end instead of a cheap plastic comb, which is a huge improvement over most budget brands.

It seems like fantastic packaging at an irresistible price, but there are still some issues here. First, the twist-up mechanism is not retractable. If you accidentally twist up too much of the pencil, or if you want to see just how much you have left, too bad. This strikes me as rather outdated packaging.

Second, while the caps on the pencil end are tight, the caps on the spoolie end are loose and will fall off with some pressure or tapping. Most people won't mind this, since it's just the spoolie, but I'm not crazy about the idea of a brush rolling around in the depths of my handbag gathering dust.

Lastly, Colourpop is apparently incapable of shipping their shit properly. YouTubers are shown opening beautiful boxes full of products, but most regular customers receive their products in a mailer with no extra packaging, so the cardboard boxes for the individual products are always smashed to all Hell. I've even opened a Colourpop mailer and found my products outside of their boxes! I'm told that you need to order at least $50 worth of product to receive a box instead of a mailer, which is fine...but we should still get some bubble wrap. Yeesh.

Now for the crazy part: I'm going to admit that I really like these brow products. Are they the best on the market? Of course not. Shu Uemura Hard 9 Formula exists. But as far as budget brow pencils go, the Colourpop range has surpassed every other $10-or-less option I've tried, and I'd rank it favorably with many mid-to-high end offerings. Despite the somewhat irksome packaging and the limits of the current color range, I'll gladly use this pencil when I travel and have no qualms recommending it to my readers.

RATING: 4 out of 5
Colourpop products are available at This is an affiliate link that will give you $5 off of your first order and will award me $5 in store credit.


  1. What lipstick are you wearing in the photo on the left? It's such a pretty shade of brown and suits you so well!

    I'm a little tempted by these pencils, but I'm afraid they'll deliver more pigment than my eyebrows really need. Maybe I do need Boy Brow after all...

    1. Colourpop StingRAYE. Lord, it's so much darker and more gray on me than it is on everybody else and I really, really hate it. Trust me, it photographed a little lighter and plummier than it was in real life. :/ Part of me wants to give the Ultra Matte Lippie range another chance, but that weirdo color change was a turn off.

    2. Also, don't buy Boy Brow for reasons.

  2. Why are cheapy brow products always so warm, though? I recently had amnesia and bought some of the cheapest Maybelline pencils in "brunette" and of course they are red. Like you would have to be an actual redhead for these to look natural. But I tend to like the cheap ones for other reasons, because the pencils are so hard, it's easy to avoid going overboard.

    1. For the life of me, I can't figure it out. Are reddish pigments cheaper? Is the range outdated and they just don't feel like updating it? Do you have to cast some kind of elf magic spell to keep it from turning copper? WHAT IS IT?!

  3. Ugh, disappointing that they're so warm-toned. I was thinking about ordering one taupe pencils the next time I do a ColourPop order, but I like the ashiest brows possible. I wish they'd add an actual taupe colour because otherwise they sound quite good !

    1. A gray shade would be marvelous. The Brunette shade is comparatively neutral, however, and I think the lightest blonde shade is more gray--maybe one of those would work?

  4. Oh man, I'm one of those people whose spoolie caps (from some other brand) fell off and I didn't care and it gathers dust every day.... D: It's been about 2 years since I received that brow pencil and I'm still using it daily hahaha. I do wash it... occasionally.

    Idk, I feel like you're being very generous with CP. I think the only thing I've really liked from them so far is the highlighter. Everything else was a solid meh.

    1. Hum, I don't know if I'd call it "too generous." Some of the products do what they're supposed to do and they do it decently well with only minor flukes, so I feel like a 3 or a 4 out of 5 is appropriate. The only product I have truly disliked thus far was, hilariously, the highlighters! But I know that they aren't quite formulated for somebody with my tastes.

      I liken it to my reviews on Glossier: I've given all of the products I've tried thus far 3s or 4s out of 5s, even though I use those 4s on a regular basis and really love them. They don't get a 5 because they have some flukes that may make them less usable for a lot of other customers.

  5. Interesting! Thanks for the reviews and swatched. I've ordered from Colourpop 5 times and never had a squashed box yet so quess I'm lucky. I ordered$30 each time. Love their cream eye shadows and lippies.