What's Going On? I Keep Getting Breakouts on My Brows

Advice on how to deal.


Stocksy / Design by Dion Mills

I am obsessed with maintaining my brows. That means I never wax or tweeze them (for fear they won't grow back), I love my brow pens and powders more than most things, and I wear brow gel even without any other makeup. For the most part, this behavior is rewarded with compliments and confidence. But there has been one issue plaguing my eyebrow-specific infatuation: breakouts. I started noticing small bumps and inflammations around the outline of my brows. I'm not usually prone to breakouts, so I was surprised and, obviously, alarmed. 

In order to figure out the reason behind it all (too much brow gel perhaps?), I chatted with Dr. Jessica Weiser about the products that could be causing them and how to prevent it from happening.

Meet the Expert

Jessica Weiser, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder and medical director of Weiser Skin MD. She specializes in cosmetic and procedural dermatology.

"Breakouts on the brow line can be the result of multiple factors," Weiser says. "Mostly, they're caused by tweezing, waxing, and threading—but products like brow gel could definitely be the culprit. Gels have occlusive properties that clog and block pores, leading to blackheads and inflamed breakouts."

I asked what ingredients in particular could be causing irritation (while sadly staring at my tubs of brow gel). Weiser explains, "A variety of ingredients in these gels can contribute to acne including petroleum, silicones such as dimethicone and trimethicone, and VA/VP copolymer." Sure enough, silicones were in my beloved product. But there had to be others that didn't stock those same ingredients. 

See below for a few of my favorites that are free and clear. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills brow gel
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel $22

This clear gel product is not only vegan and cruelty-free, it also contains chamomile, to condition hair and skin. Of course, in true Anastasia fashion (she is the queen of brows, after all), it also offers serious hold, without a stiff feel.

Just Browsing Brush-On Styling Mousse
Clinique Just Browsing Brush-On Styling Mousse $20

Clinique's brow styling mousse tames and fills in sparse brows with natural color that resists humidity. Bonus: It's tested by ophthalmologists.

Estée Lauder brow now gel
Estée Lauder Brow Now Stay-in-Place Brow Gel $22

Not only does this product hold brows perfectly in place (just as its name suggests), but its ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested, so it won't cause breakouts.

Boy Brow
Glossier Boy Brow $16

Glossier's cult-favorite Boy Brow is inspired by hair pomade—so it makes brows soft and fluffy—but formulated with oleic acid, lecithin, and atelocollagen, all ingredients meant to condition and moisturize.

Though there are gels that are better for your skin than others, it's true that the pimples may be caused by an overload of product. Weiser suggests, “Try using pencil or powder-based brow products, which can help contour and highlight without the occlusive ingredients found in gel formulations.”

She continues, "For people not prone to breakouts, brow gel may be readily tolerable. It is important to test products in a small area before applying to the entire brow region. Any gel containing the causative ingredients has a potential to trigger breakouts."

See below for powders and pens that yield really great results. 

Joey Healy brow powder
Joey Healy Luxe Brow Powder in Corduroy $28

This product allows for subtle, natural definition—without the pore-clogging ingredients so often found in gels.

Make Up For Ever brow sculpting pen
Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting 3-in-1 Brow Pen $32

This three-in-one product comes with a pencil, highlighter, and brush that helps comb and sculpt brows into place.

MAC great brows
MAC Great Brows $33

An all-in-one kit, MAC's Great Brows can transform your arches in seconds. The two tiny brushes make the process even easier.

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