This article is part of our series Battle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.
After using bar soap to shape brows became a viral beauty hack (aka the soap brows trend), brands started coming out with their own soap-free products to achieve the same effect. Enter Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Brow Freeze and E.l.f. Cosmetics’ Brow Lift (Note: E.l.f also makes a Soap Brow wax, but Brow Lift is the comparable product to Brow Freeze, and not to mention, much more popular.) Brow Freeze and Brow Lift have quickly become go-to brow-shaping products — but with one key difference. The E.l.f. Cosmetics option is a fraction of the cost of Anastasia’s sculpting wax.
Through testing them side-by-side, I found out whether the cheap alternative lives up to expectations, or if you’re better off spending on the luxury brow product.
One of founder Anastasia Soare's favorite brow products, this clear wax gives all-day, flake-free hold for any brow type.
This affordable brow gel-wax hybrid lifts and shapes brows with a strong-hold formula.
Both make laminated or feathered soap brows a breeze
Whether you like the slicked laminated look or fluffy feather brows, the soap brow method became the go-to for achieving well-groomed brows. Glycerin is the key ingredient in bar soap that coats the brows and keeps them in place. The ingredient is also found in the formulas of Brow Lift and Brow Freeze, giving them flexible and even conditioning hold (glycerin is a moisturizing ingredient for the hair and skin). But instead of having to wet them like you would with bar soap, the gel-wax format of the brow products doesn’t require any extra steps to activate and you can apply them straight from the pot. All you have to do is brush a tiny bit of the gel-wax through your brows with a spoolie, shaping them in your desired arches.
The Brow Freeze and Brow Lift virtually look and feel the same, both in the jar and on the brows. The clear gel-wax has a slightly sticky feeling and you’ll immediately feel it give the brows a stiffening effect when its brushed through.
For me, the Brow Lift was a bit more finicky to use than the Brow Freeze, but still an effective product. I got the hang of it by the second application, but the first time testing it resulted in some sticky, over-gelled brows.
While a light hand should be used for both, the Brow Freeze was easier to brush through my brows and set them in place. With the E.l.f option, I found I have to use even less product than the Brow Freeze (like literally the least amount of gel possible) or else my brows would stick together and then I wouldn’t be able to get the fluffed up look I was after. Plus, the more I tried to work the product through my brows, the stiffer they would become as the gel dried — and be warned, overworking the product leads to some flaking (this is true for the Anastasia product too, but it was easier to avoid with the Brow Freeze since I didn’t have to fidget with setting them in place as much). Once I got over this learning curve, however, the Brow Lift gave the same full, feathered brow effect I wanted.
In terms of staying power, both gels kept my brows in place all day. Neither felt crunchy after hours of wear, but the Brow Lift does feel a bit stiffer. While it doesn’t make a visual difference on my brows, those with thicker, stubborn hairs may benefit from the less flexible formula.
When I tested the products with a complete brow routine, they also stayed clear, clump-free and didn’t flake when I applied brow pencil after the gel, too.
But you’ll need an applicator to help
Brow Freeze and Brow Lift both require a tool to apply the gel-wax. While any clean spoolie will do, the brands each make tools to specifically pair with the brow products, too. Like the sculpting gels themselves, the applicators are remarkably similar in function and design (but, again, the E.l.f. version is a fraction of the cost).
This dual-ended applicator is the handy companion to the Brow Freeze styling wax.
This two-in-one tool features a spoolie and spatula on each end for precise application.
Anastasia and E.l.f. each offer a dual-ended applicator with a spoolie at one end and spatula at the other. There isn’t a major difference in the spoolie ends — both have firm bristles and can be bent for the optimal application angle if you wish — but the spatulas vary in shape and size. For the Anastasia applicator, the spatula is wide and has a rounded end. The E.l.f. one is narrower, tapering towards the end, and has a straight edge. The spatulas can be used to scoop product out of the jar and also to set the brows in place.
For both of the products, I first dip the tip of the spatula end in the product and then put that bit of gel-wax on the back of my hand. Then, I take the spoolie end and rub it into the product on my hand so it’s evenly dispersed through the bristles before brushing it through my brows. This ensures that I don’t apply too much product, which happens when I dip the spoolie end directly into the jar. After all, it’s easier to build up the hold and add more if needed, rather than trying to take any away.
If you like the laminated look, you can also use the spatula end to set your brows for that slick, lifted effect. Once you have applied some of the gel-wax to your brows and brushed them upwards, you can take the spatula end and press them against your skin. I recommend keeping the spatula parallel to your eyebrows and pressing them from the bottom of your arches. This keeps the hairs pushed upwards, and if you’ve used enough product, you should only need to press once or twice for them to stick to your skin.
I found that the smaller tip of the E.l.f spatula gave more control than the wide end of the Anastasia applicator. The thinner edge of the E.l.f spatula made it easy to scoop out product, whereas the Anastasia spatula has a “dull” edge. And the narrow E.l.f spatula was also better for laminated brows, since you can be more precise.
Considering the $10 total price of E.l.f.’s Brow Lift and applicator, compared to the $40 combined price tag of Anastasia’s Brow Freeze and applicator, the drugstore option is a great starting point for those wanting to try a new brow gel or the soap brow trend — and it might even become your go-to brow styling product. For a quarter of the price of the luxury option, E.l.f.’s alternative does a remarkable job at holding brows in place without the flaking or crunchiness associated with traditional brow gels. Plus, the E.l.f Brow Lift applicator outperforms Anastasia’s equivalent tool. The affordability, quality and performance make E.l.f’s Brow Lift a new favorite.