What’s so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

by Paris B on · 47 comments

in Brow pencil,Makeup,Product Reviews

I don’t usually repeat reviews (I first reviewed this back in 2007) but I’m making an exception for this product, because its withstood the test of time and because I’ve had quite a few requests asking me what I use for my brows and when I say its the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil, I’ve had reviews requested. After much procrastination, here it is icon smile Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

shu brow pencil Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

This product is one of Shu Uemura’s iconic products – their Top 5 alongside their cleansing oil, deep sea water mist and eyelash curler. I can also vouch for the last which I also use daily.

So, what is so special about this pencil? I attribute it to the lead used, and the shape.

The lead is quite hard, and if you try drawing a line on the back of your hand, you get little to nothing. Its easy to say “Ah crap! What a waste of money!” But the beauty really is that it doesn’t mark your skin but the colour grabs onto hair and colours it quite easily and naturally. We want natural looking brows, not brows that look stenciled on (You can get a tattoo for that icon razz Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review? ) and this pencil is great for that.

Of course, the special shape plays a part in making this one easy to use too icon smile Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

When you buy the Shu Uemura Hard Formula 9 Brow Pencil, it comes looking just like a normal round pencil with a sharp tip. You can ask the SA at the Shu boutiques or counters to sharpen it for you into the Niigata (sword) shape. Over here, most boutiques and counters have them ready sharpened so you don’t have to wait.

shu brow pencil2 Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

So what’s so special about this Niigata shape? The pencil lead is sharpened flat so it resembles a sword. At the top, it is tapered to a flat angled tip (1). This shape actually makes it easier to draw or colour in your brows, and gets it at the correct angle.

The body of the pencil (2) is of hard wood and so is the pencil lead which is also hard. This allows the pencil to hold its shape in this design. You can try sharpening your other pencils into this shape but if the lead is too soft, it will not hold and will break easily. I’ve never had a problem with my Shu pencils breaking but don’t go dropping them from great heights either!

If you look at it from the front, the wood is sharpened into a U shape, with one side higher than the other. The higher part is to protect and support the pencil so it doesn’t break. The other side is lower and will dip as you use it.

I find that the angle is quite perfect for use in penciling in my brows. I’ve realised that I do have quite thick, if a little unruly brows. So, I don’t really draw in my brows per se, but merely darken the hairs and define the shape for everyday. The thin flat tip allows me to draw a fine tail to taper off the end of my brows, and the shape is easily angled to colour your brow hair in short strokes.

For most Asians, Seal Brown 02 or Stone Grey 05 work quite well. It would be advisable to match your brows to your hair, so if you have lightened your hair, you might want to think about a lighter pencil. I use both Seal Brown and Stone Grey interchangeably.

In a nutshell

A brow pencil I find hard to do without. I have been using this for over 5 years and I keep coming back even after trying other brow products. In all that time, I have only repurchased once. Yes, one pencil does last quite a while even with daily use. I think this lives up to its hype and I will further fan the fires of this hype because it deserves it!

Pros: The shape makes it easy to use, You can take it back to any Shu Uemura counter or boutique to have it sharpened complimentary, It gives a very natural look to the brows as it mostly colours the hair and does not deposit too much colour on the skin

Cons: Initial investment can be pricey, Maybe inconvenient to sharpen if you do not have a Shu Uemura counter nearby

After using it often, you will find that the pencil will wear down until a point when it just becomes impossible to continue using. I notice this most when my brows start looking thick and weird. That’s when I know its time to gather up my pencils and head to a Shu Uemura counter or boutique to have them sharpened, gratis! I have 2 so I can stretch out the sharpening time, but if you just have one pencil and use it daily, expect to have to sharpen it at least once in 2 months or thereabouts! icon smile Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review? One pencil can last you a long time so I won’t say its a pricey product – just initially.

You could sharpen it yourself. I’ve tried it, butchered my pencil and will never do it again icon razz Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

I’ve tried using a lot of other brow stuff – cream, gel, powder and recently, liquid (!) but I come back to this pencil because I find it gives the best and most natural result for me and I get the job done in the shortest possible time too!

Do you use the Shu Uemura Hard 9 Brow Pencil too? Do you find it as indispensible as I do? icon smile Whats so special about the Shu Uemura Hard Formula Brow Pencil that gets it a repeat review?

Paris B

The Shu Uemura Hard Formula 9 Brow Pencil retails at RM65 (I think) at all Shu Uemura counters and boutiques. Resharpening is complimentary.

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[ 47 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

xiao October 25, 2011 at 8:49 am

I used to use this until I went to the US. Sharpening it myself was all sorts of disastrous. I’ve since switched to their retractable refillable eyebrow liner. It’s basically the same formula minus the shape, which I miss but can live without :) I get a few cartridges and I’m set till I go back home again


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

You know what Xiao, I didn’t even know they had the refillable eyebrow pencil! O_o I can imagine what a hassle it must be to get the pencils sharpened, with Shu having pulled out of the US.


Nikki October 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

I have tried this over the counter and the way it was sharpen was also explained to me! I got intrigued and vouch will purchase once I finish up my gazillion brow pencils that I hoarded in Korea!LOL


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Haha pencil hoarder! :) this one’s less practical than a regular brow pencil because of the sharpening, but I like the natural look it gives :)


rinnah October 25, 2011 at 9:19 am

I still haven’t gotten around to trying this pencil out simply because I’m lazy and prefer my Empro mechanical pencil which has the same shape and performs the same function. But maybe I shall, just to see how it compares. :P

Btw, I can’t tell the difference between Seal Brown 02 and Stone Grey 05 in the pix above… :(


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm

There’s little to no difference in colour! :D One is a bit more brown and the other a bit more grey but nothing obvious. I haven’t tried Empro despite the raves everywhere. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out the next time there’s a sale :)


Stephy October 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

I got this becoz of your review and I love it! =)
It last long too!


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Yay! Very happy it works for you too and its actually very surprising how long it lasts right? :D


peach_ October 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

I must say, Japan has it down when it comes to brows! Your brows always look nice and never over done. Right now, I’m trying to finish up the Benefit brow pencil I bought in the US. It won’t be hard to do because it practically eats itself up and despite being super pigmented. UGH!


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Yes! The Japanese are ace at brows! I’m trying out a brow liquid pen by Canmake now. Its very interesting and surprisingly natural too provided I’m really careful. I don’t like brow pencils that are too soft. They end up depositing too much colour and looks fake.


Connie De Alwis October 25, 2011 at 10:04 am

This pencil has my heart on a string! Irreplaceable and indispensible, it is! <3 <3 <3 The only complaint is the hassle to sharpen it (which I need to do every 2 months) but the service is free and the hassle is well worth it!


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Endorsed by the Queen of brows herself! :D I will see myself trying options but never replacing this one as a staple :)


Connie De Alwis October 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm

waahhh… since when I go the title “Queen of Brows”? *honoured* :p


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Because you have amazing brows! :D


plue October 25, 2011 at 10:13 am

i hardly sharpen my brow pencil, because I used so little of it each time. the initial investment does hurt for a bit, but i have been using mine for about 2 years and still got plenty more left!

and yes i butchered my pencil once and never would i do it again. the SA had to throw away quite a bit of it to reshape it back to the nigiita shape! heart pain!


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I know what you went through! I tried to be clever once but never again! I think this is one item well worth the investment :)


Faye October 25, 2011 at 10:25 am

I’ve 2 of them, different color, and I’m loving it…2 years + since I bought, and still going strong !!


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Yay another fan! :D I’ve had mine for what seems like forever too! I still have my first! Short but still usable :)


Lily October 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

I have yet to try this much raved about pencil but I always think of the hassle getting it sharpened. There are no Shu Uemura stores around here :-( I quite like my Empro brow pencils which have similar shape, but probably not as tapered or pointy at the tip. Oh well, I could still make it work.
If this pencil only colours the hair, those with very sparse brows will have a hard time filling the gaps, no? Coz I think that requires drawing on the skin…


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm

It will definitely be too much of a hassle if there’s no Shu Uemura counter nearby. Hope they open up one soon :)

As for application, if you draw a few times it does mark the skin but in a subtle way. It doesn’t draw a line with just one swipe the way eyeliners or crayon usually mark the skin. Just very subtle so it gives a very natural look even for sparse or light brows :)


Junni October 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

Yes yes the one and only! :) I must agree the color is superb naturale. It is a good beauty investment hehe.


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Wootz! Another fan! :D *high 5*


Hanny October 25, 2011 at 11:56 am


Here’s a link of the weapon!

I’ve wanted to try this pencil, but the thought of needing to bring it to Shu Uemura’s to sharpen every now and then… I pretty much chickened out heeheee.


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Well it only really needs to be reshaped once every 2 months or so :) I usually drop off my pencil, run my errands then come and pick it up – no hassle :)


Soo Yin October 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I love love love this pencil. Have been using this for ages, and like you, I keep two on my dressing table (and two really short worn down ones in my small makeup bag in my handbag). Indispensable!


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Another fan! :D I still have my first which is a strange reddish brown because I had red tinted hair when I got it lol! Never quite sure what to do with it now :D


gio October 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Sounds like a wonderful pencil but sadly I don’t have a Shu Uemura counter nearby and I think sharpening it myself would be too much hassle (and a disaster).. :(


ParisB October 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Yes it is a good brow pencil but I didn’t realise how rare Shu Uemura counters are! Guess I’m a little spoilt having a few counters around here. You could use it the regular round way but it sort of defeats the purpose :( Hope you get to try it some day anyway :)


xin October 26, 2011 at 11:30 am

i have the empro one but find it only very average. i am not a religious user of brow pencil, but i am really interested in this after seeing yr brows


ParisB October 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Erm ok, do I skip Empro then? I use brow pencils quite regularly because they are a good way to perk up the face even with no other makeup on ;)


Li Wen October 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I’ve been using the H9 in Acorn for about three years. I do use other brow products (Shu Uemura Brow Manicure, NARS Bali as a brow powder), sometimes in combination with the H9, but this is the only brow pencil that I own. When you find something perfect for you, why waste time and effort looking for something else?

I used to get it sharpened professionally, but now I just use a normal sharpener to make the customary point, instead of the sword shape. I don’t find that it makes much of a different to the application, although it’s possible that I wear down the pencil faster by using the round sharpener.

My only complaint with the H9 is that the brittle plastic cap does sometimes crack if you aren’t careful with it, or if you travel with it a lot.


ParisB October 27, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the plastic cap. I do agree that the brittle plastic can crack quite easily. Mine have although the pencils are still in good condition. Good too to know the pencil works with or without the Niigata sharpening :D


Bun Bun Makeup Tips October 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Ooooh, I should try this pencil some time! Heard great stuff about it! Let’s say you use it in its original shape, does regular sharpener work?


ParisB October 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm

A previous commentator has said that the normal round shape works just as well as the flat shape. I prefer the ease of use of the flat shape but I suppose it will work either way :)


Lisa October 27, 2011 at 7:51 pm

This pencil was my first attempt at defining my brows more than 10 years ago. And one pencil lasted me quite a while. A few years. Too lasting I would say that’s why I have not repurchased til now. I do love this product though. Stone grey is really natural and a perfect shade. Since then, I’ve came across a few other gems too. My latest discovery is the Marie Claire eye brow pencil.
It’s seriously ultra fine lead makes filling in the brows so easy and almost impossible to go wrong. It’s very lasting too in our hot, humid weather. The only con is its not easily available. Once this finishes, I think I will have another go with shu uemura!!


ParisB October 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

Hmm… I haven’t come across the Marie Claire pencils but it sounds good :D And you’re right. One Shu pencil seems to last forever. It almost feels like you never have to repurchase!


Amanda October 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

The one and only I own. Since there’s no Shu Uemura boutique, I sharpen it myself using Anastasia sharpener ;)


ParisB October 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

So you find it gives you the same results with a regular tip vs a flat tip? That’s good to know for those who don’t have a shu boutique nearby :)


BooBooNinja October 31, 2011 at 2:58 am

I’m curious about the “U” shape — would you mind posting a photo showing the tips of the pencils?
Filling in my brows is my daily “must-do”. I love eyebrow posts!


ParisB October 31, 2011 at 10:05 am

Hi the U shape is at the base of the pencil lead where No. 3 is pointing at. The tips are flattened to a thin flat point, like a sword as shown in picture 1 and 2. If you have a Shu Uemura boutique or counter near you, they’ll do this for you free of charge. I don’t know how to do it myself. I butchered my pencil once and will never try it again!


BooBooNinja January 29, 2012 at 6:45 am

I don’t know if I thanked you for your response — I hope so!
If not, thank you!
In your previous review, you said that the colour shows up on your brow hairs but not on the skin. Do you still hold this opinion? I have some sparse areas in my brow. Would you recommend against this pencil for me then?


Paris B January 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Yes the colour adheres more to the hairs than skin but it does also draw on the skin a little. I’m not sure if you know what I mean. I find this pencil very useful for filling in my brows because it isn’t too harsh. I do suggest that you head down to a counter and see if you can get them to show you. On the back of your hand, it hardly shows up, but on the brow area, it makes a very subtle difference. Hope this helps!


Lindsay October 31, 2011 at 8:51 am

Wow, I’ve never seen these brow pencils but they seem really interesting!


ParisB October 31, 2011 at 10:09 am

I think it might be because Shu Uemura has pulled out of the USA :( Their brow pencils are awesome!


Isabel November 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

I have not tried this but Empro saved my brows lol Using sharp tipped pencils justturned out disastrous! I’m not good at drawing the shape and all but I immediately got the hang of it after using it.


synaebloom December 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm

just bought it and the price is now RM70… i love the pencil but hate to send it back for sharpen… lolz…


kyung September 3, 2012 at 11:44 am

I have the Make Up for Ever eyebrow gel and also used to use Mac eyeshadow as brow powder in Mystery and also have the Anastacia brow gel but for whatever reason, they never look natural, no matter how hard I try not to be too heavy handed or whatever. I’m anxious to try the Shu but I wish they still had counters in the US so I could try before I buy.


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