The Woman Behind Cult Brows

Julie Bell is the authority when it comes to Benefit Cosmetics’ brow bestsellers. We ask her: what makes a great product that will make millions and gain cult status?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

You could say it was serendipity that led Julie Bell to work at Benefit Cosmetics. When she joined the American company 18 years ago, her brows were in bad shape from over tweezing. Now 61, she’s the brand’s executive vice-president of global marketing.

Bell discovered that no one was ever satisfied with their brows – whether it was shape (too thin/ shapeless), shade (never the perfect one) or survival (not long-lasting enough). Here was an opportunity for Benefit Cosmetics to meet those needs.

While the beauty brand has provided brow waxing and shaping services since 1976, it was only in 2016, that it gained cult status, with its first Brow Collection – nine products that solved common brow concerns, and that took Bell’s team three years to perfect.

“It’s our DNA to solve brow problems. How do we know what works and what doesn’t? We’re always tuned in to customer conversations about new brow needs,” Bell says. “During development, we test products on real women, to see if we’ve got the right formula, shades and applicator to work across a variety of skin and hair tones.”

Every brow product has to be self-explanatory – customers take one look at the box, and should instantly recognise their dilemma, and how the product solves it.

The formulas have to be high-performing, with mistake-proof shades. “Our focus is not on chasing trends, but on improving what customers want and need,” says Bell.

The brand’s big 2019 brow launch is another feather in Bell's cap. Called the Brow Styler, it has a wax pencil on one end, and loose powder on the other. Used on its own or combined, it helps you achieve different brow styles. 

“Customers are now looking for versatility,” says Bell. “Since brow pencils are an easy way to fill and shape brows, and loose powder provides fullness and dimension, we thought, why not create the best of both worlds?”

Both textures last up to 18 hours, the longest-lasting of all of the brand’s brow offerings. – CT 

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Benefit Cosmetics Brow Styler Multitasking Pencil & Powder For Brows, in eight shades, $60.