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How brow trends have evolved throughout history

Image: @hungvanngo/Instagram
Image: @hungvanngo/Instagram

The evolution

There’s a brow for everyone, from ’30s pencil-thin to a more natural, defined brow in the ’40s and trendsetter Marilyn Monroe’s arched, groomed brow. In the ’60s, we saw a dual trend as pencil-thin brows made a comeback, and Audrey Hepburn’s thick straight brows became a thing.

During the age of disco, in the ’70s, brows got higher and thinner thanks to the art of going tweezer crazy. But with full, fluffy, bold and natural back on the rise, the bushy brow returned in the ’80s.

Then there was that what-onearth-were-we-thinking moment in the ’90s when the pencil brow re-emerged and, it’s safe to say, our brow game hit rock bottom. Thankfully, by the 2000s, the skinny, pointed, groomed brow was a hit. Around 2010, Insta-worthy brows were etched out, defined and polished and took the beauty industry by storm, which brings us to the present day, when high-impact overgrown, bushy, fluffy and laminated brows reign supreme.

The brows

Marlene Dietrich barely had any, Frida Kahlo had a monobrow, and today, Cara Delevingne makes a statement with hers. Who would’ve thought pencilthin eyebrows would become a thing of the past? (And, thankfully, we’ve evolved from the tweezer-happy teens we once were!) Eyebrows frame the windows to the soul.

They can be iconic, understated, grow freely or you can pluck them into obscurity. But they draw attention to the eyes and can be the most crucial touch of natural makeup on the face. There’s more to brows than preventing sweat and debris from falling into your eyes. You smile with them, furrow them when you frown and bunch them when lost in concentration. Eyebrows have been objects we’ve marvelled at for thousands of years and reflect different cultural values, geographies and periods.

Eyebrows through the ages

As long ago as between 3 500 BC and 2 500 BC in Ancient Egypt, where both men and women donned makeup and followed cosmetic trends, the eyebrows were a style choice and not just practical fixtures on the face. Egyptians wore thick, bold brows to honour the Egyptian God of Good Health, Horus.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans followed a few trends too. Amongst them was a love of the unibrow, a symbol of beauty. In the Tang dynasty in China, which ruled from 618 AD to 907 AD, women would shave off their natural eyebrows to easily apply makeup.

Some say that in the 18th century, the grim practice of trapping mice and using their fur to form artificial brows became a solution for a fuller brow. The brows of The Roaring Twenties were needle-thin. And in the ’60s, Sophia Loren started a trend with her deftly applied, pencilled look. Today, the jury is out, as numerous trends sweep the world.

The essential fashion accessory

Kryolan professionals say, “In the 2010s, bold eyebrows made a long-awaited return. If women’s brows had survived zealous over-plucking in the ’90s and early 2000s, they left them to grow freely, following the bold example set by Cara Delevingne and even, to an extent, Kim Kardashian. “Today, many women are tweezing less and adding a touch of texture with waxes, gels and brushes. We’re seeing defined but bold and natural looks. The ombré brow is popular too, which features a thicker look. Faded on the edges and done right, it can look like art. But we advise you to be cautious, as it can appear a bit too much if overdone.

Overall, there’s more freedom of choice today, as we see numerous eye-catching trends.” Whether you choose to go au naturel or groom your brows into shape, they frame your face. They’re a personal choice that can speak volumes about your personality, and that makes them as eternal as fashion. Over time, we’ve transitioned from long and thin to arched, sculpted, full and bushy. We’re thankful to the eyebrow gods for allowing the miracle that is our arches to grow back, and today when you think of sought-after brows, you visualise them as fluffy and natural-looking. And thanks to makeup, you can change them every day.

This article was originally published in Glamour’s May 2022 Wellness Issue. Grab your digital copy here.

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