Is there any part of our face that commands as much attention as the eyebrows these days? I think not!
Big, bushy eyebrows are on fleek, as they say. Side note for word nerds: the word “fleek” is especially used to describe perfectly-groomed eyebrows since 2014, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
An adjective for eyebrows made the dictionary with good reason. Everybody’s obsessed with their brows! This isn’t anything new. Full eyebrows were such a big thing during the 18th century in Western Europe that many women in upper class society attached mouse hide to their foreheads! In recent memory, eyebrows went skinny during the 80s. Some new wave kids even styled them by shaving lines into their brows. They got a little thicker in the 90s but nothing like today’s trend to bushy brows.
Believe it or not, researchers at the University of Lethbridge have studied eyebrows and their importance in facial recognition. The 2003 study was based on showing study participants photographs of celebrities. There were two sets of photos used of these famous faces – one without eyes and one without eyebrows. Of the group, 56 per cent were able to identify who the celebrities were without eyes but – get this – only 46 per cent could identify them without eyebrows!
While it would appear brows are necessary for facial identification, they are also high up on the list for beauty standards. Big, bushy eyebrows are considered youthful, which would explain the skyrocketing success of microblading. But, why?
Javid Sadr, one of the researchers involved in the U of L study, told Yahoo Health that there’s a correlation between big eyebrows and those big shoulder pads of the late 1980s.
“There was a big movement of more women in the workplace and more women breaking through the glass ceiling,” he said. “[Big shoulder pads] were a masculinizing feature. They made a statement about being empowered.”
Jean Carruthers, MD, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia also had an interesting thing or two to say about big eyebrows.
Nature intended them to be a protective mechanism, she said. They were really meant to deflect sweat away from getting into your eyes. Furthermore, if the big eyebrow trend doesn’t pass anytime soon, there’s something else underfoot. This is where it gets really interesting. They may come to represent women’s rebellion against society’s expectations of traditional femininity, Carruthers said. Historically well-groomed brows have been in vogue during more conservative eras, she added. “Bushy brows are animalistic – a quality with sexual connotations usually reserved for men.
They’re such powerful message givers,” she told Yahoo. “The eyebrows show whether your’re female or male, whether you’re young or whether you’re older, whether you’re interested, dissatisfied, angry, curious, or incredulous. Eyebrows really are our big signalers.”
For those of us who have non-fluffy brows and don’t want to make the investment in microblading, there is always the trusty eyebrow pencil.
Not to browbeat (yes, another terrible pun!), but just make sure that it’s a shade lighter than your natural colour, otherwise it will look too harsh.