What’s Behind All the Extreme Brow Trends?
Eyebrow styles have always fluctuated with the times, but from the early aughts through much of the 2010s, brows enjoyed a steady, no-frills run of looking nice and neat. Sometimes we wore them big and bold, other times we kept them soft and feathery. But for the most part, we stayed within the parameters of natural, healthy-looking brows. We held up Cara Delevingne as our brow ambassador of bushy, beautiful fullness and we plucked sparingly. We relied on makeup looks that simply played up our own brows and which could be easily washed off at the end of the day.
But now, thanks to a post-pandemic boom in creative makeup and the revival of ‘90s and Y2K nostalgia, we’ve stopped playing it safe with our arches. Bleached brows, super-skinny brows, and bejeweled, bright-colored brows are all dominating the beauty-sphere, and not just on fashion runways and in editorial shoots. “Subversive brows,” as Vogue recently dubbed them, have trickled down into the mainstream, and being playful and experimental with your arches is every bit as popular as sporting a polished, natural look.
Why the current interest in these extreme styles after two decades of happily embracing our basic, well-groomed brows? For one thing, subversive makeup reflects the broader shift toward using cosmetics as a means of self-expression and celebrating individuality rather than conforming to set beauty standards. And when we see It girls like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Lizzo all going this route with their brows, we naturally become intrigued. But beauty pros point out that our collective emotional state at this moment may also play a role in this movement.
Makeup artist Marcelo Gutierrez (who has worked with Dua Lipa and Euphoria’s Alexa Demie) recently told Vogue that “using brows as a creative canvas—slimming them down, bleaching, shaving or dyeing them, or affixing them with jewels or glitter—provides a welcome shot of fantasy in our triggered times.” And as one fashion writer observes, barely-there brows tend to come back into fashion during times of economic turbulence, such as during the Great Depression with screen sirens Marlene Dietrich and Jean Harlow, and again in the 1970s with Diana Ross and Mia Farrow. So if we look to the stock market as a barometer of trending brow volume, it’s no wonder that thin is suddenly in again.
Societal and economic factors aside, there’s also the simple fact that after a prolonged period of having no reason to get dressed up, people are just really excited to go all out with their makeup post-pandemic and have fun being super creative.
The best part about this anything-goes approach to eyebrows is that you can switch up your arch aesthetic whenever you like—provided you don’t make any changes that can’t be easily undone. And thanks to the magic of makeup, there’s no need to bleach, shave, or tweeze your brows into oblivion to try out the latest styles.
Various thin brow filters on TikTok let you see what you’d look like with skinny ‘90s curvature, then there are plenty of tutorials that show you how to fake the look without plucking a single hair. Same goes for creating believable bleached brows: content creators demonstrate how some strategically placed concealer and powder can give you a brow-less effect without the long-term commitment. This also creates a blank canvas if you want to then play around with colorful brows, which you can do by blending a highly pigmented eyeshadow with a clear brow gel, then brushing the mix along your brows.