Goodbye, thick eyebrows: Will a whole generation of girls regret plucking them (again)?

All trends come back eventually, and the thin eyebrows of the 1990s is no exception. Now, Generation Z is opting for thin, defined arches with a marked angle, but several experts warn of the dangers of overplucking

Nicola Peltz Beckham
Nicola Peltz Beckham, one of the celebrities who has embraced the trend of thin eyebrows.VALERIE MACON (AFP via Getty Images)

Laminated, sudsy, bleached, subversive, marked, split, ultra-glossy... Eyebrows are the new beauty obsession, and they are at the center of the latest trends. In fact, the craze began in the mid-2010s when Cara Delevigne brought thick, big, unruly and bushy eyebrows back into vogue. They frame the face, add expression and are an undisputed sign of youth. In 2023, eyebrows continue their reign, although their shape has changed. Yes, thin eyebrows are making a comeback, and, as was the case in the 1990s, this enthusiasm for tweezing may shape a whole new generation of girls, who will suffer the consequences of excessive plucking in the future. Rihanna started the current trend of thin eyebrows in 2018 when she appeared on the cover of British Vogue with super thin arches drawn in pencil a la Marlene Dietrich. Fortunately, the trend didn’t catch on and fluffy, manicured brows continued to be most people’s preference. At least until now.

The term “thin eyebrows” can cause women from different generations to break out in a cold sweat. The trend resurfaces cyclically from time to time. Actresses in the 1930s, including Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard, wore their brows ultra thin and drawn in pencil. In the 1990s, Pamela Anderson, Drew Barrymore and Kate Moss all featured this look. And today, Generation Z is once again embracing the thin-eyebrow trend. Bella Hadid, Alexa Demie, Nicola Peltz, Julia Fox and Doja Cat are some of the many celebrities to sport skinny brows. But the brow shape has changed slightly. “The thin eyebrows we are currently seeing are not the same as those of the ‘90s. Now they are not quite as thin but are well-defined including the arch. We see very fine eyebrows exclusively on the catwalk and in editorial looks, but most of the time they are done with makeup, without removing the hair,” Giner Muñoz, Benefit’s National Beauty and Brow Authority, explains.

Julia Fox in a photograph taken in London last October.
Julia Fox in a photograph taken in London last October. Neil Mockford (GC Images)

Does hair removal affect hair growth?

The 1990s and early 2000s shaped an entire generation of women who entered adulthood with severely thinning eyebrows. Why do they stop growing? Dr. Leslie Ramirez of the Instituto de Benito emphasizes that “we must keep in mind that once plucked, eyebrow hair can stop growing. The consequences are eyebrows with less density and different structure. It is not easy to determine how many tweezings are necessary for the hair to stop growing because it depends on multiple factors.” Aroa Macías, a microblading expert at Carmen Navarro centers, explains the reasons why eyebrows stop growing. “There are two key factors that cause density loss. On the one hand, hormonal changes affect both excess hair growth and hair loss, and when that happens, it is difficult to mitigate. [On the other hand], we can avoid abusing hair removal, which often becomes almost a compulsive tic in front of the mirror. If it is not controlled, it leads to hair loss and we can lose the eyebrow completely. These two factors, together or separately, lead to total hair loss, in some cases, and partial hair loss in most cases”.

What should we consider before plucking our eyebrows?

The experts we consulted agree that there is no greater danger than being bored in front of the mirror with tweezers in our hands. “It is important to consult a specialist for advice on which method or technique to use depending on your needs. Professionals can prevent irreversible mistakes. A common mistake is epilating by pulling the hair upwards with a quick tug. To correctly remove hair, you have to grab it at the base with tweezers, hold the skin and stretch in the direction and inclination of growth,” explains Dr. Delia Vilà of the Regenera Clinic. Giner Muñoz concurs: “I do not recommend plucking eyebrows at home; the design should always be left to experts in order to achieve the shape that complements each face and, at the same time, take care of the eyebrows. People do not have a professional’s ability to observe the structure of your face and its symmetry.”

Bella Hadid at the Fashion Trust Arabia Awards.
Bella Hadid at the Fashion Trust Arabia Awards.JEWEL SAMAD (AFP via Getty Images)

How do I know which eyebrow shape complements my face?

Did you know that before you remove a single hair you can test how a shape looks? “Before plucking I recommend performing a ‘brow cancel.’ [It’s a] very common technique in makeup artistry and drag in which eyebrows are glued to the skin with glue stick and then the hair color is corrected with a high coverage concealer to draw the eyebrow we are seeking. A simpler way is to paint them completely with concealer or a foundation in our [skin] tone and draw a thinner eyebrow on top. But I never recommend plucking thin eyebrows. Every day, I see many clients who want a healthy and full eyebrow, which is really what is most flattering. The rest are cyclical, fleeting fads that can damage the eyebrow’s density and shape in the future,” explains Giner Muñoz.

According to esthetician Leslie Ramirez, one should take several aspects into account in order to find the ideal brow shape. “You should always consider facial features and do a personalized design according to age, style and personality. There are three basic steps to choose the perfect eyebrow shape: to find where the eyebrow begins, place a pencil vertically at the inner corner of the eye; the arch of the eyebrow or the high point is achieved by marking an invisible line from the wing of the nose to the pupil; and finally, to determine the ideal length, you have to mark a line from the wing of the nose to the outer area of the eye.”

Is it possible to fix a hair removal disaster?

No one is perfect, and you may have overdone it by plucking hairs or you don’t like the result of your new eyebrow shape. Is there a solution? “The first thing is to let them grow and keep in mind that the best way to shape a natural eyebrow is to keep them as they are, trimming some hairs that are growing longer from time to time and only using tweezers to pluck the hairs that protrude from the natural shape,” says Christophe Guillemat, a Regenera Clinic hair surgery technician.

Giner Muñoz believes that makeup is the easiest way to fix bad hair. “At Benefit, we have two products that are ideal for defining eyebrows and making them look fuller. Gimme Brow+ Volumizing Color Volumizing Gel and Gimme Brow Volumizing Pencil. Both contain fibers that adhere to hair and skin for a thicker visual effect.” If eyebrows are seriously weakened or growth is very slow, “the best option is to go for microblading, a semi-permanent makeup that lasts for 12 to 18 months. That gives the eyebrow enough time to recover its natural shape,” says Leslie Ramirez.

Drew Barrymore at the 1992 Golden Globes.
Drew Barrymore at the 1992 Golden Globes. Ron Galella, Ltd. (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

Do topical products work to add density and promote growth?

Castor oil has gone viral on Tik Tok for adding density to eyebrows. But is that true? “Social media claims castor oil has positive effects on eyebrows, but studies have not confirmed that it promotes growth, although it can help strengthen hair and improve density. But it is important to be very consistent,” says Ramirez. According to Dr. Delia Vila of Regenera Clinic, “products with amino acids, B vitamins, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, or even substances derived from prostaglandins can give the eyebrows a thicker and more voluminous appearance.”

Dr. Beatriz Beltrán, the director of the Beatriz Beltrán clinic, recommends the Gleam Brows serum from Nost Cosmetics, which can make hair grow where there no longer is any. “It gives very good results both in weakened eyebrows that have stopped growing, and for those who want to keep them and prevent their loss. It even works well in oncology patients. It has ingredients that promote eyebrow recovery and active ingredients that nourish and strengthen. In just eight weeks, it achieves amazing density and length. [It’s a] treatment that nourishes, repairs, protects and stimulates the root to give the look strength, character and personality.”

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