Have you ever had someone stare deep into your eyes, only to shake their head and reply, "No, honey, those simply will not do"? That's because they're not looking into your eyes, they're analyzing your brows, and they're about to inform you that it's time to consider reshaping your eyebrows. Anyone who's encountered this fateful suggestion, by way of well meaning friends or an esthetician, will agree that committing to "re-bushying" your brows isn't an easy task. And, if you're not careful, you may just fall into the same brow patterns you had before. After all, we are creatures of habit.
But for some of us, the eyebrow issue runs far deeper — like our genetics. While most estheticians are able to provide a handful of helpful tips for achieving great brow shape for your unique brows, or even coach you through moments when you need to grow out your eyebrows, they can't make follicles grow where your genes don't allow them to. Many women and men are born with an abundance of brow — myself included. That doesn't mean, however, that the brow hair we're blessed with shows up in all of the places we wish it would, as well as the places we wish it wouldn't. Some of us don't have long brows, or brows that arch, or peak, or have any real semblance of spatial discipline beyond simply residing generally above our eyes.
Of course, trailing the revolutionary arrival of eyelash extensions came the onslaught of eyebrow extensions. Obviously, this brilliant practice heralds a new age during which all brows can be created equal. And certainly, I admire the artistry that goes into painstakingly applying individual hairs, available in every hue, to achieve seemingly natural, yet perfectly sculpted brows. But when we begin to dissect the ideology that's lead us to this point in our beauty history, things begin to feel just the slightest bit frightening. Not to mention how weird things get when you let your mind wander on the topic of exactly where all of these individual eyebrow and eyelash hairs are coming from.
What concerns me far more than the source of our potential hair adoptees is that during a time when our society is attempting to create balance and equality between men and women (because yes, in case you've been snoozing on the issue, there's still work to be done there), encouraging every woman to chase a unified notion of the perfect brow shape or any other homogenized beauty construct fails to promote equality between women. That's right. Equality in the realm of beauty doesn't equate to homogenization, it results from the recognition and celebration of differences, and placing focus on individual achievements, attributes, successes, and growth. Again, not for the purpose of reaching the same goal, but in the pursuit of reaching our own unique beauty goals.
Of course, I'm not implying that anyone who chooses to opt for eyebrow extensions to achieve the current ideal brow, or regularly shapes a brow in that same pursuit, is somehow doing an injustice to the feminist movement. In fact, I rather share the opinion that beauty, fashion, and feminism don't clash. When a woman makes the conscious choice to redefine her brows in a way that suits her, she is asserting her control over her own body, and that is a beautiful action in and of itself.
However, I'm suggesting that in the same way we strive to be body positive and embrace the various shapes, sizes, tones, and traditions of the female (and male) form, we could benefit from embracing a little more eyebrow variety. Since these dual features are, without a doubt, some of the most expressive aspects of our faces, it follows that perhaps by accepting something a bit closer to the natural state in which our follicles choose to proliferate, we'll be able to achieve an even wider range of unique personal expression. Plus, according to Psychology Today, eyebrows are key to making faces recognizable.
What puzzles me is that although we've moved toward a much more naturally inspired eyebrow trend — embracing the bushy, for all of its lush, expressive glory — it still seems quite a few of us spend countless hours agonizing over the ways in which our eyebrows don't look just like Lily Collins or Lea Michele's beautifully bold brows.
What I'm saying is that I'd hate to think that we're missing an opportunity, and maybe part of the point. In this glorious return to big and bold, there lies a pearl of natural wisdom, and it has nearly nothing to do with size. It's about allowing ourselves to shine as we are now and then, sans an abundance of cosmetic alteration, if for no other reason than to regularly check in with where our personal concepts of beauty spring forth.
And yeah, once we've spent some time owning and appreciating the brows we're born into, we may choose to grow them out, or whip them into another shape. That's just fine. Personally, I'm in the midst of a major regrowth period, and it's driving me nuts. These stray hairs are a hot mess, and the only thing truly keeping me on my mission is strange curiosity.
But in the end, even though I know I'll be able to add a little extra thickness to my brows, I'm also acutely aware that their natural arch peaks in a strange spot, and the brow tail doesn't trail elegantly toward that perfect extension from the corner of my nose past the corner of my eye. They're not made to be on fleek. My eyebrows want to be somewhere between wild, quirky, and somehow strangely subtle. Which is great, because so do I. They are, in effect, the ideal accessory to my personality.
As an artist and photographer, and after many years of studying faces, I'm inclined to conclude that this is a fairly universal phenomenon. If our eyes are the windows to our souls, then our brows (on fleek or not) are the punctuation of our personalities. And that's an attribute worth loving.
Images: Jen Schildgen; Giphy (5)