I f you’re under the age of 22 and contemplating plucking your eyebrows, thanks to TikTok’s thin eyebrow filter, I’m going to need you to stop right there. If you’re late to the party, a considerable amount of younger people are realizing they might like having thin eyebrows because of a viral filter that gives you 1990s-style eyebrows that are pencil-thin with very rounded arches. A solid handful of people have actually taken the plunge and plucked or waxed their brows to create the shape for real. And I just can’t take it anymore. There’s absolutely no way on Earth I can write this without sounding like your overbearing mother, but here I go: Put those tweezers down right this second! We millennials certainly have our downfalls as a generation — we thought mustaches should be on everything in 2012, after all — but eyebrow maintenance is a topic we’ve more than earned the right to lecture y’all about.
Because here’s the thing about giving yourself thin eyebrows: unlike a drastic haircut, over-plucked brows aren’t guaranteed to grow back. Of course, we learned that the hard way after the late 1990s and early 2000s, when we all scrambled for tweezers and haphazardly plucked and plucked and plucked until there was barely anything left. Although the average growth cycle for eyebrow hair is three to four months. Over plucking damages the follicle, sometimes beyond repair. Remember that the hair lives in the follicle, and was put there for a reason; if you remove it, the area becomes irritated, inflamed, and sometimes permanently scarred.
That’s why, some 20-odd years down the line, many millennials can still be found Googling “microblading,” “eyebrow serum,” or “how to grow eyebrows back” on any given night of the week. We’ve lived through multiple school graduations, our first years on our own as adults, and hell, even a pandemic, all while waiting impatiently for new hairs to sprout back up where they once grew like weeds. Why did we mentally torture ourselves over something so seemingly meaningless as our eyebrows? Trends. Marketing. Celebrities. At the time in our lives when we were at our most impressionable, it was considered passé — nay, unladylike — to have so much as a single hair growing outside the harsh, thin boundaries the time’s beauty standards had laid out for us.
Fast-forward to Cara Delevingne’s entrance to mainstream Hollywood in the early 2010s, and those standards made a complete 180. Seemingly overnight, ultra-thin eyebrows became a thing of the past, and big, square, “natural” eyebrows were the new ideal. Many celebrities — what with their never-ending access to makeup artists, beauty treatments, and cosmetic procedures — fell right in line with record-breaking speed. We, normal people, however, got a mad case of beauty whiplash when we realized our natural brow hairs weren’t coming back just because we stopped plucking.
Though I can’t stop the inevitable, I can, at the very least, warn you about what happens next if you risk a permanent change to your face for the sake of a trend. Just like everything else in this world, all trends have to die someday, whether that be in a week, a year, or even a couple of decades. But they do end, and when they do, humans pretty much always see-saw back to whatever they were doing before.
Consider eyebrow standards throughout the past century: in the 1920s and 1930s, thin eyebrows were all the rage. They thickened back out throughout the ’40s and until the ’90s, when society reverted to the thin, rounded shape and stuck with that until the 2010s. All beauty standards run in a cycle — and the inherent nature of cycles is that they never end. So while we might be living in the land of thin, rounded arches for the foreseeable future, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that it won’t stay that way throughout the remainder of our lifetimes. When I was so young that I could not fathom what the world was like before my conception, that had never crossed my mind. So I wasted hours upon end inspecting every tiny hair that sprouted, assuming that was just how things were supposed to be when they most certainly didn’t have to be.
I don’t mean to say that thin, neatly shaped eyebrows are inherently bad. When shaped well, they can actually be flattering on a lot of people, but they aren’t for everyone. Brow trends might come and go as they please, but our human biology simply doesn’t allow us to cycle through eyebrow shapes from decade to decade — not without a hearty dose of regret and maybe even resentment toward those who have the eyebrows we can’t achieve ourselves.
In short: when everyone has thick eyebrows, we’re told we should have thin ones, and vice versa. This constant ebb and flow provides cosmetic companies a convenient way to consistently sell new tools, treatments, and procedures to us — and that’s where I really get my panties in a twist over these emerging eyebrow standards.
If thin eyebrows are your thing, cool. That’s your right — but if they aren’t, just know that it doesn’t matter whether or not you have them. Eventually (I can’t tell you how long it will take but eventually), thick brows will cycle back 10 times over. Trust me… entire generations have seen it happen with our own eyes.