Beauty News

Eyebrows on Fleek…!?

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Eyebrows through history: the good, bad and downright ugly!

Eyebrow Queen

Recently the world was slapped with a science fact: your eyebrows are the most important feature of your face. You might have thought it was your nose, eyes or mouth, but according to research people find it difficult to recognise people when their eyebrows are missing. But I’m sure we could all recognise Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows even if the rest her face was out at a party!

Perhaps it explains why women throughout the ages have had such a fascination with their eyebrows – even as far back as the ancient Egyptians. But brow style has changed dramatically…and often. Let’s pluck out a few examples to see the changes in trends over the ages…

Ancient Egyptians invent makeup (c. 3500 B.C. – 2500 B.C.)

It might have been 5000 years ago, but the Ancient Egyptians still tended to their brows like they were cultivating the Nile. The main fashion icon at the time was the God Horus, who sported long, dark, prominent eyebrows. Picture your idea of Cleopatra’s sleek, dark brow and you’re on the right lines. In order to achieve this effect those cunning Egyptians used carbon and black oxide substances to darken and extend their brows. Basically they invented rudimentary brow powder using burnt stuff. So, when the girls are going crazy over the ‘Delevingne effect’ remember that it was Nefertiti’s look first!

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Egyptian Queen or catwalk model?

The Ancient Greeks got purist (800 B.C. – 146 B.C.). The Ancient Greeks valued purity – in thoughts, acts and even the way they looked. The women tended to leave their brows ‘au naturel’, particularly if they were married. If they were single then they might add a bit of definition with some black incense.
Believe it or not, the ideal eyebrow for the Greeks was a monobrow! Yep, what we spend hours trying to get rid of the Greeks saw as the pinnacle of beauty. Weird huh?

The Ancient Romans relaxed (753 B.C. – 476 A. D.)

The Romans were a little less strict on their brow sense than the Greeks, but they still preferred the natural look. A monobrow was the epitome of beauty for the Ancient Romans, signifying intelligence and class. All of the most renowned beauties of the Roman world sported a monobrow. If you’re still struggling to picture Angelina Jolie with a fat monobrow spread across her face then you’re not alone. However, it all changed when we arrived in the Middle Ages.

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The Middle Ages pluck-a-thon (1066 – 1500)

Plucking eyebrows became a fashion in the Middle Ages. At that time the forehead was the most important part of the face (they didn’t benefit from our modern science). Women would pluck their eyebrows down to their bare minimum to emphasise their forehead in all its domed glory. Some even went as far as plucking all of their eyelashes and eyebrow hairs out. Ouch!
During the Elizabethan era (slightly later, from 1558–1603) women emulated their incredibly fashionable queen by tinting their minimalist brows a reddish hue.

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The Victorians go back to bushy (1837 – 1901)

The Victorians are known for their prudish attitudes, so it is no great surprise that they preferred the natural, bushy look. Women who used makeup or plucked their eyebrows were assumed to be prostitutes, so the more well-to-do ladies of the era left their brows largely untamed.

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The roaring ‘20s

The 1920s was the start of real celebrity culture, with women starting to mimic the look of their favourite entertainer. Silent films were becoming ever more popular and photographs of singers were more widely available. All this meant that, for the first time, regular people could see the changing trends. The main brow look of the ‘20s came from those silent movie stars. They tended to pluck their eyebrows incredibly thin, long, and straight, with a downward slant at the outer edge. This would create a rather dramatic look, full of expression – perfect for a silent movie star.

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The stylised ‘30s

The tendency to severely pluck eyebrows continued into the 1930s, except brows were now thinner and more arched, adding even more drama! The epitome of the ‘30s look is the highly-tweezed brow of Hollywood star Jean Harlow (pictured).

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The thicker ‘40s

Eyebrows got thicker and more natural in the 1940s, but still with the dramatic arch. This was part of a softer, less stern look. Film actress Lauren Bacall was famous for her ‘look’, which would certainly have lost its sultry mystique without her thick, arched brow. Grace Kelly is another film star who epitomised the ‘40s brow style.

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The defined ‘50s

The thicker, arched brow became immaculately manicured in the 1950s, with stars and fashion icons like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn (pictured) and Liz Taylor defining the look. While thick, the edges are particularly sharp, adding definition and contrast to their face.

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High-contrast ‘60s

Audrey Hepburn’s thick and straight style lasted into the 1960s, with fashion icon and artsy gal Edie Sedgewick adding contrast by borrowing from the Egyptians book of tricks and adding brow powder. Sophia Loren (pictured) has arguably the most famous eyebrows of the ‘60s – except she didn’t even have any! Sophia was in the habit of shaving off her eyebrows completely, painstakingly drawing them back on with thin, light strokes for a convincingly natural look.

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Different groups of the ‘70s

The eyebrows you sported in the 1970s were largely a reflection of which crowd you fell into. The hippie movement favoured thicker, more natural brows. If you were more likely to head to a disco than Woodstock then your eyebrows were more likely to be thinner and more arched. We think that Lauren Hutton managed the perfect balance with her ‘fresh-faced’ look.

The bushy ‘80s

Bushy was better in the 1980s. It was incredibly popular to have big, bushy, unkempt eyebrows. Women would even use brow pencils and powders to create the perfect ‘caterpillar’ look. Think Brooke Shields and early Madonna (pictured). So if you’re having a bad brow day just tell people you are bringing the ‘80s back! Like a virgin, tweezing for the very first time

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The minimal ‘90s

A bit of a low point in terms of eyebrows, women in the 1990s either plucked ‘til there was next to nothing left, or let their brows run rampant. The super-thin, overplucked look was pretty fashionable at the time, with stars like Pamela Anderson (pictured) and Drew Barrymore typifying the look.…let’s move swiftly on.eye11

The modern brow

Fortunately the fashion of plucking all but three hairs from your brow died out in the early noughties, being replaced by the thicker, fuller brow of today. Cara Delevingne has dominated the catwalk with her dark, dramatic eyebrows, with women recreating her look with pencil, powder or even hair dye (though we wouldn’t recommend putting those chemicals near your eyes!).

What do you think? Have we gone full circle back to the Ancient Egyptians?


Of course, we’re still capable of some cries against eyebrow fashion. Check out our Pinterest board here for the best and worst of modern brow style.

Pinterest: Eyebrows On Fleek

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