Throughout the tweezer-happy ’90s, I enthusiastically trimmed my brows. Inspired by Kate MossOf the delicate arches, I erased mine—brown in color, with a completely acceptable natural shape, gently angled—until they were as slender as my sundresses. It took years for a regrowth look to materialize, thus closing a traumatic chapter in the history of beauty for an entire generation. That is, until TikTok opened it up again, where a popular thin brow filter that turns full shapes to wild in sugary locks sent a chill across my forehead when I first encountered it.
“How did we get here?” I thought to myself, as she flipped through pictures from the fall/winter 2022-23 runway shows where the brows weren’t so much styled as completely decimated. at Burberry and Versace, makeup artist Pat McGrath brought out her bleach bottles to create what she describes as a “strong, bold, powerful and otherworldly” look. Makeup artist Diane Kendal called the bare foreheads she sculpted beneath the sharp-edged mullets on Marc Jacobs “gothic and futuristic,” adjectives not often associated with supermodel Bella Hadid, who blended in with the rest of the cast in dystopian couture. Jacob’s. Hadid herself is certainly part of the comeback of understated brows, regularly romanticizing all things ’90s, a decade in which she spent just four years alive. But the retro revival is as much an homage to the original supermodels as it is a reflection of our collective emotional state, suggests makeup artist Marcelo Gutiérrez. Using brows as a creative canvas—thinning, bleaching, shaving or tinting, or bejeweled or glittered—provides a welcome injection of whimsy in our unchained times, says Gutierrez, who has worked with Troye Sivan, dualipa and Alexa Demie from Euphoria. Existentialism breeds escapism. “If I know my client wants to enter another world, I offer to bleach their eyebrows.”
Gutiérrez draws a parallel with the exuberance of the Roaring Twenties, after World War I, “when people were excited to live in a fantasy, because they didn’t know when the world would end again.” In uncertain times, he suggests, a thin forehead is decisive. “She’s a very, how shall I say, bitch in the best of ways? eyebrow.” This is true, according to London-based beauty historian Lucy Jane Santos. Clara Bow was the original brow influencer, Santos says, describing the razor-thin brows that dramatically extended beyond Bow’s natural brow line, which 1920s movie star Anna May Wong and actress Josephine Baker looked a century ago. Ideas in beauty now move even faster. “If you look at the really young makeup artists on Instagram who are doing different things, they either don’t have eyebrows or they’re drawing them very thin,” says Rihanna-approved makeup artist Raisa Flowers. When I ask Flowers what her favorite ’90s brow looks are, she happily flashes them on her phone. “Little Kim. Oh, Mary J. Blige. Miss Elliott, definitely. Her brows were pencil-thin, pencil-thin, and they’d put concealer around them to make them look even more perfect.”