Beauty

The Great Eyebrow Debate: Groomed or Natural?

Cara Delevingne's bold brows

Cara Delevingne’s bold brows; image: Imaxtree

I have a confession to make: The phrase “eyebrows on fleek” seriously makes me cringe. But it’s not for the reason you might think. On fleek? You can say it, tweet it, hashtag it, run it into the ground for all I care. But when you start talking about eyebrows? That’s where I get uncomfortable.

I have never particularly liked my eyebrows. They tend toward a unibrow and grow too far out toward my hairline, both thick and sparse like a scrub pine forest. My mother always says that when I was born, hair covered my forehead. I imagine it looked something like the kid who turns into a monkey in Jumanji and always tried to be thankful that at least that had gone away. But throughout my childhood and into adolescence I was deeply unhappy with my brows, er, brow. 

The first time I got my eyebrows done, in high school, was an unmitigated disaster. Despite telling the aesthetician multiple times that I didn’t want my brows too slim (just farther apart), she made them into stick-thin lines. I broke down in tears as soon as I was out of her eyesight. Later that day at field hockey practice a couple teammates marveled at the change. “I never realized how much eyebrows could change the way your face looks,” said one of my friends, which In retrospect, might have been spectacular shade. I had never before realized how much I appreciated the fullness of my brows, their expressiveness and character. 

For the next few years I just tried to let my eyebrows grow back in to place, but by the time I got to New York, I was ready to take them on again. A few trips to the Benefit Brow Bar at Bloomingdale’s (one of my favorite alliterations) left me with still thick, but much better managed eyebrows and despite the hives my skin broke out in immediately after each wax interaction, I was more or less happy. And what’s more, the woman charged with transforming my ugly ducklings complimented me on their shape and thickness. Someone complimenting me? On my eyebrows? It was beyond my wildest dreams.

Of course, by that time something glorious had happened. Full eyebrows came back in style and magazines heralded models and celebs like Cara Delevingne and Lily Collins as the icons of thick-browed beauty. As much as I embraced it though, a worry stuck in the back of my mind. What happens when some major style icon goes thin and everyone else decides that’s what’s in? And were the women with naturally thin brows just going through the same dread I had experienced for years before? It was after some considerable thought that I came to a decision. I had to respect my eyebrows, no matter how close together they were or whether their shape was in style. Because with trends based on things that are inherent to us (whether it’s eyebrows or hair texture or pallor) personal style and happiness are way more important than what happens to be in fashion

Currently my eyebrows and I have reached a detente. I pluck them a little, to make sure they’re not growing together or encroaching on my eyes too much. And when they get too woolly, I break out the manicure scissors for a teeny trim. But otherwise, I mostly leave them alone. My relationship with my eyebrows reminds me of a song we used to sing in Girl Scouts about a particularly hardy pair of black socks: Sometimes I think I should wax them, but something inside me keeps saying “not yet.”