teenage nostalgia

Are Thin Eyebrows … Back?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images, 645AR/Youtube

At this point in the trend cycle, our eyebrows are going in two different directions: the brushed-up bushy brows achieved by the bizarre soap-brows trend on TikTok or, out of the shadows, the return of a much more divisive shape — thin eyebrows.

At this year’s Met Gala, Euphoria star Barbie Ferreira turned up with line-drawn eyebrows. Model Bella Hadid is also a fan of the thin brow, her own eyebrows gradually getting more scarce over the past couple of years. FKA Twigs has dabbled in thin eyebrows, wearing them pencil-thin for the “Sum Bout U” music video by 645AR, and artist Beabadoobee recently plucked her previously bleached brows.

Photographer Natalia Mantini, who captured Ferreira with drawn-on eyebrows recently, says her choice of using thin eyebrows in her work is tied to her “childhood and the Latinx artists involved.” “As a young Mexican girl, I naturally had very thin brows, nothing like a full idealized Eurocentric model or actor type of brow,” she told the Cut. “Taking mine fully off — which I did for years — felt cathartic, honest, and was somewhat a response to beauty standards that were not healthy for me.”

The thin-eyebrow trend could also be part of the current Y2K renaissance (which we can also thank for the return of low-rise jeans), with the resurgence of trends from the early 2000s worn by Paris Hilton and Christina Aguilera, two stars who had thin, and sometimes drawn-on, eyebrows.

“Younger millennials and Gen Z consider the ’90s and 2000s as the cool decades,” says Michael Nolte, SVP creative director of Beautystreams. “Times where groomed and plucked eyebrows à la Pamela Anderson and Gwen Stefani were considered beautiful in the West.” (Nolte added that the thin- or even no-brow trend dates back to the Middle Ages, where the elite wanted to appear refined.)

He says that the trend could also be “a counterreaction to the thick-eyebrow domination” that appealed to older generations who viewed the ’80s as the cool decade — with icons like Brooke Shields and the “early” Madonna.

There are many people that have been rocking thin eyebrows through the past decade, despite the thin-eyebrow slander. Jazzelle Zanaughtti, better known by her Instagram handle @uglyworldwide, is one. Rihanna herself has been another (with her British Vogue cover). Australia-based makeup artist Happi Uwingabire, too.

“Thin eyebrows have always been hot, but I’ve had thin eyebrows for years and people would tell me I look like an auntie,” Uwingabire told the Cut. “I want to.” She says the shape makes her face more lifted. Uwingabire credits the return of thin eyebrows to the Nigerian film industry (or Nollywood). Instagram accounts sharing Nollywood scenes where the actors have thin brows have gone viral in recent years.

Uwingabire also credits the return of thin eyebrows to the pandemic and, in many parts of the world, coming out of lockdown.

“I feel like with the great depression we’ve all been in and the crisis that’s happened, people have sat down and realized we’ve all been taking life too seriously,” says Uwingabire. “We’ve decided that maybe we don’t have to look a certain way and can be more creative with how we look.” This, says Uwingabire, means many people have completely changed their approach to style since the beginning of last year.

Mantini, on the other hand, credits a number of communities for the look’s return, including the drag community. “I always just hope people take a look at what they’re referencing, why, where it came from, and move with intentionality versus fads and social capital,” she says. “A lot of these references, people, and communities are sacred in my opinion.”

Where Have Our Eyebrows Gone?