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I Want My Unibrow Back

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Swellness” is a monthlong series exploring the health and wellness stuff no one talks about.

The first time I tried to shave off my unibrow, I was 9. A boy in my class — a friend — had used a pen to draw some fuzz between his eyebrows to mock me. At a largely white school, I was already worried that my tan skin (I am half-Indian) stood out. In gym class, I’d spent months worried that my classmates would notice the downy hair on my legs, but this was the first time I’d considered the hair growing in a deep V down my nose bridge. Staring in the mirror that night, I felt ugly, embarrassed, and even ashamed. How had I never paid attention to what was smack between my eyes?

Later that week, I watched the makeover scene in 2001’s The Princess Diaries, in which Anne Hathaway as Mia Thermopolis has her caterpillar brows plucked and shaped. That did it. I grabbed a dull razor and used it on my nose bridge. I ended up shaving too much off one eyebrow — it wasn’t pretty. My mother was upset when she saw my work, and while I would never use a razor again after the lecture I received from her, it didn’t stop me from stealing her tweezers to continue the job.

Lately though, I’m seeing unibrows all over the place. Greek model Sophia Hadjipanteli displays her monobrow in Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. NBA star Anthony Davis, who’s affectionately called “the Brow,” sports his as an eight-time NBA All-Star. In 2019, actor Yara Shahidi told Allure how her unibrow made her feel powerful. Hairdresser Emaly Baum showed hers off in the Strategist. Rupi Kaur’s 2017 book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers, features a poem in which she describes her eyebrows as two lovers who can’t be kept away from each other: “even if they’ve been separated / they’ll end up together.”

Although I’d let my brows grow untamed and bushy, a unibrow always felt like a step too far to me. My second cousin Lina, who was just 10 when she asked her mom to wax her unibrow, grew hers back as a sophomore in college. “My friends accused me of trying to be trendy,” she says. “But I still think all of them thought it looked pretty cool.”

When I went to see brow artist Azi Sacks in January and she suggested I try growing mine out, I was skeptical about how it would look. She pulled out her phone to show me her client Zara Rahim, a strategist and PR consultant who was growing in her unibrow. Rahim started plucking hers — against her family’s advice — in middle school. “My mother would tell me about how beautiful my unibrow was,” she says. “She would always tell me about Kajol, a Bollywood actor who had a unibrow at the height of her career. I still couldn’t validate that beauty in the mostly white world that I was living in.” It was Sacks who persuaded her to close the gap. Sacks, who is Persian, says that many Persian women don’t pluck their eyebrows and unibrows at all until their wedding day, when they are groomed. Even then, the unibrow often remains.

In the U.S., until relatively recently, women like myself would start plucking, bleaching, or camouflaging early. Celebrity brow artist Kristie Streicher, who is currently helping musician Lorde grow out her unibrow, remembers working in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the early 2000s, when moms brought their daughters in. “A lot of them had South Asian or Middle Eastern backgrounds and had a hairy brow and hairy arms and legs, and their parents would be like, ‘Take all of it off,’” she says. “That kind of thing gives you a complex.”

When it came to my own regrowth, Sacks — whose prices start at $200 — told me that she still shapes the unibrow, making sure that it’s thin and subtle, and doesn’t travel too far down the nose. The first thing she advised me to do? Step away from the tweezers, scissors, razors, waxes, or bleaches and just leave my eyebrows alone for a few months. She recommended using a serum by Augustinus Bader on my them twice per day to help them grow back. Ultimately, though, I found more results with a recommendation from Chanel brow artist Jimena Garcia — RevitaBrow.

It was tougher than I’d expected to stop pruning. Once I started paying more attention, I realized I had redeveloped a tick that had started in middle school: pulling out the sparse hairs with my fingers from the area when I was anxious. I tried to notice every time I reached for them and do something else with my hands — like doodling. Regrowth takes a while — the growth cycle for eyebrows is three or four months — and after a month, I started getting paranoid about how the partially sprouted areas looked.

Some of the regrowth came out at odd angles and drooped straight out over my eyes. I did my best to leave it. I thought that growing out my unibrow would feel freeing, but instead, I found myself paying more attention to my eyebrows than ever — inspecting them when I woke up and before bed to monitor their progress. I had never worn makeup with any regularity to the office before, but I started filling the areas of my brows near my nose to bring them a little closer together with a Westman Atelier pencil or Streicher’s KS&CO Microfeathering Brow Pen.

After a couple of months of checking on my eyebrows twice a day, I reached a tipping point and came to accept my lack of control over the situation. I had gotten used to the few sprouts that made my eyebrows less far apart, and I had a few wispy hairs on my nose bridge. I started to like it. Garcia has seen this before with her clients. “When we see something often enough, we start to find beauty in it,” she says. “There’s a comfort that comes with acceptance.”

I stopped worrying about how co-workers or friends might perceive me. We’re not in elementary school. No one was going to draw a unibrow on their face to imitate me anymore.

And I like my burgeoning unibrow. It reminds me of the thick facial hair some relatives on my Indian side have and the strong unibrow my grandfather had in his youth. I see it less as a subversive look from fashion editorials or a bold statement — like Lina, I don’t want to look like I’m jumping on a trend — and more like a badge I can wear at work without raising too many (separated) eyebrows.

Sometimes at night, when I’m shellacking on that $111 RevitaBrow serum, I remember reaching for the razor when I was 9. I don’t want to overstate my case by saying there’s a rebelliousness to leaving my eyebrows as nature intended. I have an appointment with Garcia next week to make sure they don’t get too wild ahead of my wedding (I want less Bert from Sesame Street and more Shahidi), but it has been nice to look at my face and see its evolution. Now, when I miss my family, I can look at the wispy growth between my eyes and be reminded of them.

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I Want My Unibrow Back