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Full or Thin: Eyebrow Trends Through the Decades

How have eyebrow shapes changed with beauty trends over the years? There's a clear pattern. Learn what was then and what's now for brows.

Eyebrow Styles and Trends: Shaping Brows for Now

Everyone has eyebrows. Scientists believe they serve the purpose of keeping rain, sweat, and other moisture out of our eyes. Their natural shape follows our brow ridges, to help channel moisture to the sides of our faces to help our vision remain clear. They are also crucial for making expressions. Without even using words, we can express many emotions such as surprise, confusion, and anger with our eyebrows, and this has actually been incorporated into part of the American Sign Language.

Because our eyebrows are important focal points for our face, we haven’t always been able to just leave them as nature made them. People—mainly women—have been torturing their eyebrows into various shapes and styles that have changed along with other trends throughout the decades, and even centuries, beginning with the ancient Egyptian’s thick, dark arches, and later Roman women preferring a unibrow, and often drawing one on if they weren’t lucky enough to born with one. Basically, finding the best eyebrow pencil is a common quest as people attempt to keep up with the trends.

Eyebrow Trends and Changes Over Time

In the 1920s, ultra-thin, often drawn-on, brows came into vogue with the rest of the unusual flapper look. Hemlines had suddenly come way up, and the popular eyebrow look was very thin and curved, with the tail often extending below the natural brow line. Women in the new moving pictures wore this look to better showcase their eyes on camera and it was widely imitated outside of Hollywood.

In the 1930s, brows stayed relatively thin, but the curve went up a little higher with the slightest hint of an arch. They were generally plucked into this shape instead of drawn on. The long thin tail was left out of the new look.

In the 1940s women joined the workforce and the thin glamour-brows went out. The new look became much thicker and more natural, with tweezers used mainly to create a handsome arch. It was all about the red lipstick during WWII, so the eyes and eyebrows were understated so as not to distract from the victory red lips.

In the 1950s, angled arches were all the rage as women everywhere copied the look of Marilyn Monroe by adding darker color and dramatic arches to eyebrows that had taken on a much bolder look to match the thick, fluttering eyelashes and winged eyeliner that was the new Hollywood glamour look of the decade.

In the 1960s, thinner brows came back into vogue and out came the tweezers again, along with a touch of eyebrow pencil to color in brows to make them bolder and more dramatic.

In the 1970s, thin was most definitely in, when it came eyebrows as well as body type. Most women wanted a natural, earthy, no-makeup look, so the thin brows were no longer darkened with pencil but were left pale and undefined.

In the 1980s the women who’d over-plucked in the seventies were left forlorn when Brooke Sheilds and her thick, heavy eyebrows came on the scene and immediately set the trend to brows that were thicker and darker than ever before. Bushy, caterpiller-like eyebrows became the target look, and along with them came a bright and vivid “the more, the better” makeup look.

In the 1990s the tweezers came back out of the bathroom cabinets and returned with a vengeance. Eyebrows became thin and over-plucked again, usually with a rounded arch that was helped along with penciling. Brow waxing became a big thing, and some eyebrows never recovered.

In the 2000s those who could manage to regrow their brows did so, and while still on the thin side, the brow trend began to include a high, dramatic arch and longer tails. It became all about the arch, and a combination of grooming and pencil filling, helped to create the look.

In the 2010s eyebrows became more of a “thing” than ever, with the early part of the decade bringing a natural look with full brows penciled and filled into full arches.

How to create the perfect brow for right now

As we approach the 2020’s eyebrows are a mixed bag, with two popular looks taking center stage. Many have chosen a look that appears natural but takes a little work to achieve. It’s an eyebrow look known as “the fade.” The brows begin with a lighter, brushed upward appearance and then extend to an arch and darken as they go. Others have chosen to completely rework their natural eyebrow line by filling, gelling, powdering and penciling on a whole new eyebrow look. Some are going to far as to microblade their eyebrows, which is a form of tattooing new eyebrows to either fill in the browline with a thicker, more arched look or to make more dramatic, sweeping eyebrow statements.

With the back and forth between thick and thin brows, it’s possible that the thin eyebrow look will return, as difficult as that is to believe at the moment. In which case, we may need some improved methods of removing tattoos without losing the eyebrows themselves!

Resources— Vogue, InStyle, Entity, Byrdie, MentalFloss