For so long, the brow has been a focal point on catwalks and beauty counters. We’ve spent endless amounts of our salaries on increasing the furriness and volume of our eyebrows in a bid to gain the much-coveted “caterpillar” brow. We have fussed over our arches, dyed our blonde hairs and filled in our sparse bits. We were told that the brows were the scaffolding of any great face and we ate it up.
In fact, brows became so fetishised that come 2014, it was widely reported that the eyebrow market alone was worth £15.5 million per year. What the power suit was to the 1980s the power brow was to the mid teen 2000s – shorthand for groomed, polished and in control. The heavy, defined arch was sought after by both the TOWIE camps and the FROWers. Microblading, nonablading and micro-feathering entered our lexicon when eyebrow lamination sales in 2020 boomed.
The last 12 months have ushered in a new brow trend – no tweezers needed! It’s all about the bleached brow. Blame it on lockdown: musicians (FKA twigs, Beadbadoobee) make-up artists (Isamaya Ffrench) and beauty addicts ( Kim Kardashian included) have been bleaching their brows to achieve a bold new look.
Eyebrows have always been symbolic. In ancient Egypt, if a cat died of natural causes in a home, the owners were expected to shave their eyebrows as an act of mourning (weird, but true and they got off easy: if a dog died you had to shave… everything). Ancient Romans liked dark eyebrows that almost touched in the centre. Elizabethans plucked their brows into thin arches as a sign of aristocracy and this was mimicked and replicated by Marlene Dietrich in the 1920s.
By the 1950s, the Hollywood crowd were setting the bar, many adopting Audrey Hepburn’s much-feted full and manicured brows. As shoulder-pads expanded in the 1980s, so did brows, with models like Brooke Shields setting the standard (to this day).
At the dawn of the 1990s things had come full circle – actresses and models like Kate Moss and Drew Barrymore favoured a grungier take on the thin brow. From the 2010s onwards the big, full, sculpted brows inspired by reality TV stars like Kim Kardashian and fashion-week stalwarts alike, such as Cara Delevingne, reigned supreme. The brows worked in contrast to the fashion. Casual dressing and athleisure hit the big time, as along with our fitness routines our skincare and wellness routines also shape trends where once there had just been Eve Lom at a push, and Nivea moisturiser as standard.
Then something happened early in 2020. As our brow bars remained shut during lockdown, people took matters into their own hands. Our favourite people to follow on Instagram started to, well, remove their eyebrows by bleaching them.
From New York fashion IT girl Richie Shazam and London-based creative and make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench to THE FACE cover star FKA twigs – everyone was at it. Meanwhile, Halsey (who recently released her own make-up line About-Face) has sported a temporary bleached brow look, achieved by using her own concealer-like product (a matte-fluid eye paint called White Noise) through her eyebrows – a temporary hack lots of make-up artists employ on set.
Bella Hadid walked in Haider Ackerman’s AW20 show with bleached brows and sealed the deal on the trend. Today, Kim Kardashian posted an Instagram story showing her brows before, during and after the bleaching process, shocking her fans with a bold new look. And with Pinterest reporting a 160 per cent year-on-year increase in searches for bleached eyebrows this year, the bleach isn’t stopping here.
Disclaimer: bleaching brows, just like bleaching your own hair, can be dangerous at home.
And if you do decide to bleach your own precious brows, do so properly and in a controlled environment – bleach burns are a real thing. This YouTube tutorial – which has racked up a mean 24,000 hits – might be a good place to start.
If you’re not feeling the DIY of it all, there are whole swathes of new temporary products and fake bleach saviours that will allow you to fudge the look at home.
I recommend trying out YouTube sensation and make-up genius Alexis Stone’s Brow Engineer, a liquid concealer, devised to take the hassle out of bleaching your brows (I’ve tried it – it’s good).
It goes without saying that bleached brows will not suit everyone but they’re a quick win for anyone itching for some change and transformation. Make-up addicts will attest to the remarkable effects of bleaching out a brow to let your make-up really do the talking. Depending on what make-up, or lack thereof, you pair with your brow will transform your face. A smoky eye will knock your bleach into a glamorous gear, while no make-up or kohl liner will give you a fashion-forward feel. Take your cues from the bleach addicts who’ve done the brow best below and best of luck!
Scared of commitment? No problem. Shop the best liquid concealers to temporarily trial out a lightened brow, below.