A Brief History of the Brow: From Thin to Thick and Everything in Between

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Diala Makki Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

When it comes to this season’s must-have beauty accessory, look no further than your brows. There’s no stopping the eyebrow evolving into a bigger, bushier, bolder, and more beautiful feature than ever before, seen on both celebrities and runways the world over. “I believe the natural bushy brow trend is here to stay,” brow buff Anastasia Soare, creator of best-selling brow brand Anastasia Beverly Hills, revealed to Savoir Flair in a recent interview. “Perhaps darker brows will begin to trend, which always helps the brow appear thicker.” This is definitely the look of choice for the likes of Cara Delevingne, Jessica Kahawaty, Sofia Vergara, and Diala Makki. (Click here to see which other stars boast big, bold brows.)

Just look back at Hollywood stars Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Brooke Shields, all of whom helped redefine the idea of a beautiful brow with their perfectly unruly pairs. As celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury says, “Brooke Shields’ natural, lush, and handsome brows became the trend in the 1980s, and today the incredible, dark, lush, and arched brows of Cara Delevingne have captured the beauty world. Brows really are the pillars of the face and can make a huge difference to your look.”

The Evolution of the Eyebrow

Eyebrows have been a hot topic in the world of beauty for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians darkened them with mineral powders for arched drama. In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, uni-brows were all the rage, and Medieval maidens perfected the pluck to rid themselves of almost all their brows. The past 100 years have seen the brow go from thin and sparse to thick and bushy – here’s the evolution of the eyebrow:

1920s

Clara Bow Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of FanPop

When it comes to the 20s, the thinner the better. Brows were plucked to within an inch of their lives and drawn in. Forget the arches too; this was all about penciling them in to create long, straight lines. See silent movie starlet Clara Bow for the ultimate Roaring Twenties brow.

1930s

Greta Garbo Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of Fashion Gone Rogue

Continuing with the super thin trend, brows moved from straight lines to being more arched and shaped a là Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow.

1940s

Lauren Bacall Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Enter the thicker brow. This was the start of a softer look, with a focus on more natural beauty. Hollywood heroines like Lauren Bacall and Grace Kelly helped bring bigger brows to the mainstream market.

1950s

Audrey Hepburn drop earrings wikihow
Photo: Courtesy of WikiHow

Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn… these ladies all loved the gorgeously groomed, strong brow.

1960s

Sophia Loren Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of Lipstick Alley

The 60s brow was all about one beauty – Sophia Loren. Famed for her unique technique, she shaved them off completely before penciling them in using short, thin strokes to create a bold but natural look.

1970s

Lauren Hutton Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of PA

As peace and love reigned supreme, so did the au naturel look. This was all about being fuss-free, so tweezers were given a rest and brows were left to run wild.

1980s

Brooke Shields Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of You Blush

With Brooke Shields gracing the cover of every magazine and Madonna’s videos dominating MTV, the rule in the 80s was the bushier the better. This was the decade of the bold brow – thick, un-groomed, disheveled. The less you did to them, the better.

1990s

Kate Moss Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

The 90s was the decade of tweezers. The big brows of the 80s were banished and in came the over-plucked look, with Kate Moss modeling light, barely-there brows and stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore perfecting the pencil-thin look.

2000s

Cara Delevingne Eyebrows
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Two words: Cara Delevingne. Tweezers have once again returned to the dark depths of our makeup bags, and big, bold, bushy, beautiful brows are one of the hottest beauty looks of the moment. They’re also becoming the ultimate way to accessorize your look as brows are being dressed up with dye, jewels, and even extensions. This season, we are bowing down to the power brow.

If you’re trying to emulate the look, it’s not just a case of returning your brows to their natural, bushy glory – these days, you can do everything from tinting them any color of the rainbow, accessorizing them with jewels and sparkles, and even faking the bushy look with brow extensions. With product lines dedicated to brows emerging from the world’s biggest beauty brands, including Charlotte Tilbury, Benefit, and YSL, it’s clear that this trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “Mark my words, brow products will outsell mascaras in the next 10 years,” Benefit’s Global Brow Expert, Jared Bailey, tells Savoir Flair. “Eyebrows are multi-generational and multicultural. Your skin tone or ethnicity doesn’t matter. Young women look at celebrities and want their brows, and older women chase the youth factor of having fuller brows. Brows transform your look, your face, and the way you feel!”

Shop the best brow-boosting products below.

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