You would be forgiven for thinking that eyebrows are simply the hair sprouting an inch above the eye socket — often with a slight arch and slanted tail. However, the eyebrow is no longer just a thing to be maintained. It’s the latest big beauty focus, a blank canvas for creativity and also what’s fueling a global billion-dollar industry of products and semi-permanent procedures.
We are living in a brow-obsessed culture, the era of the photogenic Instagram brow, the fox-eye trend and DIY looks that have teens sharing their daily eyebrow adventures on social media. And it should come as no surprise that Los Angeles is at the center of all things eyebrow, pumping out new approaches for achieving the perfect look even as long-standing methods such as threading, which originated in India, Iran and parts of Asia and involves rolling thread over hair to remove it at the follicular level, have maintained their loyal fan base.
Today, people are turning to new methods in tweezing and waxing and using a number of semi-permanent procedures. Brows can be strategically shaped or manipulated to create any look — thick or thin — that a person of any ethnicity wants.
Currently, the most common eyebrow trend entails a full, polished and bold look — or what eyebrow expert Kristie Streicher has trademarked as the “feathered brow” using an approach that embraces a naturally fuller shape.
“People will literally do anything to have a fuller brow,” says Streicher, who with her sisters, celebrity makeup artist Jenn Streicher and celebrity hairstylist Ashley Streicher, co-own the Beverly Hills salon Striiike. She tends to the brows of Mandy Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele as well as a robust international clientele who make regular trips for her services. “Anything” includes perming, tattooing, transplanting and tinting — not to mention using topical growth serums and sometimes a run-of-the-mill, nontoxic glue stick used for kids’ crafts or school projects.
A glue stick is the perplexing product in 19-year-old Washington college student Tory Carasco’s makeup bag. It sits among her concealer; eye shadow palettes, housing a rainbow of vibrant colors; pots of shimmering bronzer; and various brushes for applying her myriad products. But it’s the clear-drying Elmer’s Glue Stick, which she swipes at her eyebrows most days to shellac her well groomed eyebrows upward, that makes her brow-focused beauty routine stand apart.
Carasco is also a budding beauty influencer with a robust Instagram feed of colorful and often cartoon-like makeup looks. She began using the glue stick recently in lieu of eyebrow gel and to get a clean and shiny look often achieved through pricey and longer lasting procedures like brow lamination.
“I had been wetting a bar of soap and dipping my spoolie in it to use like an eyebrow gel,” Carasco says of previous brow-grooming techniques. “I noticed it didn’t hold all day and I realized that drag queens use glue in their eyebrows. So why can’t I?”
As efficient and cost-effective as the glue stick may be, teens such as Carasco take a far from practical approach with their eyebrows. Last year, she shaved the ends off both of her eyebrows from the arch to the tail to get what she refers to as a “fox-eye look.”
Starting from the arch, she draws in a line that sticks straight out toward each temple rather than curving down. The trend is blazing through TikTok, where #foxeye has garnered more than 3.8 million views. With no makeup on, Carasco says that she essentially has just half an eyebrow on each side, but she relishes in the daily DIY ritual of it all. “I like being able to draw them on every day,” she says. “Eyebrows are an area for experimentation.”
Merrick Dozier, a 19-year-old L.A. college student, calls Carasco her “browspiration.” The Los Angeles teen has never met the beauty influencer but follows her on social media because of their similar passion for all things brows and beauty.
“I put on editorial-status eyebrows and makeup every day,” Dozier says. “I’m currently going through a feathered brow phase; messy in the front and not too dark. I’ve thought about microblading, but I really enjoy the creativity and artistry of doing my eyebrows. Doing my makeup is such a fun and therapeutic thing for me.”
Before she went for a full “editorial” eyebrow, Dozier also tried the fox-eye trend, which bears a striking resemblance to Audrey Hepburn’s thick and rectangular eyebrows.
“I have always been obsessed with Audrey Hepburn’s brows,” says Roman Sipe, a 30-year-old fashion stylist and head of design at Menagerié Intimates. “She has some photos where it looks like she completely removes the tail of her brow, and they sort of just shoot straight out.”
Sipe thought about trying the look himself but says that he remains traumatized from shaving lines through his eyebrows in high school. Like many men, he is partial to his natural shape, with a middle area and ends that are clean and groomed.
“I definitely feel like men are very aware of their eyebrows now more than ever,” says celebrity groomer Sydney Sollod, who counts Dan Levy, Zac Efron, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ansel Elgort and Darren Criss as clients.
“I focus mostly on the middle — the unibrow,” she says. “Most guys don’t want to look too clean. I shape their brows, but it’s generally more of a cleanup so they’re groomed and well maintained.”
Azusa-based steamfitter and entrepreneur Latina Vamp, 47, understands this type of consistency. She originally had her eyebrows tattooed on over a decade ago, pre-microblading. She considers her eyebrows, which are dark, thin and defined, to be telling of her personal style.
Her look is also informed by a love of vintage cars (she belongs to an all-female car club, the Varrio Vamps) and the throwback vibe of Old Hollywood screen stars.
“I do mine a bit thin and have maintained almost the same style since high school,” she says. “My inspiration comes from the Mexican film stars of the late 1940s and early 1950s like Dolores del Río and María Felíx. I grew up watching them and admiring their glamour, unique style and originality, and so I’ve always tried to replicate that look. I love and embrace my look and wouldn’t change it for any trend.”
As specific to an individual’s style as eyebrows can be, the search for symmetry is what most experts and their clientele are seeking. However, this hasn’t always been the case.
“Twenty-five years ago, I used to scream, ‘Eyebrows are important,’ because they bring balance and proportion to the face,” says Anastasia Soare, owner of Anastasia Beverly Hills and a makeup line of primarily eyebrow products valued at $3 billion.
Influential celebrities, magazine editors and the beauty-driven masses eventually listened, and by the late 1990s, Soare would put eyebrows and Los Angeles as a beauty capital on the map. Her longtime clients Kim Kardashian West, Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey travel regularly to be treated by Soare in her home, and legions of fans and some of her 20-million-plus Instagram followers, flock to her Beverly Hills salon and to more than 100 Anastasia eyebrow kiosks worldwide to be tweezed and groomed to near symmetry.
“Brows started to gain traction several years ago with Anastasia,” says Larissa Jensen, vice president and beauty industry advisor at the NPD Group, a market research firm that tracks data and trends in fashion and prestige beauty. “Once we got that education that brows frame your face nicely, you don’t want to leave the house without your brows done.” Jensen adds that eyebrow products have shown an uptick in sales of $50 million in the last four years despite a decline in makeup sales overall.
“Beauty always comes back around to eyebrows in one way or another,” says makeup artist Bob Scott, who grooms the brows of Ashley Graham and Padma Lakshmi. “Plus there’s been a wave of minimalism in makeup: good skin, good brows, and you’re done. We can thank Cara Delevingne for putting bushy brows back in the spotlight and the Kardashians for pushing extreme self-care to the forefront. Those two together have propelled us to where we are now.”
Scott says the “feathered brow” look, like what Streicher gives to roughly 200 of her clients each week, is one of the most requested.
“From permanent makeup to actual brow hair transplants, a fuller brow is truly the best way to enhance facial features and create a look that is young, cool and current,” Streicher says. “This focus is what has inspired me to create the trademarked service I call microfeathering. I consider it to be the most natural-looking form of microblading.” (She estimates that 25% of her microfeathering clients come from outside the U.S. just to get their eyebrows done.)
Microblading is the now-ubiquitous beauty procedure in which a tattooing technique is used to deposit pigment into the skin, usually in hair-like strokes, for a semi-permanent effect that makes eyebrows appear fuller and more defined than they actually are. The process can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,500 and generally requires an initial appointment that can last three to four hours and a touch-up session that is about an hour.
Tess Henderson, a 25-year-old interior designer from Woodland Hills, has become such a fan of microblading that she travels regularly to see Kahli Smith at her Echo Park studio, Fiction Cosmetic Tattooing.
“I have no other tattoos on my body — just on my face,” Henderson says with a laugh. “I have very light features and I am very active and love being outdoors. So when I heard there was an option to do whatever you want, surf or roll out of bed and still look nice, I was all for it.”
She discovered Fiction on Instagram and was immediately drawn to Smith’s style, one that Henderson says is consistent but very much tailored to each person’s bone structure. Fiction represents the evolution of our brow-obsessed culture; the focus here is on permanent makeup. Smith also does lip blush, eyeliner and beauty marks, which takes the idea of “I woke up like this” to the next level.
Before she tried microblading, Henderson found the less permanent and also less pricey combination of eyebrow tinting and lamination to be successful. “When you do both, it’s like getting your hair blown out,” she says. “You already have the tools. This is just putting them together in a different way.”
Brow lamination is a growing trend in place of, or in addition to, microblading. The perm-like process produces a result of polished and slick eyebrows that help people achieve what’s called “Instagram eyebrow,” a very defined, almost block-like eyebrow shape that has gained popularity on the social media platform because of its photogenic qualities.
As the trend has started to move away from overly perfected eyebrows, beauty experts say they still use lamination on clients to create a fluffy and natural effect.
Eyebrow expert Giselle Soto, who has her own studio in West Hollywood, has been seeing more clients for brow lamination and says that just about everyone would be a good candidate for the procedure. The process costs $265 the first time and $250 thereafter and takes about an hour to complete.
“Brow lamination is like a perm for brows without harsh chemicals,” Soto says. “I use the length of actual hair to create thickness. It’s less of a commitment. It lasts six to eight weeks, and the brows are full and fluffy and don’t look fake. If you have holes and gaps, then brow lamination will make them stand out more. But I use baby hair to create a shadow in those areas where we want hair to grow.”
No matter how effortless the look, tiny the hair or small the surface area, the vast number of eyebrow experts seem to agree on one thing: symmetry and a polished look suits just about everyone’s face.
“Beauty is not perfection,” Soare says. “It’s the balance and harmony of the features, and eyebrows are an important part of that.”