100 Years Of Eyebrows

According to the Taylor Andrews Academy of Hair Design, ancient Egyptians donned the bushy brow look long before it became popular today The Egyptian god Horus featured thick brows that demanded attention, and the Eqyptian people modeled their own brows after his, using black oxide and carbon paint. Flash forward to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and eyebrows turned into a symbol that signified whether a woman was married. Unmarried women would emphasize their brows with black incense, while those who were married donned their natural brows. The unibrow was also incredibly popular during this time, and women would draw one if their brows didn't naturally form one. The unibrow was a sign of intelligence and beauty. 


By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, unibrows and thick, bold eyebrows were no longer cool. Natural and almost invisible eyebrows became the norm, which led to women picking up those dreaded tweezers for the first time. This was done to draw attention to the forehead. Once the Elizabethan period rolled around, women took to coloring their brows again, opting for a reddish-blonde color to imitate that of Queen Elizabeth's hair. Naturally, too, they were always arched (via The Derm Review).

Needless to say, eyebrow styles have changed dramatically over the last 100 years just as they did for thousands of years before that. Now, let's dive into eyebrow trends from each of the decades from the last century.


1920-1929: thin is in

During the '20s, tweezers reigned supreme. Straight, pencil-thin eyebrows were in, and women often elongated them by extending the brow line past the corner of their eyes.

According to the Taylor Andrews Academy of Hair Design, this brow style became popular after Clara Bow, an actor who became famous for her roles in silent movies, donned the look. As Hollywood's influence on the general population grew, women wearing makeup were seen as respectable (via the Smithsonian). Thin, dramatic eyebrows ensured their faces drew attention. "While images are black and white, you can see the drama and emphasis put on the eyebrow — defined and thin with the arch and tail sweeping downwards," board-certified permanent makeup artist and certified corrective cosmetic technician Kristin Peck tells Byrdie.


1930-1939: thin with a chance of an arc

Super thin eyebrows lasted throughout the 1920s and were still fashionable during the '30s, but now women added dramatic arcs to make their brows draw even more attention.

Actor Jean Harlow and jazz and swing singer Billie Holiday were famous for their thin, dramatic eyebrows. "Still rocking the thin brows, a pointed arch was in style—a little sharper and edgier than the previous decade, this brow lifted the face and amplified female authority," makeup artist and skincare expert Shanzey Al-Amin tells Byrdie.


Thin, arched brows also created the illusion that the eyebrows were located higher above the eye than normal. This look was achieved by drawing the arc right above the pupil.

1940-1949: au natural is the new cool

With the dawn of the 1940s, thin eyebrows' popularity started to dwindle. Women threw out their tweezers (good riddance!) and started donning their natural brows once again. Thus, this decade saw thick brows gaining popularity.


In an article fashion historian Lydia Edwards wrote for The Conversation, she explains that world events often impacted how women decided to style their eyebrows. With World War II raging on, women understandably had more important things to worry about than their appearance, and this might be one of the reasons natural eyebrows were the look of that decade.

Naturally, the high arc of the '30s went out of fashion, and the focus was placed more on emphasizing the brow bone. Thick, rounded eyebrows that thinned out at the tail were the desirable look in the '40s. Women also stuck to their natural color and didn't smother their brows with makeup (via Kryolan).

1950-1959: bold yet feminine

Post-World War II, the 1950s brought with it elaborate makeup styles. The more, the better. Thick, meticulously shaped eyebrows were extremely popular, and the high arc made a comeback (via Taylor Andrews Academy of Hair Design). The brows of this decade allowed women to be "feminine but bold," Chanel brow artist Jimena Garcia tells Bustle.


Women once again spent more time grooming their eyebrows, trying to achieve the famous "doe-eyed" look, which was seen as extremely feminine at the time. This was achieved through thick lashes and dark eyeliner and was made famous by stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn (via "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History")

1960-1969: thin or thick — you choose

The '60s was the era of experimentation with eyebrows. Women started to play around with the shape of their brows and other types of eye makeup. The younger generation even went as far as using bright colors to paint their brow hair. Accessories also became a thing: Women decorated their eyebrows with small gems, glitter, and even feathers, according to the "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History."


Thin brows also made a bit of a comeback thanks to some Hollywood stars, including model and actor Twiggy, donning the look. Other celebrities, like Audrey Hepburn, continued to promote thick eyebrows. "The pencil-thin brows worked well with print because the focus was placed on the dramatic eye makeup," permanent makeup artist and certified corrective cosmetic technician, Kristin Peck tells Byrdie. There was one key difference, however. The thin brows of the '60s were shorter and straighter than those donned in the '30s. "They were a little bit short and crisp and focused on the lift without any Botox," Shanzey Al-Amin says.

1970-1979: brows gone wild

It seems people just couldn't shake that thin eyebrow look, and in the 1970s, thin brows continued to be in style. Overplucked brows were sported by many, and the arc that was popular in the '60s grew ever higher (via Kryolan). Women experimented with different looks during this decade, and dark, thick brows were also in style, according to "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History."


On the other end of the spectrum, there was the devil-may-care look some women adopted. They laid off on the tweezers and sported completely grown-out brows without any added definition. This coincided nicely with the hippie movement (via Studio 16). Celebrities like Lauren Hutton and Ali MacGraw sported more natural brows at the time, leading many others to try the look for themselves.

1980-1989: bushy brows make an entrance

Ah, the '80s. This decade will always be remembered for its big hairdos, and that includes eyebrows. The '80s were all about making statements and saw women taking control of their own style (via "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History").


"[The '80s] were about money and success: bigger is better," Chanel brow artist Jimena Garcia tells Bustle. It's no wonder, then, that bold brows were incredibly popular during this time. If you were blessed with bushy eyebrows, the '80s was the perfect decade to show them off. "Models like Brooke Shields, Margaux Hemingway, and Cindy Crawford were the ideals," Garcia says (via Bustle). Shields was an eyebrow icon during the '80s, and it's thanks to her that "caterpillar" brows became a thing. This look referred to Shields' signature untamed bushy brows, and many tried to recreate the look using powders and eyebrow pencils, according to InStyle.

1990-1999: draw your own brows

Many took to shaving slits in their brows during the '90s. "[T]here are no firm rules as to the number or width of the slits, which originally were meant to suggest scarring from a recent fight or gangsta adventure," fashion historian Lydia Edwards writes for The Conversation. People made the trend their own and some opted to shave shapes like stars and hearts on their brows instead of slits.


Thin brows made a comeback in the '90s once again thanks to celebrated makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. In a documentary about Aucoin, designer Isaac Mizrahi revealed that he was, in essence, solely responsible for the re-emergence of the trend in the '90s (via Allure). "We decided together that everyone needed to look like Carole Lombard and have really skinny eyebrows," he explains in the documentary. "And the next thing I knew, [Aucoin] was plucking everybody's eyebrows." Cindy Crawford was one of the people who were subjected to Aucoin's tweezers, and, at first, her super thin eyebrows seemed like a disaster, until it wasn't, and she suddenly started booking more roles thanks to her new look, Mizrahi recalls.


Speaking to Byrdie, Kristin Peck described the '90s trends as "the true 'walk of shame' for eyebrow style," adding, "It was trendy to completely denude the brow bone and draw on a completely unflattering, unconvincing eyebrow." Oh, the horror.

2000-2009: thin and proper

The thin brows of the '90s stuck around for the first half of the noughties and were sometimes plucked even thinner than in the previous decade. Only now, women took to brushing their brows for a more defined look (via Kryolan).


The grungy look of the '90s continued to be popular, and many pop stars, like Christina Aguilera, sported defined barely-there brows. "Punk, grunge rock, and Kate Moss were everything," Jimena Garcia told Bustle, adding, "Makeup was minimal, and Gwen Stefani, Drew Barrymore, and Pamela Anderon made over-plucked eyebrows a thing."

However, by the time 2005 rolled around, stars like Angelina Jolie decided to give tweezing a rest and started showing off their natural eyebrows, and women everywhere began wanting her brows (via Express). Sculpting and wild arches slowly started to go out of fashion. Then, this look continued to grow in popularity as the decade wore on.

2010-2014: bold is the name of the game

With the arrival of the 2010s and the rise of social media, celebrities had even more influence when it came to eyebrow trends. Super thin eyebrows were officially a thing of the past (phew!), and stars like Cara Delevingne led the "power brow" trend that would end up dominating the decade (via The Guardian). Delevingne made statement brows cool by purposely wearing dark, bushy eyebrows with her blonde hair.


What's more, Jimena Garcia told Bustle that thicker, bolder brows were slowly making a comeback at the beginning of the decade, but it's Delevingne's bold brows that made it official. "Then came Cara Delevingne and the brow power came back in full effect," Garcia explains. "Everyone wanted fuller, fluffier, Instagram brows." Other stars like Kim Kardashian also made this look cool. Some celebrities, like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, made the trend their own by wearing thinner eyebrows that were combed upward in order to still add some volume to the look.

Thanks to social media, wilder eyebrow trends started to pop up from time to time. In 2014, faux eyebrow rings became a thing for a while after makeup artist James Kaliardos had models wear them on the Rodarte runway.


The 2010s also saw microblading becoming incredibly popular in Europe and the United States as people tried to achieve bolder brows. The procedure consists of tattooing small, hair-like strokes between existing eyebrow hairs to create the illusion of a fuller brow, according to MicroBladers.

2015-2019: eyebrow trends gone wild

The bold brow remained popular for the rest of the 2010s, and with the influence of social media apps like Instagram, exuberant eyebrow trends started popping up almost weekly.

This half of the decade saw people striving to achieve bold, Instagram-worthy brow looks. Products to help achieve that started becoming incredibly popular, like Glossier's Boy Brow tool that allowed people to groom their brows to bold perfection. "Boy Brow has a really unique, pomade-like texture that beefs up each individual hair—creating a subtle, filled-in effect without drawing on the skin like a pencil," founder of Glossier Emily Weiss tells Allure in 2015.


Bleached brows made an entrance in 2016, and more elaborate eyebrow trends followed. Then, 2017 saw plenty of trends rise and fall. Makeup artist Stella Sironen introduced the feathered eyebrow look, and the general population followed suit (via The Hindustan Times). Then, makeup artist Athena Paginton introduced the barbed wire look that had people styling their brows in spikes. Other short-lived trends included brows shaped like lightning bolts, wavy brows, eyebrows dyed in rainbow colors, and boxed brows, which somewhat resembled the shaved slits of the '90s.

While these trends were short-lived, bold brows continued to be in style, and a brand-new treatment arrived on the scene to give eyebrows a bold, bushy look without spending half your morning in front of the mirror. Enter eyebrow lamination. This treatment originated in Russia, but western countries soon picked up on it in the late 2010s (via Allure).


2020-present: brows making statements

With the arrival of the 2020s, beauty trends became more liberal, and people are encouraged to wear their brows any way they want. Nevertheless, the bold brow still reigns supreme, and treatments like eyebrow lamination are more popular than ever.


Speaking to Byrdie, makeup artist Shanzey Al-Amin explains that natural brows are now just as popular as groomed and defined brows. However, the trend still leans towards fluffy brows, and treatments like lamination make it super easy to maintain the look. "With brow lamination taking the front seat, accepting natural, bushy, fluffy, and sometimes overgrown brows bring forward a certain innocence and youthfulness to this effortless 'no makeup, makeup look' era that we're all about nowadays," she says.

Eyebrow lamination is still a pretty new trend, which basically consists of changing the shape of your brow hairs so they look longer and fuller. "It is done using a gentle perm solution, neutralizing lotion, and moisturizing treatment to temporarily relax and redirect your brow hairs upwards and into place," Shaughnessy Otsuji, owner of Studio Sashiko, tells Harper's Bazaar.


These days, people are more open to breaking the rules and wearing their eyebrows any way they want, even if it goes against current trends. Amin says this decade is all about experimentation, explaining, "Don't be afraid to wear the brow as per the mood you're feeling. As the previous decades taught us, life's too short to commit to a single brow look!" Touché!