It’s official — we’re hitting peak ‘90s revival. While the decade’s defining fashion trends have been back in circulation for a while now (slip dresses, oversized leather jackets, bike shorts, and bucket hats to be specific), you can’t overlook the defining beauty trends, either. ‘90s trademarks like overtly lined lips, French manicures, and grunge-inspired makeup have all made a comeback (Versace is the latest style authority to say so). What might be the most surprising trend to reappear from the ether, though, is thin eyebrows.
For everyone who lived through the ‘90s and plucked their brows into oblivion, there’s a strong chance you’re cringing at this development. It’s also likely that your natural response is to outright refuse the trend altogether (especially if you’re still trying to regrow your over-plucked brows). Well, you can take comfort in knowing that the thin brow trend is ‘90s-inspired, not ‘90s-specific. In other words, it has been updated for the modern era, and this time around, it’s fresh and slightly more subtle — and a lot more wearable.
That’s why TZR consulted a few of the beauty industry’s most in-demand makeup and brow artists to learn how to make the thin eyebrows trend work for 2022, and how exactly the look has made a comeback.
The Original Thin Brow
Benefit Cosmetics Global Brow Expert, Jared Bailey, says the original ‘90s skinny brow was a response to the big brows of the ‘80s — the full, dark, and dense look made popular by celebrities like Brooke Shields and Madonna. “When ‘thin’ suddenly became ‘in,’ the space between the brows got much further apart (avoiding a unibrow at all costs, it seems) and the body of the brow was very narrow, often sitting high above the orbital bone,” he tells TZR.
Joey Healy, founder of Joey Healy Brows, emphasizes the harsh, overly shaped quality of the original skinny brow. “The brow look of the ‘90s was extremely thin; it was the same diameter the whole way across,” he says. “Also, we saw a lot more roundness in the brow, like parentheses or quotation marks, which really is a very unflattering brow shape.” For people to achieve this uniform shape, Healy says that waxing became much more popular (as opposed to today’s tweezing and threading options) which resulted in the “overworked” brow look.
Dani Kimiko Vincent, celebrity makeup artist, brow expert, and founder of KIMIKO, agrees. “At the time it was common practice to remove hair from both under and on top to create a thin, ultra-defined brow,” she says. “Because the brow’s natural shape was effectively ruined, it left hairs pointing in directions that didn’t always fit within this narrow shape, so hair trimming was necessary to maintain the look, along with the use of a pencil or powder to increase the contrast of the pencil-thin brow.”
Back then, Vincent says the look can be attributed to celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Gwen Stefani, and Pamela Anderson, although the skinny brow dates much further back than that. “This look was originally popularized by flappers of the roaring ‘20s [like Josephine Baker and Clara Bow] as a pushback to conventional beauty standards of the time,” she says.
The Modern Thin Brow
It only makes sense that skinny brows are making a comeback now. Much like the transition from the ‘80s to the ‘90s, the emerging beauty look is piggybacking off the big, bold eyebrow look spurred by celebrities like Lily Collins and Cara Delevingne in the 2010s. In fact, until fairly recently, “Instagram brows” were the sought-after look, and people used brow pomade and pencils, along with concealer and highlighter, to make sure their brows were highly contrasted and defined.
As for why the trend is swinging back towards thinner brows, Bailey credits the collective realisation of just how fundamental your brows are to your overall beauty look (and routine), as they bring balance and proportion to the face. “Today’s modern twist on the thin brow is much more proportionate to [someone’s] facial features,” he says. “Even though the shape has slimmed in width since the Cara Delevingne brow craze, filling them in and giving them density regardless of their size is key.”
Today, it’s less about tweezing and waxing your eyebrows into oblivion, and more about focusing on sculpting their natural shape. “This time we’ve learned our lesson (hopefully) about the damage heavy tweezing can do to our brows and are proceeding more conservatively,” Vincent says. “Achieving this modernized look means easing up on heavy filling — no more blocky brows — and narrowing the shape by concentrating makeup along the centerline of the brow.”
Healy echoes this sentiment, saying that today’s skinny brow is more about playing up the arch and creating a nice tapered tail than just thinning out what’s naturally there. “We’re also seeing the front of the brow looking more full and feathery by being brushed up. So, the front of the eyebrow is looking a lot more natural, which is helping it stay modern,” he says, adding that today’s more advanced products — such as gels, powder, waxes, and serums — allow for a more natural finish compared to the waxy pencils of the ‘90s.
How To Achieve The Thin Brow Look With Zero Plucking
Luckily, the skinny brow trend, or some variation of it, is achievable for everyone — and that doesn’t mean tweezing or waxing half of the hairs off. “You can certainly partake in this trend without removing any hair,” Vincent assures.
Adjust Your Product Regimen
For a thinner, sculpted look, she recommends playing with the intensity of the arch by strategically placing brow makeup through the center of the brow. In other words, use your brow pencil to create a bolder arch. “You can further slim a brow by using a clear gel to brush upper hairs down and lower hairs up, thus concentrating hairs along the center to create definition,” she says. “Concealer can also be used to hide smaller hairs above and below the brow to give the illusion of a thinner brow.”
Trim Your Brow Hairs
Healy recommends trimming brow hairs with a pair of precision brow scissors to fake the appearance of skinny brows. “[This technique] can make the hairs look thinner, tighter, and groomed without actually removing the hairs or potentially damaging the eyebrow,” he says. He also suggests using a cream highlighter (he recommends the High Rise Highlighter) underneath the brow. “It helps the brow look more snatched, the arch tighter, and the whole brow cleaner,” he says.
Utilize Face Mapping
Although Bailey suggests consulting a professional rather than doing it at home, if you decide to shape your brows yourself, he recommends “mapping” your face using your nose as a guide. First, grab a brow pencil, then follow an imaginary line up from the dimple of your nose to the front of the brow and make a mark — this gives you a good idea of where your brows should start. Then follow an imaginary diagonal line from the corner of your nose through the center of your eye — this will give you a good idea of where your arch should be.
“Following these three measurements helps keep your brows in the right proportion with the rest of your face and features,” he says. “After you make the points, connect them by lightly sketching from point to point. Any hair that falls outside of the shape can be removed. The hair that falls inside the shape is what stays.”
Use Makeup To Test Drive The Look
Before committing to removing your brow hairs, Bailey suggests ‘glam-o-flauging’ your natural brows to try out the thin brow trend. Start by brushing your brows in the direction you want them to be styled (for thinner brows, this is typically over and out towards the temple). Then, take a thin brow pencil and use it to make tiny flicks in areas that are thin. “Keep these strokes sharp and deliberate,” he says. “The thin brow is opposite of a wispy feathered brow. You want it to be very contained.”
Next, use a high-coverage, matte concealer in the same shade as your skin tone and gently pat it over the hairs that fall outside the desired new shape. “Set the final look with an invisible brow gel like the 24-Hour Brow Setter,” he says. “This will act as a top coat to your brows and lock on the entire look without fear of it smudging or budging.”
Whether or not you’re sold on the thin brow trend, here are some expert-approved products to keep your brow game strong.
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