A few weeks ago, after explaining her decision to shave her head in an Instagram Live, singer Doja Cat took her hair removal a step further. She took out a pink heart-shaped hand mirror and, with a razor stroke, erased the most expressive feature: her eyebrows.
While Doja Cat’s eyebrow shave – perhaps the most public hair removal act since Britney Spears took an electric razor to her head in a Los Angeles salon in 2007 – has been used by critics for questioning her sanity, she’s far from the only celebrity to favor a smooth, alien face. Lady Gaga has been sporting barely-there faded blonde eyebrows since July; actress Hari Nef launched a similar look on Instagram the same month. Kendall Jenner’s eyebrows were noticeably missing when she attended the Met Gala earlier this year. In June, Julia Fox had her eyebrows bleached by legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath. Interview Magazine’s September issue, unveiled this week, features Kim Kardashian with feathery platinum brows, a throwback to Chloë Sevigny’s look in the 1997 film “Gummo.” Meanwhile, a no-brow filter did the TikTok tower.
The big waxing follows a decade in which bushy brows reigned supreme. Gone are the skinny arches of 90s Pamela Anderson, replaced by chunky, luscious caterpillars, often painstakingly shaped, maintained, stained or even micro-bladed to ensure perfection. Now those precious facial features have taken a 180 degree turn, in Hollywood and beyond.
“I live in Brooklyn, and every time I walk through my door I see another person with no eyebrows,” said Carl Nowak, 27, a model and bartender at Foragers Table in Manhattan. Miss Nowak bleached her eyebrows for the first time this year at the end of July for a modeling session. When she informed her agent of the drastic change, reassuring her that they were only temporary, the agent suggested that they become a permanent part of her look.
“Everyone says I look like Ziggy Stardust,” she said, referring to David Bowie’s eyebrowless stage persona.
Jacob Webster/Carl Rickard
Stella Chiara, 22, a make-up and tattoo artist in Berlin whose eyebrows have been bleached for more than a year, said the number of clients requesting a similar look has surged in the past month. According to data from Pinterest,
searches for “bleached eyebrows” have increased by 85% over the past year, while “without eyebrows” has seen a 30% increase in interest over the same period.
Going browless is not an inherently modern phenomenon. In the Middle Ages, women plucked their eyebrows and hairline to create the illusion of an elongated forehead, a sign of beauty and intelligence. Likewise, Italian Renaissance paintings show how light and imperceptible women’s eyebrows were then. Just imagine the Mona Lisa: her smile, you can see it, but her eyebrows are barely there.
The current wave of eyebrowless faces follows a Y2K fashion revival, in which model Bella Hadid and others reclaimed the thin eyebrows of the 90s and 2000s. Mx. Chiara, who uses the gender-neutral honorific, suggested that celebrities and their beauticians could take inspiration from young gay men. people on social media, whose well-documented brow experiments predate Summer.
Back to what Mx. Chiara called Anastasia Beverly Hills’ 2016 era of block brows, waking up at 5 a.m. to painstakingly outline thick brows with the cosmetic brand’s products before school. Anytime the brows looked uneven, it would lead to what they described as “a nervous breakdown in my bathroom.”
Invisible brows, by comparison, only require a simple shave or a coat of bleach every week or two to create an eerie effect. Khaya Ngubeni, 21, a multidisciplinary artist in Johannesburg, described the result as “ripped off” and “dramatic”.
“I look like an egg,” Mei Pang, 26, makeup artist and digital content creator, said of her unbroken brow.
Ditching her eyebrows has allowed Ms. Pang to experiment with extreme makeup looks, but she admits there are downsides to the trend. The professional grade bleach she bought at the beauty supply store left her with mild bleach burns on her face. “It’s definitely ‘at your own risk,'” she said. Covering your brows with concealer is a gentler technique, used by those who aren’t ready to commit to browlessness on a daily basis.
According to Rachel Weingarten, beauty historian and author of “Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in 1940s-60s America,” the absence of eyebrows creates a “visual sense of unease.” In pop culture, invisible eyebrows have come to denote weirdness — think Rooney Mara’s character in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” — but that difference is now a source of pride.
“I think it’s cool to be an outcast or an outsider,” said Miri Dawson, 28, a shaven-browed baker in Omaha, Neb., who also writes songs under the name Ria Gold.
“I always try to do something that sets me apart from everyone else,” said JeLaminah Lanier, 32, a Los Angeles fashion designer and star of the reality show “Baddies South.” She professionally bleached her eyebrows this year to match her blonde hair.
“Everyone in the living room thought I was crazy,” Ms. Lanier said, “and I was like, ‘You’re all going to like this. This is going to be cute, check it out.
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