CNN – As We Are – Eyebrows

In May 2022, Niamh Thornton was interviewed as part of CNN Style’s focus on Eyebrows as part of their As We Are series:

CNN Style As We Are

There are some great stories, reflections, and insights. The video includes interviews with brow artists, models, and activists as well as one of our collaborators, Professor Penny Spikins.

Raising, furrowing and arching: some thoughts on my brows

I have always put make-up on my eyebrows since the dawn of Instagram. Kept them looking fuller, darker, and neat, but I never really thought about them to be perfectly honest. When I became part of the Brews & Brows project I suddenly became aware of their significance in many memories I recalled, emotions I felt, and actually how important they were to my face!

I was a ‘classic’ 2000’s eyebrow make-up user (didn’t use anything on my eyebrows until the popularity of them on internet and the so called ‘instabrows’ era). I remember watching make-up tutorials on YouTube and copying “beauty influencers” to have the perfect brow. But why? Honestly, until recently, I never thought about why I cared or changed my make-up routine. I guess it was to ‘fit in’ with new these new beauty trends. Suddenly not having make-up on your eyebrows wasn’t as pretty. Which I always thought was a weird contrast to the early ‘Scousebrow’ trend. I remember newspapers reporting on Kate Middleton’s ‘Scousebrow’ but honestly, I never thought it was one. She literally just had a bit of make-up on her eyebrow. Hardly the thick and dark brow we have come to associate with Liverpool these days.

Once I started reflecting on why I even cared about my eyebrows, suddenly the meaning of many other memories I have changed. I thought about my first hairdresser struggling to pluck my brows and commenting that the hairs were “attached to my brain”. I recalled the first time I showed up to my Archery Club with no make-up (a pre-dominantly male club I might add) and they commented that “my eyebrows looked weird”. This was a particularly odd moment to me because I always thought my eye makeup was more distinctive on my face than my eyebrows! I remember getting bored of plucking my eyebrows and taking a razor to them, with disastrous results, and, at other times, desperately trying to hide my (lack of) eyebrows under my fringe at school.

Thinking about my eyebrows, and being aware of them, altered many of my memories. This awareness also made me consider how we use them emotionally. I must have raised them in shock or surprise at my hairdresser’s comments. I may have furrowed them at my fellow archers. And I also actively hid them from people! Through our brows, we are able to effectively communicate with one another. We can communicate with our best mate by simply raising an eyebrow to them. It’s these kinds of things I never really thought about until Brews & Brows. It made me consider the ways in which our emotions, opinions, identities, and even memories can change when we become aware of even a small aspect of our lives (and faces).

Emily Gibbs, University of Liverpool

‘I’m never fully dressed without my brows!’

When I was younger I never knew eyebrows would be this important. In fact I don’t actually think they were. Ok, yes, maybe they had to be ‘tidied’ i.e plucked away at like there was no tomorrow but there was no such a thing as brows ’on fleek’, ‘powerbrows’, ‘scousebrows’ or a million and one pencils, pomades or powder products to use on them!

Notice, that they’re now referred to as brows not eyebrows too. Have we dropped the ‘eye’ from ‘eyebrow’ because they’re now freestanding, unique and equally as important as the eye in beauty terms? Interesting! We’ve become obsessed and in my opinion quite rightly so! In fact, maybe we should be calling them the iBrow because we’re like the Apple fans you see lining up at 5am to get the latest Apple product or iPhone version – we’re (im)patiently waiting for the next must have brow trend to burst on the scene and demand we’re ready to buy into the latest trend, ready to pluck, thread, wax, tint, draw, add glitter- anything to step up the ‘brow game’.

Now, from the iBrow to My Brow…To me, those two bold strips of hair above my eyes can often dictate how I feel, make me late for some occasions and are quite frankly far more important to me than most other facial features. You can keep your on trend lip fillers, your teeth whitening kits and jawline Botox… I’d much rather a ‘decent’ brow because truthfully, I never feel fully dressed without my brows. But… it is hard to keep up! Can we please decide on a ‘one-size-fits-all brow model’ and stick to it for longer than a few weeks?! Years of over plucking them between waxing meant I’ve had no choice but to reach for the brow powders, pencils, gels, stencils… the lot, you name it I’ve probably tried it! As soon as I managed to actually grow something (with the help of lots of Vaseline) that was a ‘real work of ARCH’… the arch went out and now I’m stuck back at square one with an overgrown tadpole look on my left brow and a bushy hedgerow with a few bald patches on my right brow… patiently waiting for this look to come in to fashion… anytime soon? And lastly, a note about the famous ‘Scousebrow’, despite all the bad press it and the women/men who sported it received, is more than just a fashion trend. It’s a place marker, a sign, a status, it was a unity between girls from one city that I don’t think any other city in the world has. But for me, the Scousebrow isn’t that thick, black, drawn on sharpie look and the image of the Desparate Scousewife that all the press and bloggers tend to focus on. It’s the eyebrows you see as you walk around Liverpool on real women in real life not reality stars and scripted characters. We should be noticing and appreciating the care and attention and money spent on beauty and fashion from women so proud of the city they’re from and live. We might be known for our football teams and our music but the Scousebrow also got us known and noticed, often in an unfair and negative way.

Holly Saron, Edge Hill University