STYLE
07/08/2018 10:44 BST | Updated 07/08/2018 12:02 BST

Could We Return To Thin Eyebrows? We Look Back On The Style

Tweezers at the ready.

If you spent years regrowing your eyebrows after plucking them into oblivion as a teen, Rihanna’s recent Vogue cover may have brought on heart palpitations. The singer graced British Vogue’s September issue with barely-there brows, striking fear in the many who are still brushing up their hairs every morning.

We know the founder of Fenty Beauty is a trendsetter, so does that mean pencil-thin brows are about to replace the Cara Delevingne power brows we’ve grown to know and love? 

The general public seemed baffled by Rhi Rhi’s cover, especially as in recent years the eyebrow (and its many products) have become as normal to make up as eyelashes. Many were begging their “queen” Rihanna not to influence the world to have razor-thin eyebrows - doesn’t she know how many tutorials we’ve all had to watch to get it right? Remember soft strokes when using an eyebrow pencil, everyone.  

With “natural” brows being “in” for so long, so much so that Frida Kahlo-inspired monobrows are being celebrated, to revert back to skinny eyebrows seems to be a thing of the past. But is it?

The 1990s has been referenced many times since the cover has been released, but thin brows are a statement the fashion world returns to time and time again. Gwen Stefani’s 90s look is not so dissimilar to the brows of the late 60s, while Rihanna’s (presumably) concealed and and painted thin eyebrows mirror the 1920s style – think Marlene Dietrich and Jean Harlow.

Joely Walker, beauty and health director at Grazia reminisces about the 00s where she too was part of the thin brow gang: “Luckily, my sister’s best friend warned me to stop before it was too late, and I’ve spent the years since cultivating a bolder-is-better brow – ploughing on the growth serum, sketching in extra hairs and plumping them up with volume-boosting powders.

“And the hard work was worth it, as I’ve learnt first-hand how a well-worn power brow frames the face like nothing else.”

For those who do fancy walking the thin line, Joely recommends: “Test the waters first by bleaching brows and penciling in your fine line.”

Even if we master the look, the return of barely-there brows could be problematic in a cultural context. Pencil-thin brows are predominately modelled in a Caucasian context in mainstream media, with women of colour (who often have naturally thick eyebrows) rarely included in the mood board of the look. The style is also worn by a lot of Chola women, so maybe the reason thin brows seem to be a thing of the past is their lack of inclusivity, as well as the debatable appropriation of a certain culture.

Wafer thin eyebrows also fail to sit easily with makeup trends in 2018, which are largely about celebrating your features and working with what you’ve got, not removing and replacing what’s already there.

Senior beauty editor at WGSN, one of the largest global trend forecasting companies, Theresa Yee, doesn’t think the look will be coming back any time soon: ”Yes, Rihanna is a trendsetter and her Fenty Beauty line has been popular amongst the younger consumers, however, commercially skinny brows can be hard to pull off as a everyday beauty look.”

A post shared by Glossier (@glossier) on

However, Yee predicts the move to a cleaner brow regardless of what may be trending on social media and the magazines.

“We are seeing a move towards more slimmer brow shapes which is less thick, boyish and bushy, ” she says. “However, Rihanna’s pencil-thin brow will remain an editorial look rather than become a mainstream trend.

“We have seen a plethora of brow trends pop up on Instagram, from the likes of garden brows to feather brows, and these looks create impact on social media but don’t necessary hit the mainstream market in the same way. This is exactly the same with Rihanna’s thin brows - it looks great on a magazine cover but isn’t a trend that is going to resurface on the mainstream market anytime soon.”

Tim Mosenfelder via Getty Images
Who could forget Gwen Stefani's 1996 brows? 

Jaimeeney Patel, head therapist at Blink Brow Bar London has also noticed that the demand for fuller, natural looking brows is not going away just yet.

“Customers with naturally thin brows are usually looking to grow their brows to achieve a fuller look or, use products to naturally accentuate / enhance their brows,” she says. “Some also come to us asking for more permanent solutions to get bolder brows such as microblading or our Build-A-Brow service. So honestly speaking, the general public is not ready for thin brows.”

But this doesn’t mean the thin eyebrows won’t return in some form. Just like every trend that ever existed, with an action comes a reaction. A HuffPost UK prediction is that they come back in the style of Kate Moss, not plucked into oblivion but a carefree kind of attitude to the high maintenance brow. 

Tom Wargacki via Getty Images
Kate Moss's subtle thin brow.