What Do Eyebrows Look Like in 2022? Well, It's Complicated

The great brow vibe shift.

Drew Barrymore Thin Brows

Getty Images / Instagram

I can distinctly remember the day I started caring about my eyebrows. It was 2013, and the biggest eyebrow moment of the time (to my knowledge, anyway) came from a big-name model. Cara Delevigne walked her one and only show for Victoria's Secret that year, and as she strutted down the runway, her thick, inky brows suddenly made me hyper-conscious of my own over-plucked set—a hangover from the just-wrapped '00s. She, along with fellow big-browed gals like Sofia Vergara, Lily Collins, and then-Disney star Zendaya, ushered in an era of bushy, boxy brows. But unbeknownst to them, they'd be the harbingers of the final eyebrow era ever.

The past few decades have all come equipped with an instantly-recognizable eyebrow style. Of course, there were defining eyebrow looks even earlier (think paper-thin arches from the Vaudeville years), but styles really became universal in the '70s, when a beachy, natural-adjacent aesthetics collided with the delightful decadence of disco. Eyebrows got bushier in the '80s—thanks to icons like Brooke Shields and Whitney Houston—before doing a hard 180 in the '90s to favor the super-thin, curved brows that spilled over into the '00s. And, of course, as we all know, another overcorrection birthed the "Instagram eyebrow" era. But really, that's where the universality ends.

What we have today is something far more like a choose-your-own-adventure eyebrow aesthetic and that's because there are so many different popular styles today in general. Think about your TikTok FYP, for example. Spend an hour flicking through clips and you'll see: the "that girl" aesthetic, characterized by carefully combed, laminated brows; the "cottagecore" aesthetic focused on a relaxed return to a more bucolic time; the "baddie" aesthetic, built around traditional hyper-femme sex appeal like very arched brows; the "e-girl" aesthetic that references East Asian beauty styles like straight-across brows; the "Y2K" aesthetic that mimics the look of the new millennium (albeit, with more refinement).

The thing is, though, these groups and looks aren't so distinct as to be entirely separate, cliqued off at exclusive lunch tables like something out of The Breakfast Club—not only do Pam Anderson-enthusiasts, trendy hypebaes, and beachy coconut girls often co-exist in the same friend group, they co-exist within the same person. We contain multitudes, y'all, and the expressive power of creatively-inclined platforms like TikTok are to thank.

There is perhaps no better case for this assertion than the simultaneous rise of Y2K eyebrows and the laminated brow look. The latter would look just as at home in the 1984 mermaid movie Splash as it does on modern, era-defining stars like Lizzo and Dua Lipa. The former is largely inspired by Gen Z's growing interest in so-called "bimbo culture" like the candy-pink facade of the Playboy Mansion's Girls Next Door, Pamela Anderson, Baby Phat, and a reconsidering of Megan Fox.

The two eyebrow aesthetics couldn't be more different. And yet, young people are swapping tips and tricks on how to conceal their thicker brows to draw thinner ones on, only to embrace the bushy look the very next day. There's no one-style-fits-all eyebrow anymore because no one's interested in one style at all, in any sense. In a lot of ways, it's freeing.

But, naturally, the rise of multiple, equally-popular eyebrow styles doesn't come without the pressure to suit all of them. Of that token, razor-thin '90s/'00s brows are (on TikTok, at least) referred to as either Pam Anderson brows or "cigarette mom" brows depending on how one feels trying them on through the app's VR filter. Those who seem to suit the look are dubbed Pams—a retro definition of sexy that favored a traditional idea of femininity anchored by freewheeling, exotic details: an arm tattoo, a navel piercing, a shiny blue wad of gum-smacking between over-lined lips.

Though we're undoubtedly amid an eyebrow revolution, it's a deeply personal one. Sure, they're just eyebrows, but they frame our most important feature, the eyes. They're part of how we emote, how we covey shock and outrage, how we silently flag to our best friend that their crush has entered the room. And now, it seems, they're how we tie up our personal styles with a bow. The eyebrow revolution isn't exactly televised, but it's certainly being broadcast—check TikTok's millions of brow-centric videos for all the proof you need.

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