Bryan Rodney Carr
Even if our brows can't talk, photos of them throughout the years say plenty: tales of teen angst, spectrum-bending trends, ill-advised makeup trends… and ultimately, redemption. (Even celebrities aren't immune.) These days, we're pretty satisfied with our arches—though we're also not naive enough to think that this satisfaction won't change with time. After all, we thought our ultra-shaped, skinny brows looked damn fly in high school.
Still, as we revel in the fact that natural brows are back in vogue, it's always fun (and vaguely embarrassing) to reflect back on how far we've come. Slide the tools below to see the visual evidence of how much our brows have changed for the better—plus our stories and tips on how we helped them meet their potential.
"I can honestly say that I never gave much thought to my eyebrows up until a few years ago—and therein lies the problem. You see, my natural eyebrows are non-existent. And not because I overplucked in the '90s or ruined them from too much waxing—nay, they've always just been sparse and bare. I was never aware of this fact, however, and how it affected my face for most of my young adult life. Instead, I blithely bought lipsticks, eyeliners, and eyeshadows, giving nary a thought to the fact that a vital part of my facial structure appeared to be missing. This photo was taken in 2009, and though the haircut was probably the most obvious mistake, the lack of brows is glaringly obvious to me now too. I wish I had a fairy godmother back them to gently guide me toward Anastasia's Brow Pencil ($23), my most vital beauty possession.
"I couldn't find a picture of my tween over-plucked nightmare (thankfully), but this one was from a few years ago when I was just getting into brows. I waxed them too much, trimmed them too much, and really wanted them to look sharp and clean. Now, it's quite the opposite. I don't feel like me unless I have dark, bushy, super prominent brows. Honestly, they're my favorite accessory. I like them to look natural and effortless, so my best tip is not to touch them. No tweezing, no waxing, no threading, and no other painful torture treatments to remove errant hairs. I also live and die by Estée Lauder's Brow Now Stay-in-Place Brow Gel ($25). I swipe it on even when I'm not wearing a stitch of other makeup to keep everything looking good and groomed."
"I am exceedingly lucky that there are no photos of me from my truly dreadful eyebrow stage: When I was 13 and my mom first gave me permission to tweeze my thick arches, I proceeded to almost remove them entirely over the course of the next few weeks. Of course, this is something of a rite of passage for all teenage girls who desperately seek any kind of control over their appearance as they stumble their way through puberty, but it was not a good look nonetheless.
"My brows have never been downright terrible since growing them back after that (the photo above was taken in high school, just a few years later), but I definitely shaped them way too much up until just a year or two ago. I have naturally full brows and was definitely missing out on them! After taking two years to completely grow them out (word to the wise: It really does take that long) and finally learning how to groom them properly so they look as flattering as possible, I'm finally in love with my brows for the first time ever. (My go-to products are Glossier's Boy Brow, $16, and Marie D'Argan's Nigella Sativa Oil, $49, for conditioning.) When they reach their full potential, your eyebrows really can transform your face."
"When I go to look at pictures from my middle school/early high school career, I look at them with one eye open and a ton of reservation. Those were ROUGH times. But, alas, here I am putting my freshman yearbook picture out on the internet for everyone to see. In the 'before' picture, it's obvious that the tails of my brows are way over-tweezed—they look like dolphins. But because fuller, more natural brows are much more en vogue now, I've learned to step away from the tweezers completely, save for cleaning up a few stray hairs here and there. I've also learned how to fill them in using short strokes to mimic hairs and which tools work for me (NYX Cosmetics Micro Brow Pencil, $10, in Ash Brown FTW). This picture is a reminder to leave my arches alone (and to maybe make better hair and fashion choices)."
"Brows have always been important to me. I remember going with my mother to her monthly brow wax and tint appointments as a child. By around age 10 or 12, I joined in on the appointment. I'm sure my mother would be horrified to admit she let her 10-year-old wax her eyebrows, but I always thought it was fun… and necessary. Without tending to them, my brows will grow everywhere—basically down my eyelid. But it wasn't until my early 20's that I started filling them in regularly. Occasionally I would spruce with up with a little taupe eye shadow from Club Monaco (which I still have and use from time to time), but that was really for special occasions. Now, I fill in my brows every day, without fail. There are always at least three brow pencils rolling around the center console in my car (the best place to do your brows) and another one in my purse. The one I always always have with me is my The Brow Gal's Skinny Eyebrow Pencil ($23) in taupe. Tony Crooks (The Brow Gal, herself) shapes my brows now, too. "
"I over-plucked and waxed my brows into oblivion from seventh grade until about two years ago, when 'eyebrows on fleek' became a huge trend. But instead of delicately shaping and filling in my brows, I drastically overcompensated, coloring them on with a way-too-heavy hand and using pencils and pomades that were about 800 shades too dark. This photo was my rock bottom. Black eyebrows and brassy blonde hair. This image literally haunts my nightmares. Since then, I've toned down both my brows and my hair color. Trading my pomades for brush-on gels and taking the time to select the proper shade has made a universe of difference. "