The phrase “skinny brows” is enough to strike terror into the hearts of the millennial generation. Many of us, myself included, got a little tweezer-happy in our youths mimicking the slim arches of our favorite celebrities. (I may have once used Nair on my brows as a 13-year-old… absolutely do not recommend under any circumstance.)
Though some brow mistakes cannot be unmade, for the most part, those teenage tweezing sessions didn’t last forever and the hair grew back, just in time for the pendulum to swing from skinny strips to thick, full brows enhanced with copious layers of Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Dip circa 2016, then dialed back and brushed up into fluffy laminated arches a few years later. But those big brows couldn’t hog the spotlight forever, and after what feels like years of threatening "skinny brows are coming back" headlines (and much bemoaning from older millennials), it seems like we have actually re-entered the thin brow era.
Blame it on Pamela Anderson, the godmother of the ‘90s skinny brow—a look the writer and activist still wears today, regardless of trend cycles. Pamela’s resurgence in the pop culture world has put increased attention on her brows in all their slim, perfectly tweezed glory; there’s even a TikTok filter that gives you a similar smoky eye and slim brow vibe so you can test out Pam’s signature look for yourself.
Of course, Pammy isn’t entirely responsible for the skinny brow trend; the look has peaked in popularity many times before, such as the trend cycle dictates. Actresses in the ‘30s, like Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard, wore their brows in impossibly long, penciled arches alongside their platinum blonde bobs, and Mexican-American cholas of the ‘90s made the look a mainstay of their makeup, as did stars like Drew Barrymore and Kate Moss.
Cut to now. The skinny brow conversation has been bubbling up for a few years now—perhaps started by Rhianna, always ahead of the curve, when she wore super thin penciled arches on the cover of British Vogue in 2018. However, for the past few years, those who were actually wearing skinny brows on the daily were Y2K enthusiasts and alt beauty girlies, while the "clean girl" fluffy-yet-groomed brow took center stage.
However, we can finally say that skinny brows are once again mainstream. Gen Z stars like Bella Hadid, Doja Cat, Nicola Peltz-Beckham, Gabbriette and Amelia Gray have all dipped their stiletto-clad toes into the thin brow world. Even those who once made full, fluffy brows their signature like model Cindy Kimberly and Julia Fox have opted for thin, arched brows, inspiring trendwatchers to do the same.
While the return of the skinny brow is certainly polarizing, it also opens up a whole new world of beauty experimentation for the bold and the brave. “Brows can really alter the overall structure of a face so it is a fun way to reinvent your look,” says Anne Skubis, freelance makeup artist and educator. The 2023 version isn’t a clone of the 1993 or 2003 brow either. “I think this iteration of the skinny brow incorporates the softness of the fluffy brow as opposed to being one that is very graphic and line-like,” explains Skubis.
“It could be influenced by the current products we have in our makeup bags that we are using to create it.” Today, we’re not limited to just brow pencils; we’ve got waxes, gels, tinted mousses and so much more to sculpt the perfect brow. Even Ms. Anderson has changed up her grooming game, shifting from a dark, penciled brow to a lighter, softer vibe.
What to Know Before You Tweeze
If you’ve been skinny brow-curious, you’re not alone—but don’t start plucking away quite yet. (Trust me on this one.) Consider giving the look a test run before you call your esthetician or reach for the tweezers.
“My advice would be to try the look first using makeup before you commit to removing any hair,” advises Skubis. “There are multiple techniques that can emulate the look using makeup, like concealer and lash glue.”
And listen to those of us who have come before and know that even the most innocent plucking session can have decades-long impacts. (Thank the powers that be that I didn’t burn off my brows entirely with the aforementioned Nair.) Before you alter your brows, make sure it’s something you really want to do, because while hair grows back, it doesn’t happen overnight. “Some people who have lived through this trend before will tell you that they regret over-tweezing, -waxing, or -shaving due to the long term effects it can have on their hair growth,” Skubis shares.
If you naturally have skinnier brows, the look will be less of a transition for you. If you have thicker, fuller brows, it may be worth skipping this trend unless you’re really ready for a big change; otherwise, you could consider subtly changing your brow shape to be slightly thinner and more groomed so you’re not completely shocked by your reflection. This kind of transformation is often best left to the pros, so booking an appointment with a trusted esthetician is never a bad idea.
When it comes to grooming your new skinny brows, one size does not fit all—much like the brow shape itself. You may find that your usual products don’t quite hit the spot post-wax or tweeze, and that’s totally normal. After all, your hair styling products don’t always work the same way after a big chop and your favorite makeup shades don’t always gel with a fresh hair color, either. Experiment with your usual methods and see what works and what needs tweaking. “If you have a growth pattern that naturally lays in place, you may be able to skip your go-to brow gel or glue,” explains Skubis. If you typically tint your brows, you may have to try a new dye method to suit the new style. “I would skip henna, which stains the skin, and opt for a tint on the hair for a softer effect.” Then go ahead and live your best Pamela life—red Baywatch bathing suit optional.