As the 20-year rule takes full effect, Y2K fashion and beauty trends have gotten us in a complete grip as of late. From the revival of butterfly clips to low-rise bottoms finally ousting their high-waisted counterparts, nostalgia for the ’90s to early 2000s era is at its peak. And now that full, thick brows à la Lily Collins and Cara Delevigne have been in vogue for the better part of the last decade, is it time for the ultra-thin brows of the ‘90s and early 2000s to make a return?
Dramatically thin, arched eyebrows were first popularised in the 1920s, when they served to make the expressions of silent film stars more apparent on-screen. Most of us will remember that in the ’90s, brows were plucked and trimmed religiously to emulate the shape commonly seen on supermodels like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, a look that was virtually synonymous with ’90s glamour. This version of the thin brow featured a sharp and high arch that gave the wearer a sultry look reminiscent of cartoon bombshell Jessica Rabbit.
What’s the appeal of thin eyebrows?
Today, make-up’s role as a facet of creative self-expression and the popularity of experimental looks have resulted in a myriad interpretations of the thin brow. “Thin eyebrows” itself is merely a starting point for us to jump off; the menagerie of variations include Hailey Bieber‘s ultra-high arch, Doja Cat‘s pencil-thin line, and the light, barely-there version seen on Nicola Peltz Beckham.
Similar to the bleached brow trend, the sweeping return of this brow trend can also be attributed to the ethos of subversive beauty which has become deeply rooted in the collective imaginations of Gen Z. It doesn’t hurt that face-altering TikTok filters that allow users to test out skinny brows on-screen have garnered millions of posts on the platform. In addition, narrow brows can give the wearer a more feminine look as they appear dainty and well-groomed.
How does overplucking damage the eyebrow?
Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, it wasn’t uncommon for women to pluck their eyebrows to oblivion to achieve this refined, alluring mien. Unfortunately, many came to realise that overplucking can damage the hair follicles and result in the brows never growing back to their natural fullness; leaving them sparse and subject to eyebrow embroidery or diligent brow pencilling for years to come. “Frequent overplucking would result in permanent hair loss,” warns make-up artist Airin Lee, explaining that it’s due to the stress caused to the hair follicle as the hairs are repeatedly pulled out. “It may also cause pimples due to inflammation,” she adds.
Thankfully, we’ve learned from this lesson, and make-up artists and beauty creators now favour other ways to achieve the look without causing damage to the hair roots or your complexion. The skinny brow trend of 2023 will be safe and totally non-committal—meaning you’ll get to keep your natural brows for more versatility the next time you’re craving a change in your look.
How do you create ’90s thin brows without plucking or trimming?
To make your brows appear slimmer without having to extract any of your existing brow hairs, grab a couple of make-up tools to conceal your natural brows. “I would use a wax stick to tame down all the brows,” Airin tells us, “then a cream concealer to conceal [the natural brows].” To do this, she uses a LUCIDO-L Hair Styling Stick and NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer.
“Next, apply some loose foundation over it before drawing in the brows,” she advises, adding that her must-haves for this process are the Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation by M.A.C. Cosmetics and Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil by Bobbi Brown. This methods works best if you’re rocking the look for an occasion, or are planning to stay cool indoors. “I usually do this for an event or photoshoot—I wouldn’t recommend this on a day-to-day basis,” she continues, explaining that the heavy layers of product may cake easily in the humidity.
If you’re going for all-day-every-day wear, Airin recommends ditching the concealer altogether and bleaching the brows instead to achieve that blank canvas. “For a more natural look, bleach the eyebrows to avoid caking. This will last you longer,” she says.
And if you really want to commit to the look? Shave, don’t pluck—and draw in your brows in whatever shape you fancy. “That way, if you decide to change your look again, there’s more leeway,” Airin says.