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A Recovering Tweezing Addict’s Lessons on Learning to Embrace Your Eyebrows

Ample brows are a wonderful thing.

When I was 13 years old, I tweezed off my eyebrows. “What have you done?!” my mother exclaimed as I emerged from my room with two scraggly thin lines above my eyes. I was surprised by her reaction. . . . no, I literally looked surprised because I had carved my eyebrows into permanently arched semicircles. Great for a poker player; not so great for an awkward kid going through puberty. To really complete this tragic image of adolescence at its finest, picture these botched brows on an extremely skinny 5’ 8” girl who was still missing a few baby molars.

So, what possessed me to pluck off 95 percent of my eyebrows? Well, all of the things listed above. And the enormous Italian eyebrows I had inherited from my father.

For many young women, tweezing is a rite of passage. Like shaving our legs or wearing makeup for the first time, tweezing allows us to be in control of our otherwise natural features. And when you feel completely out of control of your body, as you do at that age, tweezing can feel like a great way to claim some control. Until, that is, you tweeze off your entire eyebrow and start to resemble Jean Harlow. Yikes.

Back to my horrified mother. She immediately got on the phone and scheduled an appointment with the eyebrow doctor. (Yes, I said eyebrow doctor. They exist.) I begrudgingly went to my appointment. I don’t remember being particularly pleased with my new look; I just wanted to look older so badly. My real moment of revelation occurred when I saw a photo of myself, and the exposure from the flash was so bright that I essentially looked like an alien–naked mole rat hybrid. After that moment, I was on board with anything the eyebrow doctor had to say.

It’s been ten years since then, and I am pleased to say that I am now a fully recovered tweezing addict. It’s been a long journey, but I have some strong brows to prove my success. The evolution of my eyebrows, however, did not stop once I regrew them.

I’ve realized that beauty, and I mean true beauty, is so much more than manipulating the features on our faces to reach some obscure trendy standard that we see in magazines. Our features represent who we are and where we come from; they express our feelings and show that we are human.

I’ve heard so many women exclaim, “Oh, don’t look at my eyebrows! I haven’t tweezed them in weeks!” If you have said this yourself or have felt this way, it’s time to embrace your eyebrows and all that makes you, you. Here’s why.

Eyebrows Are a Feature on Your Face

Back in June, I interviewed makeup artist Jas Lee for an article on eyebrows. “When you tweeze too much, you’re taking away from a feature on your face,” Lee says. Yes, eyebrows are a feature on your face, just the same as your nose, mouth, and eyes. While their function may not be as vital for—oh, I don’t know, survival—they are still an important part of your face.

As women, we are constantly saying, “Embrace your natural beauty!” Yet we literally rip off features from our faces every few days. When or why women became so repulsed by their eyebrows, I do not know. As women we need to stop thinking of our eyebrows as an unfortunate growth that needs to be removed or drastically manipulated. Tweezing shouldn’t be an exercise to remove this feature from our faces—rather, tweezing should be about complementing your face.

Think about it this way: If you could pluck off other features from your face, would you?

Eyebrows Are Vital for Communication

Remember how I told you that I looked permanently surprised when I tweezed away my brows? Well, that’s because eyebrows are responsible for a lot of emotional communication. In a case of over-tweezing, you can accidentally angle your eyebrows to communicate an emotion that you do not mean to express.

In a study on facial recognition, scientists discovered that the eyebrows played a vital role in emotional expression and communication. “Notably the eyebrow was found to play a key role in the expression of a number of emotions, including happiness, surprise, and anger,” the study explains. When your eyebrows are off-kilter, your exterior doesn’t match your interior. This makes it increasingly difficult for others to read the subtleties of your emotions or pick up on those nuanced expressions that you wish you didn’t have to explain verbally.

Picking at Your Face Isn’t Emotionally Healthy

I don’t know about you, but looking in the mirror for extended periods of time and picking away at everything you don’t like about yourself doesn’t seem very emotionally healthy. You know those mirrors at cosmetic stores—the ones that are internally lighted and highly magnified? They make you focus on the tiniest features of your face that you never even noticed before, making you suddenly hyperaware of your “flaws” (that nobody else is noticing).

Tweezing usually starts off innocently enough. I can’t tell you how many times I sat down to pluck a few hairs in these magnifying mirrors, only to walk away looking crazy. Tweezing became a microanalyzing exercise to “fix” my appearance. Most of the time, though, I’d end up even more self-conscious and insecure. Spending less time in front of the mirror boosted my self-esteem, and as time went on, I started seeing my thick brows as a strength and not a flaw that needed to be plucked away.

Eyebrows Affect the Appearance of Age

What initially drew me in to tweezing was the aging factor. I wanted to look older. Looking back, I realize that I associated womanhood with thin, tweezed eyebrows like the ones I saw on Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. Thinning out eyebrows adds a mature severity to the face, causing a loss of softness and natural femininity.

Unfortunately, I thought that losing this softness would make me look mature and beautiful, like the women in magazines. But oh, how the tables have turned! Now, the women in the magazines want my eyebrows. How’s that for a good cosmic joke?

Now, I basically let my eyebrows do whatever they want (aside from meeting in the middle). They arch how they please, furrow when they want to, and look surprised when they really mean it. And when I see a stray hair out of line . . . eh, who cares?