Before last year, when she started plucking them into slender, Marlene Dietrich-inspired arches, Alice Tippins says she frequently received compliments on her naturally thick eyebrows.
“They were very full, and every time I would go to buy makeup or get my makeup done, someone would say, ‘Never touch your brows; they’re perfect,’ ” says Tippins, who lives in Bed-Stuy.
And yet, the 22-year-old painter and self-described “old soul” couldn’t deny the call of the tweezers. “It was a gradual progression,” Tippins says of her transformation from Cara Delevingne into Clara Bow. “Even though I have the kind of brows that are very ‘in’ right now, my features are pretty small, so it
felt like the balance wasn’t there.” Bushy brows are the reigning beauty trend, with It girls such as Delevingne promoting a natural look and Glossier’s $16 “Boy Brow” — pomade that’s designed to thicken and shape lackluster, patchy arches — becoming so popular that it has its own Instagram hashtag, which has currently appeared in 21,902 posts. Twenty-two-year-old model Sophia Hadjipanteli has even won fame and fortune by refusing to tame her shaggy unibrow. But then last week, British Vogue challenged the grown-in look when it unveiled its September issue cover. Rihanna is the sultry star, with a flower crown, blood-red lips and — controversially — a pair of superstylized, pencil-thin eyebrows.
The Internet outcry was swift and impassioned.
“I’m not making my eyebrows skinny and Rihanna can’t make me,” a Twitter user wrote, reflecting the views of the vast majority.
But for a quiet few, the possible return of slender eyebrows is more than welcome.
“I’ve tried boy brows,” says Jolie Clifford, a 28-year-old photographer and art director with a vintage, pinup-inspired style. “But they look too heavy on my face.” Coney Island-based Clifford has been dressing like her fashion idol Bettie Page for more than a decade, after she discovered the 1950s-era It girl in high school. Her thin, dark brows — which she admits are naturally a bit scrawny — work with her everyday beauty look of curled bangs, winged eyeliner and red lips.
“If [thin brows] are coming back, I guess that’s good for me,” she says.
Similarly, Nena Moreno has never taken to the look of a robust brow.
“People stop me and tell me they love my eyebrows,” says the 20-something beauty blogger, who highlights her naturally high arches by brushing them every day with Reina Rebelde tinted pomade. As a result, her narrow brows are dark and strikingly defined. “They usually say something like, ‘Oh, my grandmother used to have the same style and it reminds me of her.’ ”
Moreno, who lives in Nevada, even has a popular YouTube tutorial devoted to her brows, called “How to create the perfect vintage pinup eyebrows.”
Beauty historian and former makeup artist Rachel Weingarten says that now that the British Vogue cover has landed, we’ll be seeing more like it soon.
“I suspect within the next three months we’re going to see a slew of YouTube videos about [how to get Rihanna’s look],” she says.
The author of “Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America,’40s-’60s,” Weingarten also says the British Vogue cover evokes early film starlets such as Clara Bow and Jean Harlow, whose drawn-in brows served to punctuate their facial expressions in silent films.
“Was it an attractive look?” she says. “Not really.”
Weingarten explains that makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench likely used concealer to blend away Rihanna’s real brows and then drew two skinny slashes over them. She warns eager imitators against attempting something more permanent, such as removing their natural brows to make way for a painted-on alternative. “If you do it wrong, you’re going to look like Bill Skarsgard in ‘It.’ I don’t know how to caution people strongly enough. This look is not your friend.”
Sofie Pavitt, an aesthetician with a studio in Chinatown, agrees.
“We would shave our eyebrows off and draw them on,” Pavitt, 35, says of her and her friends in the punk and rockabilly scenes in the late 1990s. Then, around 2010, as bushier brows became more popular, she started growing them out. She tried using growth serum Latisse, as well as castor oil, which she massaged into her meager brows nightly. It took about six months to see results.
Today, she loves her fuller brows, which she tints so they stand out against her skin.
“When I look at pictures of myself from 10, 12 years ago, I cannot believe how insane I look,” she says, laughing.
But Alice Tippins has no regrets about paring down her full, covetable brows. After all, she says, the best shape isn’t necessarily the one that’s trendy, but the look that feels right for your style.
“You have to listen to yourself and what you want to try,” she says. “Don’t let anyone tell you what or what not to do with your face.”
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