Lowbrow

What happens when bleached brows detach from the runway

I like my hair white. Freshly fallen snow white. Nearly translucent white. Sometimes the colour may shift to pastel mint, lavender, or pink, but for the most part I stick to shades of the printer paper variety. Some might say I’m a bit too obsessive about banishing any hint of a yellowy tone, and I’d probably say they are right.

This past week, I stumbled upon a look that would take my ghostly appearance to a new level: bleached brows. How did this revelation take so long? I have been fawning over barely-there browed models for ages, but I never quite made the connection: I could carry out this look in real life.

I clawed at the idea with the ferocity of a cat in a litter box. How do I do it? What volume activator do I use? How long before I get roots? The questions were endless, but the answer, it turns out, was pretty simple. I got drunk with my best friend and painted my brows with Jolen cream bleach. I started watching YouTube videos, completely forgot the bleach, remembered and frantically tried to rub it off as quickly as possible, and voila! No eyebrows!

But really, for that first hungover 24 hours I really looked like my brows has been pillaged, ripped right from their perch on my face and taken to an unknown location. It wasn’t until I bleached my roots and toned both bodies of hair to match that I attained the model-like result I’d been after. Bingo. I started to think of myself as a little more alien, more doll, more forest nymph/fairy/magical creature. But to my surprise, others didn’t share the same excitement.

When sifting through the internet for tips on managing the very quick grow-out phase (I already had teeny roots two days later), all I could find were warnings of potential blindness, the condemning of Kelly Osborne, polls debating whether the look should be “runway only” and some very direct reports banning it altogether.

My real life reactions were even more daunting than those of the voices on the internet. Friends literally looked and me and said, “Wow, your eyebrows look weird,” or (nervously), “When will they grow back?” From shock to horror, almost every reaction was negative.

The general consensus seemed to be “But why would you do that?” Perhaps the most confused and upset of them all was none other than one of Toronto’s top brow gurus. Known for her fabulous face-framing skills, she had just finished up with my best friend’s luscious brown brows when we got to talking about her doing mine sometime (when the lack of colour grew out and I needed more shape). The moment of realization that my eyebrows were not naturally light flashed across her face like tinfoil in a microwave, and she suddenly seemed unable to contain her dismay. She just couldn’t believe I had done such a thing willingly when “brows frame the face!” She asked, “but why?” at least five times while I struggled to comfort her and convince her it was a very solid runway trend, then eventually gave in to reassuring her they would grow back very quickly and it was just for fun. Although still confused, she greeted this possibility with hope and appeared to let it go.

Had I committed some form of facial faux pas? Was there a special place in hell reserved for women who purposefully erase their brows? Although I’ve tried many a crazy passing trend (full length denim jumpsuit, high-waisted pants that go up to my breasts, see-through dresses with nothing underneath, etc.) I have never experienced such negative feedback to a fashion statement: apparently challenging traditional beauty standards is not a risk I’m supposed to take.

It’s a well known fact that brows lighter than your locks just look “weird,” but why is that? Because we all need some level of sameness to feel comfortable when we gaze into one another’s eyes? As the tiny roots creep into sight on my brow, I’ve hit a crossroads: do I bleach them back? Or do I conform to traditional beauty standards and return to life as I knew it, with a perfectly balanced and shaped face? Is flattering more important than fun? The answer of course, is no. Despite the various people I’ve promised the return of my brows to, I think I’m going to indulge in this runway-only look a little longer.

photography //
Brianne Burnell

7 thoughts on “Lowbrow

  1. My eyebrows are naturally very light. They are too light for any of the eyebrows pencils, and they are technically lighter than my hair which is medium blonde. So I leave them.

    The light brow looks great on you. Ignore the fashion police and let people live with their discomfort. Do what you want and like.

  2. golly, that must be a lot of maintenance (all the toning to keep it from going brassy!), but I think it’s really really beautiful.

    I’m surprised your friend didn’t realize this is a hot runway trend; I feel like I’ve been seeing bleached brows for at least 3 or 4 years now.

  3. You do look quite nice like that – it suits you!
    I just thought I would stop by (from Already Pretty) and mention that perhaps some of the seeming gut reaction from people is tied to how eyebrows are part of facial-expression interpretation. People do often seem uncomfortable with images of people without eyebrows: it feels like some of their ability to emote is taken away. Faint, un-framey eyebrows might be a lesser version of this. Not that this justifies people being dicks, or blaming it on a beauty standard and expecting you to meet it, but maybe this might spark an interesting thought for you on the subject? (that’s my internet-life goal, to inspire people to have cool thoughts :) )

  4. I thought that was your natural brow in the picture. My brows are light blonde and translucent. I either get them professionally tinted (but it only lasts about 2 weeks) or dust in powder. Kids made fun of me in junior high for “not having eyebrows”, but they are actually pretty thick and healthy, if you look really, really, closely. I’ve only plucked them once, but personally am not into the overtweezed look (it’s also kind of pointless on me).

    I do find the eyebrow artist’s reaction strange, you’re not the first person to try an unconventional beauty trend and you’re not going to be the last.

  5. Eyebrows don’t frame the face as much as they make the eyes stand out and help convey facial expressions. Eye contact is essential for good communication. By going from dark to light (and nearly skintone) you’ve removed a lot of standardized non-verbal communication cues that people rely on during verbal communication. When reading shapes, the eyes are drawn to the darker areas first.

    In my experience, most horror movie/tv FX makeup rely on a lack of eyebrows and/or eyelessness to invoke a sense of unease in viewers. Hard to find eyes often read as “eyeless” to people who are farther away than arm’s length. An award winning sci/fi fantasy arist/illustrator once observed all she really needed to convey expression in her (faceless) demons were the eyes (which included a hint of eyebrows) noses, mouths and the cheeks were wholly optional. Eyes were essential.

    If you keep your platinum brows, people will eventually adjust to the new look and re-calibrate to your current level of non-verbal communication cues.

  6. Forgot to add…. I like how it looks on you. Especially if your eyebrows were the same color as your lashes before bleaching. You really achieved the Ice Fairy look. Brava!

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