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