14 October 2022 – Today I learned:
About a beauty trend to remove one’s own eyebrows and to keep them gone/invisible.
Jessica DeFino’s latest post on her newsletter The Unpublishable is “Where Are All The Eyebrows?: A brief look at the bleached brow trend.” I have to assume she knows what she’s talking about as this trend doesn’t seem to have hit New Hampshire yet, but she cites a number of celebrities whose brows are disappearing, ostensibly as “a bold rejection of homogenization and artificiality.” LOL. As DeFino points out: “Glomming onto the latest eyebrow look doesn’t reject homogenization; it redirects it. Bleaching or shaving one’s brows away doesn’t reject artificiality; it requires it. The only brows that have a legitimate claim to individuality or authenticity are your own unmodified eyebrows, as they are.”
The Unpublishable is committed to examining “the beauty industry’s tight grasp on consumers and popular culture,” and that’s why I read it, because it reveals the sometimes subtle ways in which many women and some men spend a lot of money (and time and effort) on beauty products to make us look other than what we naturally look like. As DeFino has written, “the standard of beauty now is basically just ‘stimulates the economy.'”
And as she writes in her apologetically “An Annoyingly Earnest Story About My Eyebrows,” published in August, her decision to not have her sparse eyebrows microbladed (semi-permanently tattooed) again after losing most of her brows due to trichotillomania (“a mental illness characterized by the uncontrollable urge to pull my eyebrow hairs clear out of my head”) felt “significant because for so long, pretending I don’t look the way I look was my life!”
Even not having hair above your eyes requires a hefty outlay of cash (a bonus TIL), and in fact a whole new batch of beauty products and services than having luxuriant brows does; the “The Great Depilation” is not low-maintenance, because the beauty industry doesn’t survive on low-maintenance:
“[The previous trend of] thick, dark brows meant the sale of growth serums, pencils, powders, and gels, plus appointments for microblading, tinting, laminating, and more. Thick, dark brows are now giving way to bleached brows because bleached brows mean the sale of bleach, brand new shades of pencils, powders, and gels, plus skincare for bleach irritation, concealer for skin-brow blending, and/or frequent touch-up appointments. The product possibilities are endless — and the exact opposite of what consumers already have on hand.”
DeFino notes the distinction between brows, and all beauty enhancements, that convey effort and those that don’t, such as hair loss through illness or age. For me, this is the crux of the thing, that the beauty industry, and the culture at large, I would submit, likes women to, well, submit, to acknowledge that we are not acceptable, that we are not ideal as we are; and using beauty products and services shows that we’re trying to be other than who we are, that we’re trying to appeal to and appease those who make the rules and dole out the rewards. Significant and sustained cash outlay reveals our desire to attain acceptance and admiration from our cultural overlords, but even more than that it’s our effort, our striving, that really signals to one and all that we know we’re not OK as we are. It’s “beauty as duty,” as I once heard it said. Or, again as DeFino puts it, “I thought me wasn’t an accurate representation of me.”