It stares us in the face, this last untamed frontier of beauty: The ubiquitous brow.

We obsess over wrinkles, freak out about fat. Our eyebrows, meanwhile, fall victim to our ineptitude, disregard, maybe shame. Without rigorous training and discipline, we pluck at our own peril.

Left in our riotous wake are brows contorted and uneven, painted and lacquered. We insist on robbing them of their seductive splendor.

How is it that “so” many of us continue to do “so” wrong by the brow?

“Why women neglect this most important feature, I’m in awe,” said Laura Di Niro, owner of The Brow Shoppe in Miami Beach and Coral Gables, Fla.

A painful history

Perhaps the problem stems from brow maintenance being a rite of passage, passed down from mother to daughter.

And so, despite the technological age, we adhere to superstitions and wives tales: Wipe the under-brow clean, arch as high as you can, never pluck from the top . . . the fallacies go on and on.

Instead of celebrating their lushness, we hide them the way Victorians dressed piano legs in pantaloons.

As one of the body’s coarser, more strident types of hair, visible for all to see, it seems eyebrows subliminally connote sexuality – both its promise and its threat. Might sexual anxiety drive our compulsion to pluck to death?

The whims of movie stars have long dictated the eyebrow contour of the moment. Mary Pickford and Greta Garbo’s brows, distinct yet painfully thin, gave way in subsequent decades to nothingness.

The masses tweezed in hot pursuit – and many a woman swore her brows never grew back.

By the 1930s, Marlene Dietrich seemed to shave her brows completely, only to redraw them in the shape of a winged bird on some distant horizon, suggesting Dietrich herself could take flight.

Two decades later, Grace Kelly brought the brow back from the brink of extinction. In the 1960s, even raven-haired beauties blended charcoal into the hair, but with a bizarre, stencil-like result.

It was Brooke Shields who finally gave the brow the full run of her gorgeous face. Her unharnessed facial hair – startlingly sexy – was the hallmark of ripe womanhood. Her eyebrows gave her stare a predatory lustiness.

But by the 1990s, shellac was back.

“Those eyebrows in the ’90s didn’t move at all,” said Luisa Santana, an esthetician at the Erno Laszlo Institute at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, who has her own eyebrow-plucking business. “They used to fix them with those gels.”

On a personal note

Thankfully, a movement has taken root to redress the wronged brow. Cosmetics companies manufacture eyebrow grooming products in abundance. There are relaxants for tough brows and transplants for missing brows.

Eyebrow specialists say they are doing a brisk business.

“The mistake people always made was they wanted to look like somebody else – Cindy Crawford eyebrows or Brooke Shields eyebrows – very thick, when they don’t look good like that,” Santana said.

“I think this is the only time that people are finally looking at eyebrows as something personal.”

Santana likes brows neat and natural. Di Niro calls over-arched brows “McDonald’s arches.” Both say new clients usually must grow back the underside of the brow, which can take up to a year.

Eyebrow aesthetics are one thing. But we subconsciously make decisions about class based on the shape of the brow.

The well-tended eyebrow seems to suggest the woman is well-tended, the kind who can afford to be groomed. The Jerry Springer Show, meanwhile, seems to exclusively host the hyper-plucked.

But perhaps all this is unnecessarily high-brow. After all, it’s only hair.

Or is it?


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