Have you ever considered why your eyebrows are such an important feature on your face? Consider this - almost 50% of communication is done non-verbally. We tend to use many parts of our body to communicate, however, our face is arguably the most expressive part of our body. Our eyes alone can reveal many emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness but one feature that is often overlooked is the important role our eyebrows play in our ability to communicate non-verbally. Our eyebrows are actually the most expressive facial feature that we have! Personally, I never gave much thought to those small patches of hair over my eyes until I lost them to Alopecia Universalis. It is only now that I am”eyebrowless” that I care to learn more about the function of brows in our culture.
It surprised me to learn that the fact that we have two brows may be the remnants of our evolutionary ancestors. Full facial hair slowly gave way to two bushy brows that evolved for a degree of protection from shielding our eyes from rain, dirt and sweat irritation. Of course, our eyebrows play a very important role in facial recognition and as a means of communication.
Today, our tweezed, plucked, waxed, trimmed, pierced and painted brows are clearly associated with beauty. Even men are trimming away fly away brow hairs for a neater appearance. My research enlightened me to the fact that 18th century women believed that full and bushy eyebrows were quite attractive. Women would go through great lengths to enhance their existing brows by securing bushy hair attachments to their wispy brows. Today the benchmark for fashionable brows seems to be a thin high arched line, quiet different from the 18th century bushy variety!
We can express our feelings with our facial expressions but it is our eyebrows that can relay specific moods or emotions. Eyebrow movement can express fear, surprise, aggression, astonishment or even sadness to name a few. Raised eyebrows can express an acceptance or un-acceptance for social behavior, or may indicate confusion. Lowered eyebrows can express annoyance or displeasure or even deception. It’s amazing the level of non-verbal communication power held by a 2 inch strip of hair!
Another role for our brows is aiding in facial recognition amongst a wide diversity of faces. One can usually discriminate between male or female by just looking at one’s brows! So what does all of this mean to those of us who are “eyebrow deficient”? Personally, I think eyebrows are over rated! I’ve lived without them for 9 years and I will challenge anyone with brows to a non-verbal communication contest on any given day. With a brush of a stroke, I can draw angry brows, sad brows, condemning brows, happy brows - depends on my mood - or I can go sans brows and remain anonymous. I have options - I can have thick brows - I can have pencil thin brows. I don’t require any tweezing, plucking or waxing. I’m brow maintenance free! The brow has sometimes been referred to as the “face’s forgotten feature”. I’ve truly forgotten what it feels like to have normal brows but it’s really okay! Either way it is an interesting topic.
Susan M. Beausang
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