Raising eyebrows: The rise of brows in the era of Covid-19 and face masks

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then brows are the frames.

We all know a strong brow is essential when it comes to framing your face – but in this age of Covid-19 and face masks, they’ve become more important than ever.

Brow shaping and styles have changed dramatically over the years. Remember when you were 10 and first tried tweezing off your natural brows? Or when everyone started wearing the powdered pomade brows of the mid-2010s, made popular by the YouTubers of the day? Or patiently waited for our overplucked brows to grow back in so we could embrace the thick, fluffy brows of today?

But now that we’re constantly looking at ourselves on Zoom and face masks are drawing more attention to our eye area than ever before, we’re doing our brows a little differently.

CEO of Billion Dollar Beauty Natalie Plain launched her brand in 2004 with a brow primer and conditioner, at the time one of the first products of its kind.

Now the brand has just had its strongest year yet in the US – and Plain puts it down to the pandemic.

She says sales of her brow products went up overnight once the pandemic hit and brows became the centre of attention.

“We’ve seen a huge spike, given the concentration of people wearing a mask,” she tells the Herald.

“Nobody paid as much attention to their brows before as they have during quarantine. People want to highlight them, have them groomed but still have that natural look.

“It’s a way of expressing yourself amid this hyper-focused attention to your face.”

In 2020, beauty became about what we could see above the mask, Plain says.

“Trends come and go. But eyebrows will always be an interpretation of yourself. If you remove someone’s brows, they look like a different person.”

She agrees that the heavy Instagram brow is long gone. In fact, she says Australia and New Zealand have always been at the forefront of the natural brow trend – she herself is “inspired” by “natural New Zealand beauty”.

“For me, natural brows have always been the goal. You’ve got to work with what you have.”

For Plain, the perfect brow is all about conditioning, colour and control – and brow care goes hand-in-hand with skincare in the 2021 beauty routine.

“We’re all looking to skincare, seeing those imperfections on FaceTime, and thinking: what regimen can I incorporate to make myself more natural?”

Here in New Zealand, beauty technicians have noted a huge spike in people seeking brow treatments amid the pandemic.

Auckland salon Summer Studios opened in January this year, and co-owner Emmie Bryett says there’s been a huge increase in people wanting brow treatments.

“It’s crazy how much of a focus there’s been on them. People are constantly looking at their faces on Zoom chats and there’s spikes in appointments after we’ve been in lockdowns. They know that’s all that people can see and people are definitely talking about them more.”

For those of us who constantly have to wear masks, brow treatments have become essential, Bryett says.

“We get lots of essential workers like Air NZ staff, people who wear a mask all day – so there’s this huge focus on lashes and brows and people wanting to know what they can do to make them look better.”


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Bryett says the trend for big, bold brows is “calming down” this year. “People are wanting good enhancement of what they already have.”

And she has some words of wisdom for those of us thinking about taking to our brows with a pair of tweezers during lockdown.

“Just leave them. Put the tweezers down, I know it’s hard but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

“I completely understand the boredom and wanting to have a go. But if you must, only tweeze the hairs really low from the brow. Don’t try and shape the brow fully yourself.”

Instead, give Bryett’s own lockdown brow routine a go.

“In the morning, I take an old mascara wand or spoolie and spray it with makeup-setting spray or hairspray and just brush the hairs up and into place,” she reveals.

With mask wearing compulsory at alert level 2.5 for most of the country, and no doubt soon for Auckland too, brows will continue to be front of mind for many people, she says.

“I think we’ll see an increase in people that never have before getting them done.”

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