Whether thick or thin (or none at all), brows are one of those chief defining features to a face. For some, they’re even the main focal point. If the Brooke Shields and Cara Delevingnes of the world have taught us anything, it’s that a strong brow is often all you need for major beauty impact. Not that this is news—in ancient Greece women would give themselves a unibrow with animal hair if they didn’t naturally grow one, because a single bold eyebrow was a sign of beauty. Now that’s brow power.
But if you’re one of those folks lucky enough to recover from the early aughts’ trend of thin, arched brows, you may look back on old, skinny-browed photos of yourself and wonder “Who even IS that?” And it’s not just that your hair is different (and hopefully your makeup has evolved, too); it turns out brows really are the defining feature, not just for beauty, but for basic facial recognition. An MIT study asked subjects to identify celebrities with their faces altered–one photo with the eyes blurred to just a flesh-colored area, and one photo with the eyebrows blurred out in the same way. Surprise surprise, most subjects were able to identify the celeb when they were still wearing eyebrows (but had no eyes); less than half were able to identify the brow-less images.
So what do our brows say about us? Other than being our most obvious purveyors of emotion, brow shapes have taken on a personality of their own, no matter who the wearer. Anyone who’s been over-plucked or over-waxed knows this for a fact. For instance, straight-across brows, which are popular in Korean culture, are a signifier of youth and innocence. You’ve probably seen these on Natalie Portman and Jennifer Connelly. They suit most faces since their shape is kind of the default, and doesn’t detract one way or another from your surrounding features.
Very arched and shapely brows do well for round faces since they add more angular dimensions. The opposite goes for square-shaped faces—Your brows should have slightly rounded arches so as not to offset the angles naturally in your face around the jaw. It’s all about balance, people. Arches ought to peak about 2/3 of the way from the beginning of the brow, otherwise you’ll end up looking perpetually surprised. Eyebrows naturally taper off on their own so you don’t have to worry about that part too much, unless the outer corner ends much lower than the inner corner, which can give your eyes a droopy or sad appearance.
You’re probably very familiar with the geometrics of brows, and if not, all you need is a pencil. Hold a pencil vertically against your nostril; the place at the inner corner of your eye where it touches is where your brow should begin. Now tilt the pencil so that it lines up with the outer corner of your eye; this is where your brows should end. This is a pretty solid rule of thumb, unless you have a long face. If so, feel free to extend that brow to end slightly past that pencil-point to add the illusion of width to your face.