Strong Eyebrow Game


Courtesy Diana Roth

Strong eyebrow game

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Columbia student Sydney Zenon has one strict fashion rule for herself: She cannot leave the house without filling in her perfefectly-plucked eyebrows. 

As she delved into the world of makeup during her teenage years, Zenon, now a sophomore interior architecture major, started noticing her peers’ eyebrows and exploring tutorials on how to recreate the bold eyebrow looks she liked. Through enless trial-and-error, her eyebrows took on their own shape with her guiding hands and helpful tweezers, turning them into dark, thick, arched beauties. 

“I think it’s safe to say I’m obsessed,” Zenon said. 

Taylor Ray is another brow-obsessed groomer. She said she thinks her brows are distinct because of their natural arch and thick texture. 

“I’ve been crazy about my eyebrows for a couple years now, but my friends have slowly started to jump on that [trend] because they see my brows,” Ray said. 

These girls are not alone in their obsession. Teens used to bemoan bad hair days, but now they are upset when their brows are not “on point.” 

Numerous blogs, such as and Reddit’s “Teens of Reddit: What’s cool nowadays?” page exemplify this generation’s obsession with brows. Twitter accounts such as @eyebrowgamestrong and Instagram accounts like @eyebrowgamestrongest have popularized the phrase “strong eyebrow game”—used to describe those who have the ideal well-groomed, big, beautiful eyebrows. The tag #eyebrowgamestrong on Tumblr leads to thousands of photos of minimally plucked or waxed and filled-in dark brows. Both younger females and males are now spending up to $30 at specialty eyebrow shops to achieve the perfect eyebrow look. 

In a March 5 Her Campus article “How To Keep Your Eyebrow Game Strong,” California Polytechnic State University student Arinee Rahman said, “If your eyebrows are on point, your life is on point. That’s because the way your eyebrow looks can change the appearance of your whole face. The shape of your eyebrow is everything. (And no, we’re not exaggerating.)” 

Diana Roth, an eyebrow specialist and co-owner of The Browtique in Orland Park, a beauty salon focused on just the brow rather than the entire face, said she has observed the eyebrow obsession spreading among youth since The Browtique opened in 2009. 

“I’ve just noticed the growth of conscientiousness,” Roth said. “People weren’t as aware of how different it can really make your face.” 

Eyebrow grooming has been practiced since the 13th century, Roth said, adding that she has only recently noticed the trend shifting to an obsession among younger people in the U.S. in the past few years. Although her clients used to be primarily middle-aged women, they are now mostly teenage girls who desire a specific look. 

“It really is a little thicker, a little fuller,” Roth said. “It’s more like that feathered brow where it almost looks like they’re slightly un-groomed, but obviously it does take a little bit of grooming in order to achieve that look.” 

In the ‘90s, eyebrows were popularly plucked into tiny lines, but now they are perfected into abundant bushels of hairy facial forestry, Roth said. Akin to a punk-rocker who spends an egregious amount of time achieving the unkempt look as if he or she just “rolled out of bed,” the added effort, ironically, is meant to make the eyebrows appear more natural. Appointments with brow gurus are customized to each client to find just the right balance between a desire for thick brows with the type of brows a customer actually has. 

“Just be you with your eyebrows,” said Jack Dodge, a 16-year-old YouTuber. “You gotta keep ‘em shaped like you—but bigger is better now.” 

Dodge said teens today are more obsessed with their eyebrows than any previous generation, a trend he has witnessed among his high school classmates and YouTubers. In fact, the trend inspired him to do a parody video in January that went viral. When his female fans could not resist talking about his strong eyebrow game in the comments section of his humorous weekly vlog, he consulted his “beauty guru” friends who make tutorials on beauty tricks and trends. Dodge’s eyebrow grooming parody video had nearly 9,000 views as of press time. 

In the video, he first pretends to apply Latisse, a treatment used to increase eyelash growth, to his eyebrows to ensure they reach the proper thickness. To demonstrate the serum has worked a little too well, he lays a lump of fake hair over it and then pretends to “tweeze the s–t” out of it. The last step of the process is filling them in, which he does with a chocolate candy bar for a “rich brown color” but then decides it is not bold enough and uses pink lipstick instead. 

“People were like ‘Wow, like, your eyebrows. I just keep looking at them,’ and I’m like, ‘OK, I have to address this,’” Dodge said. “After I did that, people notice it more now, but I’ve just embraced it and kind of been, like, ‘Yeah, I have strong eyebrow game, like, get over it.’” 

Dodge essentially created the ultimate satire tutorial on eyebrow grooming, which found its place among dozens of actual videos showing how to demonstrate a look called the gradient eyebrow—the eyebrow du jour, which is blocked on with pencil or powder and has a faded ombre effect. 

Girls are not the only ones adopting the obsession. For men, it is important not to have over-groomed eyebrows, Roth said. 

Troy Arrington, a junior nutrition major at Northern Illinois University, is a 21-year-old man who makes grooming his eyebrows a top priority. 

“I used to get them threaded,” Arrington said. “[They were] just really thin and it looked like Prince or something.” 

After he stopped threading his eyebrows, he continued to groom them using a different method. 

“As a male, you shouldn’t have overgroomed eyebrows,” Arrington said. “Some males don’t believe you should [groom] them at all, but when you have like super bushy eyebrows—uncontrolled eyebrows like me—you have to do something to it otherwise you just look ridiculous. Nowadays, I usually get them tweezed by my girlfriend.” 

Joe Smith, whose name has been changed at his request, a 2013 Columbia alumnus, tweezes his eyebrows at least three times a week to make sure they always look perfect. 

“Having good eyebrows is kind of like having a nice pair of shoes or great lipstick,” Smith said. 

Smith said he thinks it is important to make sure, especially for a man, that eyebrows are not over-plucked and do not look too obviously groomed. He said he thinks eyebrows should look natural but also well-kept, so he checks the status of his brows in the mirror every night before going to bed to ease his mind of any eyebrow woes. 

The worst offense in the eyebrow game is a unibrow, something that must be removed at the onset of puberty. 

Rebecca Gross, an aesthetician at Mark Allen Salon and Day Spa, said she has seen mothers bring their 11- and 12-year-old sons to get their uni-brows waxed. 

“They’re getting teased at school,” Gross said. “It’s affecting them, so the moms will come in just to take care of that little unibrow.” 

However, Zenon said she thinks competition regarding strong eyebrow game could negatively affect self-esteem in young girls. 

“I think people judge you off anything,” Zenon said. “I don’t really know how catty it will be at a high school level.” 

Zenon and Ray agreed that they groom their eyebrows for their own satisfaction, not to attract men. 

“I do it for myself, and it ends up being sexy,” Zenon said. “If you always have a strong eyebrow game, you feel good.” 

Aside from getting their eyebrow game on point, Gross said girls are getting into beautification younger because they are hitting puberty earlier. She also said men are getting into it because there is more competition in the workforce, adding pressure to look polished. 

“I think it has a positive effect,” Gross said. “It’s just about getting the right message out there: how to take care of your skin. It’s a part of grooming. Just like we’re taught at a young age to brush our teeth. We just weren’t aware of it years ago like we are now.”