The old saying goes that our eyes are the 'windows to the soul'. True, scientific studies do show that our eyes are just as important for communication as the words we speak - if not more so. The colour, size, shape and movement of our eyes and brows can easily betray what we're really thinking and even change the way others think of us.
On this page
- Eyebrows explained
- What do your eyebrows say about you?
- Eyebrow grooming
- Eyebrow trends through the ages
- Types of eyebrow treatment
Eyebrows are the two strips of hair that grow on the top ridge of each eye socket, framing the brow and preventing dirt and sweat from contaminating the eyes. The average eyebrow is thought to consist of around 500 single hair-follicles.
Many experts believe that our eyebrows are the last remnants of a far hairier past, at a time when our distant ancestors were covered head to foot in fur for warmth and protection - much like modern apes are today. However, millions of years of evolution meant humans gradually lost their natural covering and took to stealing other animals' coats instead, giving rise to us: 'the naked apes'. So the interesting question is this - why did we lose all of that hair and yet still keep our eyebrows?
Some experts believe our eyebrows do more than simply keep dirt out of our eyes.
What do your eyebrows say about you?
Eyebrows are extremely mobile. This is because they're controlled by a two-part muscle known as the epicranium, which covers the whole scalp. One part of this muscle moves the scalp and the other part, the 'frontalis', controls the eyebrows. Eyebrow movements are also thought to be controlled in part by another muscle known as the orbicularis oris. All of these muscles are interconnected with other muscles, allowing for involuntary twitches known as 'micro-expressions', which unfortunately often give away how we're really feeling.
Eyebrow movements can be used to convey an impressive range of emotions, both intentionally and unintentionally. Each varying degree or direction of movement can mean something completely different, offering an incredibly rich vocabulary even before we open our mouths to speak.
Because we learn to associate certain eyebrow movements with certain emotions - one raised eyebrow with disdain, two with surprise and so on - we can't help but associate particular eyebrow shapes with these same emotions. For example, we might instinctively feel that people with high-set eyebrows are more welcoming and approachable, and that people with bushy, low-set eyebrows are bad-tempered and angry, just because they look a bit like they're frowning, which begs the question: can we change how people perceive us simply by changing the look of our eyebrows?
We know now that as well as catching debris and conveying emotion, eyebrows also play an important role in attractiveness and our perception of beauty.
Humans have been sculpting and accentuating their eyebrows for thousands of years. It seems absurd that two tiny strips of facial hair could have such an impact on the history of fashion and beauty, but eyebrows play a prominent part in the cultural fashions of most settlements across the world.
The Ancient Egyptians, for example, were thought to apply black or green paste around their eyes and draw long, dark lines over their eyebrows to accentuate their length and colour, a fashion that's still clear to see in paintings and sculptures from the era. In 18th Century colonial America, thick, bushy eyebrows were so fashionable that people would attach grey mouse skins to their foreheads like little eyebrow wigs.
Even in the past few decades we've seen a definite evolution of the eyebrow - take a look at the trend timeline below:
Eyebrow trends through the ages
1920s - heavily tweezed to create thin, elegant, highly arched eyebrows like American actress Clara Bow's. This trend continued throughout the 30s and 40s.
1950s - thicker, straighter, more natural brows came into fashion at this time. Think Audrey Hepburn, who's thick, black eyebrows and chiselled jawline set the trend for the dark, European look that beautiful Sophia Lauren reinforced. Lauren's eyebrows were highly arched, dramatic and structured.
1970s - the era of free love was all about going au-naturel with unshaved legs, arms and bikini-lines, as well as long, free-flowing hair and bushy, un-plucked eyebrows.
1980s - the Thatcher era saw the reigns tighten on those 70s mono-brows as third-wave feminism took off and women donned shoulder-padded power suits and the power-brows to match. These brows were big and bold but neater than their hippie predecessors.
1990s - women took once more to the tweezers, bleach, wax and razors to relive the old high-arched, elegant look of 20s Hollywood glamour. Unfortunately this savage pruning had a damaging effect on many women. Heavy plucking can irreversibly damage hair roots and prevent brows from ever growing thick and lustrous again.
2010 - thank goodness, the Pamela Anderson look of perpetual surprise has finally fled and we're back to the beautiful, full, dark brows invented by the Ancient Egyptians and later glamourized by Elizabeth Taylor.
2012 - and then 'dramality shows' were invented, including 'Geordie Shore' and 'The Only Way is Essex', and low and behold the 'scouse-brow' was born. Drawn on with dark pencil, the brows of the year are thick, dark, perfectly symmetrical and extremely attention-grabbing. We wonder what's coming next?
The future of eyebrows - The dark, bold, statement-brow isn't going anywhere soon. Based on the looks showcased on the S/S 2012 catwalks, it's all about Disney-villain style angles for added statement and drama for the next year (think Cruella de Vil and Snow White's evil stepmother), but taking regular visits to a beauty salon will ensure you stay right on trend.
Types of eyebrow treatment
As we have seen, it's worth taking care of our eyebrows. It could be that they say more about who we are than we'd like to admit. Beauty therapists offer a wide range of eyebrow treatments to suit any style you'd like to try. These include:
Although most of us tend to be preoccupied with how our bodies look- whether we look too fat or too thin, whether our breasts are too small, our bums too big and so on, more often than not it's actually our eyes that other people notice first. It's amazing what effect a couple of eye treatments can have on the overall appearance of a face. Of course, we don't mean spending thousands on a facelift. It is actually possible to look fresh-faced, beautiful and young simply by having false lashes applied, or by curling and tinting your own. Curling the lashes creates a wide-eyed, effeminate look and tinting can greatly benefit fair-haired people by adding more definition and structure to the face.
So what is it that makes eyes attractive? We believe there are three main factors to take into account:
- eye shape
- eye colour
1. Eye shapes
To determine what eye shape you have, sit yourself in front of a mirror beneath good lighting. If you have a magnifying mirror this is even better, but not necessary.
There are five main eye shapes:
- Almond - eyes that resemble, as you'd expect, the shape of an almond, characterised by an upswept outer corner (celebrity example: Minka Kelly).
- Deep-set - eyes set deeply into the skull with a prominent brow (celebrity example: Cameron Diaz).
- Close-set - eyes positioned closer to the bridge of the nose (celebrity example: Jennifer Anniston).
- Narrow - slender, small-lidded eyes (celebrity example: Lucy Liu).
- Wide-set - big, round eyes set far apart (celebrity example: Rihanna).
There is no one 'more attractive' eye shape, and you won't necessarily fit one of the five shapes exactly. The important thing is to make the most of what you have. If you have narrow eyes, you can easily widen them with an eyelash perm. If you have deep-set eyes, you could visit a make-up artist and learn how to bring your eyes forward with clever make-up. Beauty is about finding the style that suits you as well as making sure you feel comfortable in your own skin.
2. Eye colours
Eye colours differ widely across the globe. There have been lots of studies investigating the correlation between eye colour and personality. Experts believe that our initial opinion of another person can completely change depending on what colour their eyes are2.
Brown eyes are most commonly found across Africa, East Asia, the Middle East and southern and eastern Europe. Over 50% of the world's population has brown eyes1, making this colour the most common. There are of course many different shades of brown, ranging from light brown, to amber, to black - and these also differ across the world. One study involving 1,016 Americans found that 34% of people associate brown eyes with intelligence, 16% associate them with trustworthiness and 13% said kindness. Characteristics least associated with brown eyes are shyness and creativity2.
One Professor, Hans Eigberg of the University of Copenhagen3 believes all humans originally had brown eyes due to the build up of melanin (the dark skin pigment) in the irises. However, about 10,000 years ago one mutation arose in a gene known as OCA2, which altered the production of melanin and caused the eye to turn blue. This was thought to have occurred in northern Europe during a time of rapid population growth, causing this blue-eyed mutation to spread far and wide. Many experts now believe that all blue-eyed people come from the same one ancestor.
According to a survey2, 42% of people associate blue eyes with sweetness, 21% associate them with sexiness and 10% with kindness. The characteristics least associated with blue eyes are shyness and trustworthiness.
It's thought that 1 in 6 people are born with blue eyes1.
The percentage of people with green eyes in the world is estimated to be around 1 to 2%1 and most of these are thought to be female4. All races across the world have been known to produce green-eyed individuals and scientists do not know exactly how this genetic variation came about.
29% of people surveyed said they associate green eyes with sexiness (deemed the most 'sexy' of all eye colours), 25% said creativity and 20% said deviousness. The characteristics least associated with green eyes are, like blue eyes, trustworthiness and shyness. Green-eyed people are also least likely to be perceived as sweet2.
The average length of a female eyelash is thought to be between seven and nine millimetres. The longer our eyelashes, the more attractive we are deemed to be. Why is this? Possible reasons include:
- Youth - long, luscious lashes can make the eyes seem bigger in relation to the ears and nose, which continue to grow as we get older. Therefore, a smaller looking nose and ears might give off the illusion of youth. We tend to find baby animals with long eyelashes 'cute', again reinforcing that idea of vulnerability and youth.
- Health - eyelashes that curl upwards cast less of a shadow on the eyes, making the whites look brighter. Bright, clean eye-whites are an indication of good health, increasing the sexual appeal of a person (we are instinctively attracted to people we deem to have strong, healthy genes).
- Femininity - experts have long believed that an effective way of attracting the opposite sex is to exaggerate the biological differences between you and them. Men are attracted to women's hips, breasts and narrow waists because they don't have them. The same goes for eyelashes - men tend to have shorter eyelashes than women, so women accentuate the length of theirs in order to increase their femininity and therefore their sexual appeal.
It's amazing how much a simple eye treatment can change the look of a face. It can make a person look younger, more enlivened, as well as enhancing their natural beauty. Available treatments include:
Follow the links to find out more.
1Buzzle, 'Eye Colour Percentages'.
2Kevin Hogan, 'Eye colour'.
3Independent, 'How One Ancestor Helped Turn our Brown Eyes Blue'.
4Pumpkin Cat, 'The Origins of Green Eyes'.
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