The eyes are considered the window to the soul – but did you know that the eyebrows also reveal quite a few things about us?“Brows say more than 1000 words” – this is a common joke among researchers but our eyebrows can actually tell people how we’re feeling, as well as reveal many other surprising things about us, our bodies and our souls. Why do we have eyebrows and what do they say about us? BETTER VISION tells all.
Whether we’re surprised, sceptical, scared, confused, disgusted, annoyed, sad or happy, our eyebrows reveal exactly what’s going through our minds at any given moment. Alongside the eyes, they’re our most expressive facial feature and help us read a whole range of emotions on other people’s faces. Eyebrows reinforce our facial expressions, affect the attractiveness of our faces and protect our eyes against things like sweat. Our gender, age and level of health can all be determined by looking at our brows. For instance, if the thyroid doesn’t produce enough metabolic hormones (hypothyroidism), the eyebrows could become thinner at the ends. A nutrient deficiency, vitamin deficiency, stress, eczema, hair loss (Alopecia areata) and the side effects of chemotherapy can all cause our eyebrows to fall out.
Eyebrows have two key functions: they convey how we’re feeling and give our faces expression and character. They also protect our eyes from things that could impair our vision, such as sunlight, moisture, sweat, dirt and dust. Without our eyebrows, the salty sweat that forms on our forehead would run into our eyes and cause an unpleasant burning sensation. Eyebrows can also catch a few raindrops.
While we talk, we normally look people in the eye and don’t pay much attention to what our eyebrows are doing. In just a few seconds, we perceive many brief movements in the eyes of the person we’re talking to (known as microexpressions) and eyebrows play a major role in evaluating these impressions. Say the other person is dismissive or critical – this will be evident by their eyebrows, whether they try to hide it or not: their brows will move closer together and a small crease will form above their nose, the “frown lines”. If they’re listening intently, their brows will only move slightly closer together. If they don’t move at all, they’re either bored or aren’t listening. Negative feelings (e.g. fear, sadness, anger) tend to be accompanied by eyebrows that are tense and contracted. If we experience positive emotions (such as joy or surprise) our eyebrows will move less and be more relaxed.
Eyebrows work in the same way for men and women, but they look totally different: women’s brows are higher up, closer to each other and more curved. Four factors influence their growth and, as such, how our brows look: hormones, age, genes and gender. The male hormone testosterone results in particularly bushy brows, and the female hormone oestrogen creates thin, curved brows. If a father has bushy brows, it’s likely he’ll pass these on to his son. Brothers and sisters, however, rarely have the same brows despite having identical genes because the visual differences between men’s and women’s brows are too big.
Eyebrows don’t just play a role in terms of direct communication with other people, they also help us identify faces. One study1 revealed that celebrities would be harder to recognise in photos if their brows were to be concealed using a black marker. This is because eyebrows lend our faces a lot of character. Actors can even improve their expression by practising eyebrow movements and using them to a greater extent. Women – and an increasing number of men – also focus on the cosmetic effect of their brows, and pluck them to achieve the desired shape. Some people even shave off their eyebrows and draw on new ones to achieve a particular shape.
To achieve as harmonious an effect as possible, your eyebrows should suit your face shape. The rule of thumb below is an easy way of finding out which eyebrow shape suits you. If you’re unsure what face shape you have, you can find out here. The general rule is: The thinner your face, the thinner your eyebrows should be. However:
- Angled, arched eyebrows are better suited to round faces as they make these faces more striking.
- Rounded eyebrows, which are flat and not overly curved, are better suited to square faces. This will make the facial features appear more balanced.
- Bows with rounded arches are better suited to heart-shaped faces as they make them appear more harmonious.
- Flat, slightly curved brows are better suited to oval-shaped faces. They divide the face into sections and make it appear more balanced.
As we grow older, the connective tissue on our foreheads starts to weaken, and our brows move downwards. When this happens, some people resort to botox to change the position of their brows and appear younger.