Are Thin Brows Cute or Have We Been Catfished By TikTok?

Ruby Feneley tries TikTok thin brows. On left with TikTok filter, on right without.
Supplied Ruby Feneley

As POPSUGAR editors, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you’ll like too. POPSUGAR has affiliate and advertising partnerships so we get revenue from sharing this content and from your purchase.

2022 was the year the impossible happened: Skinny brows made a comeback.

A stat released in Lookfantastic’s Trends of 2021 Report found that “thin brows” had made a 175 per cent increase — while “thick brow” searches had dipped 67 per cent (another accurately reported trend was the return of heavy black eyeliner, incidentally).

The story was picked up everywhere and most felt it was an ill-omen for a beauty population who has spent the last 10 years bulk-buying brow and lash serums and forking out for microblading and even brow transplant surgery.

Of course, thin brows have been sneaking up on us for some time via the flawlessly arched Hadid sisters, Euphoria cast members and general return of Y2K beauty.

TikTok reacts to the skinny brow filter
Image credit: @almorgann and @sxneadbailey

Then, Disney+’s Pam and Tommy hit screens, with Lily James looking smoking hot in arches so thin they looked straight out of a ’90s Tweezerman ad. TikTok filters like “90s brow” and “thin brow” followed, taking the trend into the iPhones of thin brow sceptics everywhere — and impressing them. Comments like “Did I really just grow out my eyebrows for 2 years to find this filter and realise skinny brows suit my face better???”, “brb going to wax my eyebrows off” and “wait I kinda love them?” were found all over the video app.

As POPSUGAR Australia writers in our twenties and thirties, we’ve spent the last decade learning to embrace our brows and make them bigger and better. But, we’re nothing if not beauty curious and so decided to try the trend (via filter) for ourselves. The results were… kind of shocking. Here are our thoughts.

Ange Law, Commercial Content and Shopping Editor

Ange Law tries the Skinny Brow TikTok trend

At this point, it’s almost a cliché to say you’re obsessed with your brows, but, well, I really am. Thankfully, I mostly skipped the thin brow trend the first time it came around because I’m too lazy to get my brows regularly tended to professionally. These days, I prefer a bold, fluffier brow and don’t go much further than snipping some stray hairs a few times a year and applying brow gel (liberally) in the morning.

Over the past few months, I’ve started using the 1000 Hours Eyelashes and Brow Tint ($20) in medium brown to match my brows to my natural hair colour, which I’ve been growing after years of bleaching. That means, all I have to do in the morning is swipe on some brow gel (I’m loving the Ere Perez Argan Brow Hero ($39), which has a surprising amount of hold for a tinted gel) then glue down the tips of my brows with the Schwarzkopf Got2b Glued Hair Gel ($7).

When I was asked to try the thin brow TikTok filter, I was pretty sure it would troll my face and I was 100 per cent correct. The filter basically made my brows look like a slightly thinner version of my daily pre-brow gelled brows, so it wasn’t so much of a shock as it was a horrible sight to see. I was also alarmed by the way the filter changed the overall structure of my face and felt that it was trying to convince me to commit crimes against my own, bigger brows. Needless to say, I won’t be embracing thin brows.

Laura Roscioli, Culture Producer

Laura Roscioli tries the TikTok skinny eyebrow trend

I distinctly remember my mum taking my tweezers away when I was around 12 or 13. She told me I’d thank her later, and I do. 

I used to get teased for my thick eyebrows (and hairy-ness in general), being the little Italian girl with the bushy eyebrows. Understandably, I wanted to tweeze them away. I also wanted to look like Kate Moss. But I grew to love my brows. I’m a huge fan of the natural beauty look and for me, natural brows are a part of that. I love how they frame my eyes, I love that I don’t have to pluck them every few days and I love that they’re uniquely me.

Although I understand why thin brows are making a comeback, with the rise of Y2K fashion trends, I think filters like this can be a trap. Not only does the filter thin my brows but it also changes my face. It makes me look like I’m wearing make-up… so of course, I think it looks good! But I will not be tricked into plucking again. Even when I look at this comparison, I like the filter-less me the most.

Ruby Feneley, Beauty and Wellness Producer

Ruby Feneley tries the TikTok Skinny Brow Trend

I’ve given my mum more beauty advice than she has given me over the years. The two pieces of wisdom she passed on were 1. Always wear sunscreen, and 2. Never pluck your brows.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve definitely been approaching my brows with a lighter hand. I generally flick some Benefit Precisely My Brow Pencil ($45) through the ends and set with a clear gel-like MCoBeauty’s Hair & Brow Magic Wand ($8). That said, I have never questioned that my full brows are a positive thing for my face and did not have high hopes for the filter.

So when I first tried the TikTok filter, I was surprised — I looked… kind of hot? Like the early aughts, Megan Fox‘s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen-era that mean girl, 12-year-old me assumed I’d turn into when puberty hit (I did not).

Sadly, on closer examination TikTok me actually didn’t look a whole lot like real-life me.

Looking at the subtle changes the filter made to my face, I realised that the TikTok “baddie” aesthetic is actually an early-2000s beauty ideal. The ski-jump nose, heart-shaped face and pointy chin… it’s serving Megan Fox realness to me. Incidentally, this is a face shape that high, fine arches suit.

I was curious about how skinny brows would look on my real, un-TikTok’d face so enlisted the skills of a photoshop guru (thank you to my housemate Angus).

I looked… distinctly less Megan Fox.

Ruby Feneley goes unfiltered with the skinny brow trend
On left, my normal brows. On right, TikTok brows on my actual face.

As you can see, my normal, unfiltered TikTok face really needs my brows. The thinner arches made my eyes look puffy and my cheekbones and jawline less defined. My natural features are larger than the TikTok’s edited version of my face, and without my brows, they look unbalanced.

My immediate feeling on seeing my skinny brow transplant was satisfaction. I haven’t been stubbornly sticking with my big brows for no reason, the evidence is in, and skinny doesn’t suit me.

The Dark Side of Our Thin Brow Experiment

I’m not convinced we’ll see thousands of people ripping off their brows because of a filter – we live in the information age and there’s just as much advice online about not doing this as there are filters suggesting you should.

What did bother me about the “thin brow” experience?

Just how uncannily convincing the TikTok version of myself was. It wasn’t until I viewed the TikTok image and real-life images side by side that I saw how dramatically different our faces were, with every feature minutely tweaked. Looking at your own face through social media can be like having a better (or different) looking sibling. My desire to look like a slightly better version of myself is more intense than my desire to look like Bella Hadid, because it’s theoretically more achievable.

Recently Allergan Aesthetics, a pharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures and distributes medical-aesthetic products like Juvederm, Kybella and Coolsculpting, released a report on demographic attitudes towards beauty. The report found that Gen Z and Millennials are significantly less happy with how we look than our Gen X and Boomer parents. We spend over 60 per cent more on injectables, up to 136 per cent more on body sculpting (comparing Boomers’ 3% investments with Gen X’s 17%) and spend four times as much as them on beauty products.

Despite being the youngest adult generation, 73 per cent of Gen Zs (and the same number of millennials) want to change their face, compared to 44 per cent of Baby Boomers. Millennials are 40% more worried about “looking younger with fewer wrinkles” than Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers were exposed to unrealistic advertising just like we were. If anything, beauty advertising was less inclusive and less regulated.

What is different about our generation is that we live with distorted versions of ourselves on our phones, every day. Recent studies have indicated that the psychiatric illness body dysmorphia is on the rise in high school-aged adolescents with some psychologists referring to it as “Snapchat Dysmorphia.

The media we consume, from literature to social, advertising, articles like this and even religion, plays a significant role in our self-perception. So while I’m not worried about an epidemic of bad brows, my foray into TikTok filters did prompt me to think about the impact living with these pocket “filtered fraternal twins” is having on us.

Related Posts
Latest Beauty
The End.

The next story, coming up!