'No, I Will Not Be Getting My Eyebrows Laminated'

The eyebrow industry is spiralling out of control, but is anyone ready for that conversation?

Can we take a moment – no – several moments, to acknowledge that the eyebrow situation is spinning wildly, frantically out of control?

Let me explain.

The other day, I had thought it might be time to get my eyebrows (or ‘brows’ as they’re referred to by those of us ‘in the know’) threaded. Having discovered during Melbourne’s mammoth lockdown order that you can leave your eyebrows alone and it’s basically fine, I thought I’d keep it going even when beauty salons re-opened. There’s a reason the government calls waxers and threaders non-essential, I thought. If they’re so non-essential, maybe I could ditch the practice for good (saving myself the holy trinity of time, money and excruciating pain)?

A few months of intervention-free growth, though, and I clocked my ‘brows’ in an unflattering family selfie. They were unruly. Directionless. They had regressed, without warning, to their teenage selves.

“Enough!” I declared. (Internally.) It was time.

I did what any good citizen would do and went online to book in for eyebrow wax at my usual place. All the usual suspects were there: ‘Brow tint’. ‘Brow shape’. ‘Brow tidy’. It was then that I caught sight of an interloper: “Brow lamination.” Now, what the shit was brow lamination? Was ‘brow automation’ up next? What about ‘brow termination’? The absurdity of the whole stupid beauty industry hit me like a ton of bricks. What were we all doing?

In 2016, The Guardian described brows as the “beauty obsession of the decade”, but half a decade later that obsession shows no signs of waning. Much of our burgeoning obsession with eyebrows, the article suggests, happened alongside the rise of Instagram. As Jia Tolentino writes in The New Yorker, with the rise of Instagram in the 2010s came Instagram Face: a highly groomed, cyborgian femininity more attuned to the glow of your phone screen than real life. It was around 2013 that eyebrows really had their moment: English model Cara Delevigne became famous for her incongruently dark eyebrows and US  teenager Peaches Monroe coined the phrase “eyebrows on fleek”. This is when the eyebrow industry – offering up with brow shaping, brow tints, HD brows, and microblading – really started to take off.

The words ‘brow lamination’ had me feeling swindled. Who did these people take me for? Some sort of cultural dupe? I refused to yield to the eyebrow industrial complex. I had tweezers. I owned a mirror. I don’t need to hand over my money to the system. But what was eyebrow lamination, anyway? A quick google couldn’t hurt.. “Eyebrow lamination is a treatment that involves semi-permanently smoothing and straightening your eyebrows using a chemical solution,” explained The Sydney Morning Herald. Yes, that’s where we are as a culture, we’re straightening our eyebrows. I will say though, that my eyebrow hairs are notoriously bad at growing in the right direction. Could I dip my toe in the water after all?

In the US, eyebrow lamination is already going mainstream, with sales reportedly rising 2500% from July 2020 to January 2021. The average price point for brow lamination is about $70 USD (at the moment that’s $92 AUD) with the biggest states fuelling the trend are apparently California, Texas, New York, Florida and Washington. Last year, the sales of eyebrow products in the UK apparently surged 78%. (Yes, during the pandemic.)  Meanwhile, Romanian businesswoman Anastasia Soare, “eyebrow queen” and the founder of the wildly popular make-up brand Anastasia Beverley Hills ranked 41st in Forbes’ richest women list, surpassing the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Serena Williams and [checks notes] Beyoncé.

The eyebrow industry is clearly big business. It’s not only changing the way we spend our money, it’s also changing our subjective experience of ourselves. In 2010, the compliment “I love your brows'' would've been quite a weird one to receive, but it’s now one that we heartily welcome. The proliferating ‘brow’ industry is proof that any part of our bodies, no matter how insignificant it can seem at first, can be subsumed by capitalist forces; altering the way we see our faces in the process. I never used to give my eyebrows much time or headspace, but now? I probably check in on them every day.

There are probably better ways to protest capitalism than to ghost my eyebrow lady. But you've got to fight back in some small way, right? Plus, it’s an extra $25 a month to spend on goal planners instead.

Written by Reena Gupta, a Melbourne-based writer for MTV Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @purpletank.

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