Understanding Brow Shapes

By Karen Betts / 07 Nov 2019

Permanent makeup artist Karen Betts discusses the importance of eyebrow shapes in facial aesthetics

There is no denying that eyebrows are a big business in both the beauty and aesthetics specialty. Eyebrows have the power to define important features,express one’s emotions and play a role in facial recognition.1 I also believe they can have the power to provide a more youthful aesthetic to the face. Understanding how to properly design and shape a brow to suit a patient is the cornerstone of permanent makeup and equally important for aesthetic practitioners carrying out facial filler and botulinum toxin treatments.

Thanks to the likes of actress Brooke Shields and model Cara Delevingne – both of whom wear a fuller, bushier eyebrow – the beauty and cosmetic industry has swiftly turned its back on the minimal brow, popular in the 90s and early 2000s. This is clearly reflected in the growth of the UK brow market in relation to buying products to make brows appear fuller as well as treatments that meet this requirement too, such as a HD Brows treatment (consisting of tinting, trimming, waxing and threading).

A number of years ago, it was estimated that the market was worth an estimated £6.5m and in 2016 it was worth £20m.2,3 More recent UK figures are not available, however in the US last year, brow products alone accounted for £60m,4 so it is likely that the UK follows suit.

The impact of the brow

The eyebrows frame the eyes, and we communicate a lot through our eyes. In my experience, a well-placed brow can lift and widen the eyes, whereas the wrong brow can make eyes look smaller and appear older. I find that a naturally full, well-groomed and correctly-positioned brow can open up the upper face and give a more youthful appearance. There have been numerous studies on the role of the eyebrow and what is generally considered the ideal.5-7

For example, in July this year Zhao et al., conducted a study that explored the attractiveness of an individual by combining the geometric and shape features of the eyebrows and the eyes, taking into consideration the shape of the face.

The study, which was conducted on 300 Asian female face images, found that high-bending eyebrows with small eyes and a round face, and lowbending eyebrows with large eyes and a longer face, made the facial image have a higher attractiveness score.5 This has been illustrated by Aesthetics in Figure 1

In 2007, a study conducted by Feser et al., compared three different variations of eyebrows; the arched eyebrow with the maximum height in the middle, and two variations that had their maximum height in the lateral third, but differed in their position. It found that among a total of 357 subjects, 12 to 85 years of age, the preference for a specific eyebrow shape depended on the person’s age. The younger subjects (up to 30) preferred eyebrows in a lower position, and ruled out arched eyebrows. Those older than 50 years stated the opposite preference.6

Figure 1: Example of the aesthetic ideal according to Zhoo et al. study. Images interpreted by Aesthetics Media.

Whilst both of these studies demonstrate that brows are considered a key component of what is deemed ‘attractive’ they also highlight the need for a personalised approach. Your brows are as unique as your fingerprints, they should complement your features and as you age they may need to be adjusted to continue to do so. As mentioned, a higher arch gives the illusion of a more open eye – hence older women tend to prefer this style of brow.

While permanent makeup technicians can add width, shape and density to brows, it is very difficult to correct overly uneven brows in terms of height and where they sit on the face, so this is where aesthetic practitioners come in

Eyebrows in medical aesthetics

While permanent makeup technicians can add width, shape and density to brows, it is very difficult to correct overly uneven brows in terms of height and where they sit on the face, so this is where aesthetic practitioners come in. Regardless of the treatment type, any practitioner working on a patient’s upper face should have a full understanding of brow shapes and how they can impact the whole face. 

For example, if the patient has a prominent brow bone, it is important not to lift the tails of the brow too high when using injectables in the forehead and eye area as this can result in the brows ‘disappearing’ when looking at the face from certain angles.

It’s important to be aware of the effects on the muscles surrounding the brow, especially the corrugator supercilii muscle. This is because any adjustments in this area can potentially affect the shape and movement of the brow.

I would also recommend all practitioners check their patients’ brow proportions, particularly where the bulb (front of the brow closest to the nose) of their brow sits prior to a botulinum toxin treatment to ensure the procedure won’t negatively impact their brow shape or cause drooping. As we know, botulinum toxin can help patients with brows that naturally sit at different levels because of differences in muscle strength. It can also be used to adjust the arch of the eyebrow to give a more angular look.8


It is undeniable that the brows are a key component of the facial structure and have a huge impact on the overall facial aesthetic. Whilst a permanent makeup treatment focuses on the actual physical eyebrow (and the hairs/lack of), aesthetic treatments can impact how the brow sits on the face. Therefore, I think it is important for aesthetic practitioners to have a strong working knowledge of brow design when working with the upper part of the face. The brows sit on major facial muscles so any intervention in or around the eye area should most definitely take the brows into consideration.

As with a lot of treatments in the beauty and aesthetics field, fashions and trends come and go. So, it’s important that, first and foremost, patients’ eyebrow shape, positioning and design suits their face and complements their features.

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