In Defense of Eyebrows, Underdogs of the Face

It’s about time eyebrows got a little more credit. Lately everyone’s been hiding them or Photoshopping them off, and maybe it’s time for a refresher course in why we need them. Eyebrows are more than just weird hairy arches over our eyes that we occasionally apply wax to. They serve a real social and evolutionary purpose. At least, that’s what we learned last week when The Atlantic dove deep into reasoning behind our odd strips of facial hair.

So why do we have eyebrows anyway? A quick lesson in human evolution is in order. So the biological reason eyebrows are on the face is to prevent moisture from dropping down into the eye socket (if our cave ancestors are blinded by their own sweat, they don’t see the saber-tooth tigers coming to eat them and the human race quickly dies out and we are never born and never get to read Hello Giggles because the INTERNET NEVER EXISTS).

Okay, so brows are there to fend off sweat, but how much were our ancestors REALLY sweating? It’s not like our hunter and gathering forefathers were training for marathons and posting their progress on Facebook. The thing is, they kind of were, well, not the Facebook part, obvs, but our ancestors were doing a lot of running.

There’s a compelling evolutionary biology theory (which I learned from Christopher McDougall’s AWESOME SAUCE book “Born to Run”) that posits that humans evolved to outrun their prey. We weren’t as fast as the hairy, four-legged things we wanted to eat, but because we were hairless and we could sweat, we could run for much longer periods of time (people are built to be able to run hundred-mile marathons, I know, I KNOW, I can’t run three miles without basically dying, too) and so we could just chase our prey until they got tired and spear them to death. But it’s a lot harder to be doing all that sweating if we can’t see where we’re going, so eyebrows to the rescue!

Okay, but that was then and this is now, and unless it’s the middle of summer or you’re going to Pilates on the regular, most people don’t sweat all the time like our cave ancestors. So are eyebrows now just this useless thing, like the face version of tonsils or appendixes? Not by a long shot!

Eyebrows have become an incredibly important part of human communication. We demonstrate so many feelings with the slight adjustment of our brows. When we are pissed, our eyebrows show it. When something surprises us, again, brows to the rescue! And have you ever tried hardcore flirting with the object of your affection WITHOUT the use of your eyebrows? Impossible times infinity!

It’s long been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and yes, eyes are very pretty with the lashes and irises and whatever, but it may in fact be eyebrows that are doing the window-ing work on the face. In a 2011 MIT study, participants were asked to identify famous faces in varying combinations of eyes and eyebrows. Participants were able to identify celebrities just by their eyebrows 60% of the time, but when asked to identify celebs just by their eyes, the accuracy dropped down to 46%.

So show your eyebrows some love. Those girls are not just something to pluck. They’ve been doing heavy lifting for millions of years. Let’s give the brows the respect they deserve.

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