Written by Jessica DeFino, beauty reporter dismantling beauty standards, debunking marketing myths, and exploring how beauty culture impacts people. You can find her articles in The New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s BAZAAR, Allure, New York Magazine’s The Cut, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Glamour, Coveteur, Business Insider, and more.
It started as a pet name for the approximately three hairs scattered across my otherwise-empty brow bones: my Anxiety Eyebrows.
What happened to the rest of them, you ask? Oh, I pulled them out. Mm-hmm, all of them. Hundreds of hairs, over and over. I do this constantly and compulsively, weekly if not daily. I know the added stress of annihilating my own eyebrows will provoke another episode. I know the ache will come back and my brows might not. Doesn’t matter.
Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology recently revealed a pandemic-related increase in self-reported instances of trichotillomania—the technical term for the obsessive, unrelenting urge to pull your hair out.
No amount of deep breathing can keep my fingers from my face when I’m already in the throes of an episode. I’ve tried to curb in-the-moment pulling by slathering my brows in Vaseline (which doesn’t work), using ice cubes to numb the area (which does work), and simply repeating the mantra “I’m okay” (which can go either way).
Here’s where the covering-up part comes in, although it feels less like covering up and more like avoiding a major trigger. I swear by a great brow pencil, a growth-stimulating serum, professionally-trimmed bangs, and microblading.
“Microblading is a semipermanent [tattooing] method that gives a natural brow look to your face,” says Delphine Breyne, a microblading artist in New York City.
I consider it part of my mental health routine. I mean, the goal is to focus less on my appearance, to not obsess over what I look like, right? With a set of full, fake brows quite literally tattooed to my face, I don’t have to think about my own brows, worry that my trich is showing, or sneak off to the bathroom for touch-ups. They’re just there. They don’t take up brain space.
And that’s brain space I can use to do the inner work of separating my soul-deep identity from my Anxiety Eyebrows.