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The Weird Thing That Happened When I Turned 50-Something

The only path forward is the lesser of three evils.

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Tara Jacoby
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I was born with good hair genes. My 92-year-old father still has all of his hair, so the prospect of having all of my hair into my years as an older adult looks good. My hair, thick but not coarse, has been one of my best features except for one area: my eyebrows. Or, rather, it's a unibrow — that second bushy hairline below my forehead that spreads across my face like a centipede.

As a teenager, this unibrow was horrifying. To disguise it, I wore long bangs. I pushed my glasses all the way up so the frames obscured the bridge of my nose. I hid under the big furry marching band hat and secretly complained that it wasn’t something that I could wear to school every day — more distracting than the unibrow.

Plucking was out of the question — too painful to think about. I considered shaving the bridge of my nose but ultimately decided against it after noticing that a girl in my class was doing exactly that. Her unibrow, when it started to grow back, was darker and more noticeable. Shaving the unibrow? Hard pass.

A combination of cuticle scissors and bleaching cream sufficed for many years until my nail tech suggested waxing. The wax was warm and soothing when she put it on, but it was far from soothing when she ripped off the little paper strips. My face stayed red for hours. While complaining about this one day, a friend suggested threading. “It’s quick and easy,” she said. “Lasts longer than waxing!” she said.

On the pain scale of 1 to 10, I found it to be around an 8. For comparison, my ankle replacement was about a 9. Back to waxing for another decade or so. I approached it with the same enthusiasm as the baker in the commercial who drags himself out of bed because “it’s time to make the donuts.” It’s time to wax the brows.

But something happened when I turned 50ish. I didn’t have to wax as frequently, and my eyebrows looked thinner. I’m familiar with menopause symptoms because I’m still experiencing the more famous changes — hot flashes, sleep disruptions, night sweats, occasional irritability, and weight struggles.

But thinning hair (eyebrows and the hair on your head) is a new one for me. Although there may be other causes (thyroid imbalance, bad diet, previous plucking history), thinning eyebrows are usually due to a higher ratio of androgen to estrogen. It’s a normal part of aging, and can also be the culprit of hair showing up in other places, like on your chin.

I needed to figure out how to approach this new phase of my eyebrows, so I studied (stared) at other women to see what they did with their eyebrows. I saw an overplucked brow with a drawn-on arch, too-dark penciled-in brows, stamped on, and perfectly sculpted (jealous). I needed to experiment. First was the eyebrow pencil. I adjust my glasses often without realizing it, and this smears the pencil. I look like I can’t color between the lines.

Next is a tinted gel, applied like mascara. It flakes off all over my glasses by the end of the day. I check in with a consultant for the makeup line I use, who suggests powder applied with an angled brush. Like the pencil, this works great as long as I don’t adjust my glasses or facepalm, which sometimes happens at work. This results in smudging. My hairstylist makes two suggestions: either a tattoo or microblading — which is like a tattoo but not as permanent. Instead of needles piercing your skin, microblading is like a thousand little paper cuts made with a blade that deposits pigment.

I’m unwilling to tattoo or slice my face, so my options are the lesser of the three evils: pencil, tinted gel or powder. I work from home, so the dilemma doesn’t present itself often because I don’t wear makeup when I slide up to my desk. On a day when I do wear makeup, I reach for the powder, angled brush and a mirror that magnifies by like 150 percent. Carefully I fill in what’s missing and tell myself to pay attention to facepalming or adjusting my glasses.

I still get my hair thinned every four weeks and, like my friend in school, more seems to grow back. But not my eyebrows. For now, they remain respectable versions of their former selves — not too thin. It’s a fine line between eyebrow glamour and unibrow.