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why do we have eyebrows

Most people think far more about how their eyebrows look than what they do. Despite all of our plucking, waxing, shaping, or re-drawing them into place, our eyebrows are specifically designed for function rather than form.

4 Ways Your Eyebrows Protect Your Eyes – And You!

Your eyebrows serve an essential function when it comes to eye and vision health: they are one of your eyes’ first means of protection.

Eyebrows are nature’s sweatband

One way to think of your eyebrows is that they are nature’s sweatband. Have you ever had sweat drip into your eyes? Ouch! It’s painful. The acid in sweat burns the eyes and causes irritation. If you’re sweating enough, without a means to wipe it away, steady drops of sweat cause you to blink rapidly and may also cause blurred or obstructed vision.

And, because sweat runs from your scalp and down your forehead, like mini rivers or streams, it also carries dirt, bacteria, and other particulates along with it. The curved eyebrow arch is no coincidence, either. That curve wicks the moisture off the skin and around the arch, helping it drain along the sides of your face.

Without eyebrows, all of this would run right into your eyes. Fortunately, your eyebrows serve as a “sweatband,” helping to block the flow of sweat and lift it off of your face where it can evaporate before it gets to your eyes. Secondarily, this action of wicking and lifting up of sweat also serves as a cooling function!

They’re a natural filter from daily particulates

We touched on this above, but in addition to protecting your eyes from sweat, the eyebrows also serve as a filter. They catch particulate matter from dropping into your eyes or further down onto your face. Many of these particulates are very small and almost invisible to the naked eye, making it hard to believe that eyebrows are as necessary as they are.

However, without your eyebrows filtering these particles away from your eyes, you’d be far more susceptible to eye allergies and infections. 

The brow bone and eyebrows are like mini sun visors

Today, most of us wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays. However, sunglasses have only been around for about four hundred years. Prior to that, humans relied on hats, the shade, their hands, and their eyebrows to help shield the eyes from direct sunlight.

We have eyebrows to help with nonverbal communication

You may have heard that the majority of communication occurs non-verbally through body language. This is why when you can ask your child, “How are you,” their “Fine,” may actually communicate the opposite based on tone, facial expression, and body posture.

Eyebrows are a key player in facial expression. You can look at cartoon graphics of eyes and eyebrows – without any other features – and accurately determine emotions like anger, confusion, sleepiness, happiness, or fear. The eyebrows’ angle, arch, and movement are important non-verbal communicators. 

Our human brains are naturally wired to read, assess, and translate what eyes and eyebrows express without us having to think about it. And, while neural-divergent children and adults may not inherently understand, working with images of eye/eyebrow expressions helps them learn to read the feelings of those closest to them. If you own dogs, you’ll be amazed at what you can communicate to them with the smallest of shifts in facial expression without words.

Fun Note: Not only are eyebrows essential to human communication, but they also help us to recognize one another. A social study done in 2003 used manipulated photos of famous people – eliminating the eyes or the eyebrows, evaluating which features were the most recognizable. 

It turned out study participants could recognize an average of 60% of the individuals when the eyebrows were there (without eyes), but only 40% were recognizable when the eyebrows were gone, and only the eyes remained. That was not what they’d predicted, and it demonstrates how much eyebrows affect facial recognition between humans. 

You Can Thank Your Ancestors For Your Particular Brow Type And Shape

Like every feature of the human body (including the eyes and vision health), eyebrows come in a wide range of shapes, colors, and textures. There are a few things they have in common. For example, most eyebrows follow the natural shape of your brow bone, and eyebrow hairs are usually coarser than those on your arms or legs. And, while most are the same general hue as the hair on a person’s head, they may grow lighter with sun exposure or as a person ages, and the brows turn grey.

However, genetics are the most responsible for whether you have two distinct eyebrows or a single connected brow (referred to as a “unibrow”), as well as your eyebrows’ thickness/thinness, color, fine/coarseness, or the individual hairs’ lengths. However, other factors affect your eyebrows and their function such as:

  • Age. Some people’s eyebrows get much thinner or seem to almost disappear as they age, while others (particularly men) grow thicker, bushier, and longer.
  • Years of plucking/waxing. Eventually, consistent plucking/waxing of the eyebrows can permanently destroy hair follicles, which changes your brows’ shape and thickness).
  • Injuries. Any injury to the tissue on or around the brow line can cause permanent changes. This is common for people with scarring on or around their eyebrows or those with (or had) eyebrow piercings, depending on how the injuries affect the brows’ hair follicles.
  • Health conditions. Some autoimmune diseases, like alopecia, madarosis, or other health conditions, can reduce or eliminate eyebrows due to hair thinning or loss.

And, before we sign off, how you can (or can’t) move your eyebrows is also genetic. Some people can raise one eyebrow at a time, while others can’t do it no matter how hard they practice. Which category do you fall into? 

We Promise We Never Judge Your Eyebrows Here At AEI

We admit that as crucial as eyebrows may be for eye protection, they don’t fall into the eye exam protocol unless a health condition is responsible, and there are ways we can help. That said, when was the last time your eyebrows sat in front of an optometrist for an annual exam?

If it’s been more than 12 months, contact us here at Atlantic Eye Institute, so your brows don’t have a worried or squinty expression.

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