The term "lowbrow" has been an insult until now: in future though, scientists predict, it is likely to be a compliment.
A new study by plastic surgeons seeking the perfect female brow found that women's eyebrows are becoming lower, flatter and less arched. Researchers say the ideal eyebrow has moved closer to the eye over the past 60 years. One theory is that women are subconsciously opting for a more masculine-looking brow.
Few facial features are as powerful as the eyebrows. They can express wide-ranging and subtle emotions, even when the rest of the face is neutral. Elevated, they suggest surprise, lowered, they indicate fatigue, and puckered, they signal anger.
"Given their importance in facial aesthetics and emotional expression, it is not surprising that women have sought ways to change the appearance of their eyebrows the better to project youth, beauty and energy", say the researchers. And, while plucking and dyeing can change the shape of the brows, increasing numbers of women are turning to surgery.
The study, reported in the journal Clinical Plastic Surgery, analysed the eyebrow position of models and actresses in fashion magazines since 1946. The results show that for many years, high, arched eyebrows were popular because they were thought to make a woman look younger. The fashion for high eyebrows peaked before the 1960s and has declined ever since, according to the researchers. They found the height of the eyebrow has decreased over time, and the peak of the brow has moved outwards, away from the nose.
"The ideal modern female brow aesthetic is gradually becoming lower and flatter than it used to be, with a more lateral peak, making it more similar to the male eyebrow'', they say.
"We surmise that this is, in part, a response to the increasing parity between men and women in the workplace. With the eyebrow shape alone less able to convey femininity, the fullness or luminance [ability to reflect light] of the female brow may become increasingly important.''
Mark Soldin, a spokesman for the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons and a consultant plastic surgeon at St George's and Kingston hospitals, said: "Upward curvature of the eyebrows was considered to be an attractive feminine feature in the past. We are finding that more and more women are looking for a flatter, straighter, more masculine look. I think it has to do with the increasing equality of the sexes.
"Women are subconsciously favouring a masculine brow."