By Shae Marshall-Rae
We’re taught in science that every part to the human body has an important job. The peculiar shape of our ears creates an exact precision for hearing — allowing us to hear a large range of sounds, even allowing us to pinpoint the direction a sound is coming from. Our eyes precisely reflect the millions of colours of light in our world, and transmit them into nerve pulses for our brain to make into images. Everything, down to our little toe, has an important role in our day-to-day function.
So, aside from aesthetics, why exactly is hair so important? When studying the skin, we are taught that hair helps to maintain homeostasis (which means the bodies natural ability to maintain it’s ideal temperature). Each hair has it’s own little muscle, called the arrector pili. This muscle pulls hairs upwards when cold, creating goosebumps, in an effort to trap heat in the outer layers of the skin. The sensory receptors in hair allow us to detect the movement of air, and touch of objects. Eyelashes play an important role in beauty treatments, but more importantly in protecting our eyes from dust and foreign objects. They are also precisely sensitive to movement, triggering a reflex to instantly close our eye, when objects get too close.
So, why are our eyebrows so important? It would seem that the lashes have already got protecting our eyes covered. The eyebrows seem to be there just as a back-up or secondary protection for our eyes, to filter dust, sweat and rain. I wouldn’t say they do a very good job of that, either (sorry eyebrows!) —their function has always seemed so unimportant in comparison to the very important aesthetic role eyebrows play in beauty, by completing and framing our facial structure.
Upon researching, It turns out that our eyebrows play a role much more interesting and important than just protecting our eyes from some dust and sweat.
I have been told many times that I have a very expressive face. Being on a video conference meeting, I’m quickly singled out and busted for giggling, despite never uttering a sound. I’ve been caught more than once telling the person in front of me exactly what I think of them —not because I am nasty, far from it. But because my eyebrows talk for me. I often joke that they have a mind of their own!
Turns out that’s not all that far from the truth, actually. Desmond Morris; a zoologist and sociobiology author, has proposed that the main function of eyebrows in human beings, is in fact to communicate emotion. He observed five distinct ways in which we move our eyebrows to communicate emotion, by; raising, lowering, knitting, flashing or cocking them.
Cocking the brow, by raising one eyebrow and pursing the other, (despite usually seen less commonly in women), is that suspicious look… that ‘tell’ I often get caught out on. It’s that look of suspicion or even cheekiness demonstrated in a simple lift of the brow, which can be a dead giveaway for one’s innermost thoughts.
In fact, the brows can communicate so much emotion that some movements, like when eyebrows are knitted (ie. simultaneously raised and drawn together showing anxiety, like in the facial expression of someone in a headache tablet commercial), the depth of movement is an indication of how hard someone’s past has been. Someone who hasn’t experienced such a tough past won’t physically be able to knit their brows anywhere near as much.
So, I guess I can’t really say that my eyebrows have a mind of their own. But they do tell the world things that my mind can’t find words for. Perhaps even more importantly, they also allow us to read people. Most people — some more than others — have a form of emotional intelligence, ie. the natural ability to perceive and understand people’s emotions. If eyebrows are the first thing you notice about any face (and you’re not already an eyebrow therapist), it’s very likely that you’re highly emotionally intelligent —a very valuable intelligence, that can often be more important to success than academic intelligence.