Few follicles cause as much stress as a synophrys, the medical term for the unibrow—hair in the center of the forehead that creates the impression of a single, unified, stern-looking eyebrow.
If you’re not quite familiar with how a unibrow presents itself, see Exhibit A. It’s the Muppet with a unibrow:
If you’re curious what actually causes a unibrow, you’ll need to turn to your DNA. According to a 2016 study published in Nature Communications, an investigation of more than 6000 subjects yielded specific genes that were associated with hair density, greying, curling, and unibrow fusion. Unibrows were found in people (specifically, men) with the gene dubbed PAX3.
The paper’s authors theorized that once a feature has been isolated to a specific gene, the cosmetics industry may one day come up with a product that can inhibit or alter its behavior. In other words: If you’re unhappy with your unibrow status, science might soon offer a solution.
Until then, you may be wondering what the best way is to remove your unibrow. The simplest solution is to pluck out the middle hairs using tweezers, taking care to pull them straight out and use a moisturizer to sooth any irritated skin. Special creams can also eliminate hair and therefore unibrows, but you’ll want to take special care using them around eyes and monitor your skin for signs of any adverse reaction. Shaving and waxing both work, too, but in all cases, you’ll need to maintain your routine as the hair begins to grow in again. You may see lasting (though not permanent) results with laser removal of your unibrow.
Of course, not everyone who has a unibrow is unhappy with it. While unibrows aren’t the style of choice in the United States, the Asian nation of Tajikistan considers it to be a trademark of beauty. Women lacking in PAX3 use a green herb called usma to fake it, creating a solid line of brow. Is that Bert’s secret? The world may never know.
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A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2021.