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Brazzil - Behavior - April 2004
 

Razing Eyebrows in Brazil

In Brazil, at the beach, and in restaurants and parks, Band-Aids
have found their way over the eyebrows and into the hearts of
nearly every 18-year-old girl. These girls are sporting Band-Aids
in fashion colors and prints—neon pinks and oranges. Unlike their
shy, flesh-tinted counterparts, they are meant to be noticed.

Gretchen Cuda


Brazzil Picture Brazilians aren't known for covering up. In fact, when it comes to the fashion in South America's largest country—less is more, and if you've got it, flaunt it! December through February mark the summer months in the southern hemisphere; the weather is hot, the kids are on vacation, and the beaches are crowded with bronze teenage beauties sporting Band-Aids.

No, I am not referring to the itsy-bitsy bikinis so often described as just barely bigger than a couple of Band-Aids and a postage stamp (the bikinis are small but this would be an exaggeration). I am talking about real Band-Aids, and Brazilian girls are using them to cover up the most unlikely places—their eyebrows.

At the beach, at the shopping mall, at the beauty salon, and in restaurants and parks, Band-Aids have found their way over the eyebrows and into the hearts of what would appear to be nearly every 18-year-old girl. And not just any old plain beige adhesive tape will do.

These girls are sporting Band-Aids in fashion colors and prints—neon pinks and oranges, and characters from Barbie to Blues Clues. Unlike their shy, flesh-tinted counterparts, they are meant to be noticed, and perhaps even coordinated with an outfit.

In Brazil, this is not all that surprising. New fads come and go every season, and they are embraced as completely and as fervently as they are abandoned when the next one comes along. But while the prevalence of this apparent new fashion trend is impressive, its origins are entirely un-haute couture.

In fact, it turns out those Band-Aids, and what is (or is not as the case may be) underneath them are significant and not just any girl can wear one. A Band-Aid over one eyebrow designates girls who have passed the vestibular, the college entrance examination in Brazil. After passing, girls shave off one eyebrow, and put a colorful Band-Aid in its place.

The vestibular is the one and only criterion for admission to Brazilian universities, and so doing well is of great importance. Unlike the exams of many other countries that are administered during the final year of secondary education, Brazilian students complete secondary school, and often spend the entire next year studying for their exams, generally enrolling in costly full-time prep courses to ensure they receive the marks that will secure them a spot in the university, and program of their choice. "Passing the vestibular is a very big deal," said one girl who told me her aunt helped her shave her eyebrow, "you want to show it off."

And show it off they do. Although the colorful Band-Aids were originally intended to replace the missing eyebrow, some of the more squeamish simply cover up one of their eyebrows with a Band-Aid and skip the shaving. "Its ugly, and I was afraid it wouldn't grow back, but it's tradition, so I just put a Band-Aid over my eyebrow instead," confessed another girl pointing to the purple powder puff girls Band-Aid over her left eye.

And what about the gentlemen? Not surprisingly, it appears this Brazilian Band-Aid phenomenon is razing more than a few eyebrows, but some heads too. In fact, the whole shaving got started when the boys began commemorating their exams by shaving their heads. The ladies, not wanting to be outdone, but understandably unwilling to part with their long tresses, decided to settle for the next best thing: an eyebrow and a brightly colored bandage to hide its nakedness.

With summer winding down, and hair growing back at its usual rate, it's likely that two eyebrows will be back in fashion again soon, and college age boys will be showing off full heads of hair. At least until next year, or until the next fashion wave hits the Brazilian beach.


Gretchen Cuda lives in San Francisco where she works as a freelance writer and assistant producer for the Science Today radio program. She speaks Portuguese and travels to Brazil frequently with her husband. Readers can email Gretchen at gretchencuda@yahoo.com.

This article was published originally in Oriental Express, the weekly English speaking edition of the Shanghai daily newspaper. Author retains all publication rights.



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