Dandruff is a chronic condition that usually develops on the scalp and causes flaking skin. It’s very common and can sometimes occur in places other than the scalp, like the eyebrows. While it can be annoying, the good news is that it’s fairly easy to treat.
Eyebrow dandruff can happen to anyone, at any age, from babies (in whom it’s commonly called “cradle cap”) to older adults. It usually happens after puberty in areas of skin where there are a lot of oil-producing glands, which is why you’ll often see dandruff on the head or face (eyebrows).
What causes eyebrow dandruff?
A common cause of dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis. This can be a chronic condition in adults, and it’s the same condition that causes cradle cap in babies. It causes:
- a skin rash
- greasy and irritated skin
- crusty, whitish scales
Malassezia is a fungus in oily skin secretions that can cause dandruff. The fungus is associated with dandruff, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and other skin conditions. It can also cause itching, inflammation, and redness or irritation.
If you’re using a new face wash or shampoo, your eyebrow dandruff might be caused by contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can cause a red, itchy rash and scaly, flaky skin. If you know the skin on your face has come into contact with a new substance — shampoo, conditioner, soap, even perfume — you might want to try another product to avoid any adverse reactions.
What other symptoms might accompany eyebrow dandruff?
Eyebrow dandruff symptoms are similar to general dandruff symptoms: white or yellow flaky pieces of skin, itching, or red, irritated patches of skin. There might also be a rash, depending on the underlying cause of the eyebrow dandruff.
You might notice a scaly appearance around areas of your eyebrows, and even areas that look a bit oily.
How is eyebrow dandruff treated?
Depending on the cause of your eyebrow dandruff, the treatment might vary. Sometimes what works for one person might not work for another, so don’t get discouraged if one treatment doesn’t seem to be working well for you. There are a variety of at-home treatments you can try.
To treat seborrheic dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis is sometimes exacerbated by cold and dry weather or stress. A topical antifungal cream can be helpful, as can medicated dandruff shampoo. If home remedies don't help your symptoms, talk with your doctor about prescription topical treatments.
To treat Malassezia
Treatment for Malassezia is usually anti-dandruff shampoo or topical treatments like moisturizers or anti-itch cream. If symptoms don’t abate, you might need something stronger from a dermatologist.
Dandruff shampoos can help treat your eyebrow dandruff — work it into a lather and rub it on your brows when you’re in the shower, leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing. Shampoos containing selenium sulfide, like Selsun Blue, can help with Malassezia, and shampoos containing ketoconazole are good to keep in mind if other dandruff shampoos don’t work. While some of the ketoconazole shampoos are prescription only, there are others, like Nizoral, that are over-the-counter. Just make sure it’s not overly drying; you don’t want to dry out the skin around your eyebrows because that can lead to flakiness, which you are trying to get rid of.
Tea tree oil has antifungal properties, and its effectiveness in treating dandruff has actually been studied. One study found that individuals who used tea tree oil shampoo (5 percent strength) showed a reduction in dandruff symptoms.
You can mix 5 percent tea tree oil with lotion or aloe gel, and simply rub it into the affected area every other day or so. As you see your symptoms improve, you can use it less often. Eventually, you can use it once or twice a week to keep symptoms at bay.
To treat contact dermatitis
If the culprit was contact dermatitis, avoiding the product that caused the irritation should help to resolve it. In the meantime, keeping the skin around your eyebrows moisturized can help reduce the irritation and flakiness. Using anti-itch cream or taking an antihistamine like Benadryl can help cut down on the itch, and applying cool, wet compresses for 15–30 minutes at a time can help alleviate irritation and itching.
Call your doctor if:
- you suddenly develop a painful rash
- the symptoms interfere with daily activities
- the symptoms don’t start resolving in about three weeks
- you notice any pus coming from the irritated skin areas
- it looks infected
- you have a fever
Although infections are uncommon, you want to make sure you don’t have one.
What is the outlook for eyebrow dandruff?
Eyebrow dandruff is pretty common. It’s a chronic condition that’s generally nothing to worry about. There are many at-home remedies you can try, and if one doesn’t work, try another.
If you’re not seeing improvements in a few weeks, talk with your doctor about seeing a dermatologist. You might need a prescription treatment to help keep it under control or treat any flare-ups.