Much like the hair on your head, eyebrows can thin out or just stop growing. You may experience this for any number of reasons. Learn about the possible root causes and treatments below.
If one or both eyebrows are thinning, it could be due to infection, skin conditions, hormonal changes, or an overactive immune system. Nutritional deficiencies, physical trauma, or emotional stress can also cause diminishing brows.
By narrowing down the cause, you and your doctor can find the right treatment to help prevent, reverse, or minimize hair loss.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly recognizes part of your own body as the enemy and attacks it. Alopecia areata targets the hair follicles from which individual hairs grow, slowing down or halting hair production.
There are several kinds of alopecia:
- Alopecia areata causes random spots of hair loss.
- Alopecia universalis is a total disappearance of all hair.
- Frontal fibrosing alopecia causes scarring of the scalp along with balding and eyebrow loss.
Doctors are not sure what triggers an episode, but it can come and go, with hair growing back when the disease is inactive, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Alopecia can also affect fingernails and toenails.
The human body requires nutrients, including energy sources (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), amino and fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Some of these sustain and influence hair growth, so a deficiency in any one of them could cause hair loss.
- biotin (vitamin B-7)
- vitamin C (collagen development)
- vitamins E, B-12, and D
- omega-3 fatty acids
Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
Eczema is an inflammation of the skin that causes itching, redness, oozing, and irritation. It is prompted by an oversensitive immune system and can show up as a one-time flare-up or an ongoing condition.
Because hair follicles are embedded in skin, eczema may interfere with proper hair growth.
Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with an allergen or a toxic irritant. You might feel itchy or experience a burning sensation. If the area near your eyebrows is affected, the inflammation may inhibit hair growth.
Seborrheic dermatitis is usually an ongoing condition. Scientists believe it is caused by a fungus or by an overproduction of oil in the skin. Seborrheic dermatitis leads to dandruff, even in the eyebrows.
Tinea capitis (ringworm)
Tinea capitis, known as ringworm, is also fungal. It produces red, itchy, raised, ringlike patches, along with oozing and blisters. When these patches appear over the brows, the hair usually falls out, leaving a bald patch.
Thyroid disease is a common cause of eyebrow hair loss. Your thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism.
When this gland produces too much or too little of a hormone, your body falls out of balance, disrupting a number of normal processes. This includes hair growth.
Hypothyroidism can also cause fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog, while people with hyperthyroidism often have heart palpitations, bulging eyes, and weight loss.
Hansen’s disease (leprosy) is caused by bacteria and shows up as sores all over the skin. It is common in many countries but not in the United States. Lepromatous leprosy includes lesions and hair loss all over the body, numbness, and limb weakness.
Stress and anxiety
Pregnancy and childbirth
Pregnancy and childbirth can also send your hormones and other aspects of your body’s biochemistry into a tailspin. These wild fluctuations may disorganize your hair growth cycles and cause a hair loss.
Telogen effluvium (TE) is an abnormal loss of hair that occurs when the normal hair growth cycle gets interrupted by hormonal or other changes in the body.
Persistent plucking or overuse of makeup products
Over-plucking your eyebrows creates minor trauma, and eventually the hair may stop growing in that spot. Harsh makeup may cause similar damage when used for extended periods.
Once you and your doctor determine the cause of your eyebrow hair loss, you can choose the most appropriate treatment.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an over-the-counter (OTC), hormone-mediating, topical medication that is available in versions for men and women. It can restore hormonally stunted growth over the course of several months.
- Corticosteroids in either topical, injectable, or pill form can be used to treat alopecia areata, eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis by reducing inflammation and immune response.
- Topical, contact-sensitizing chemicals may be effective for eyebrow hair loss by eliciting an allergic response that prompts hair growth. These chemicals typically have a rash-inducing side effect.
- Acupuncture may work to relieve alopecia areata, possibly by reducing attacks on the hair follicle bulb, stimulating circulation.
- Castor oil is a long-time home remedy for hair growth. It may stimulate the hair follicles by acting on certain hormones.
- Commonly used to treat psoriasis, anthralin is an anti-inflammatory and a natural derivative of anthraquinone. It’s often prescribed to those with eyebrow hair loss caused by an inflammatory process.
- Nutritional supplementation with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids is effective against hair loss in women and likely in men as well.
- For cases caused by hormone disruptions, an endocrinologist may prescribe prescription medications like thyroid stimulating hormone, estrogen, or testosterone.
- Eyebrow transplant restoration is similar to scalp hair replacement. It involves removing a section of skin from a location with ample hair and transplanting hair follicles to the sparse eyebrow area.
- Bimatoprost (Latisse) treats TE and possibly other forms of eyebrow loss by extending hair growth cycles so hairs have time to grow longer. It may help eyelash growth, but studies suggest it is also effective for eyebrows, though not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose.
- Some people simply choose to hide their eyebrow hair loss with permanent makeup or microblading (semi-permanent tattoos).
It’s sometimes possible to prevent the eyebrow hair loss before it begins. Speak to your doctor about getting blood work to determine whether you have any deficiencies to address.
Eat plenty of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Find ways to relax and reduce stress, such as massage or meditation.
Resist the urge to over-pluck your eyebrows or use harsh chemicals near them. Protect your brows with a dab of Vaseline if you need to use hair bleach or dye, tretinoin (Retin-A), hydroquinone, or glycolic acids.
If you start experiencing eyebrow hair loss, you should see your doctor to determine the cause. They’ll be able to pinpoint any other symptoms and order the right tests to diagnose the underlying condition. After that, they can get you started on the right treatment plan.
Eyebrow hair loss can have any number of causes, including endocrinological, autoimmune, or caused by trauma. Treatment options range from medications and creams to alternative therapies and cosmetic procedures.