What Causes Itchy Eyebrows?

Medically reviewed by Mohamed Jalloh, PharmD on June 23, 2016Written by Ashley Marcin on April 7, 2016

Itchy eyebrows

Having itchy eyebrows usually isn’t a cause for concern. It may be a temporary irritation that will go away on its own. If you notice your eyebrows are frequently itchy or if the itch doesn’t go away, it’s a good idea to start tracking your symptoms. Keeping notes about when your eyebrows itch may help you figure out the cause.

Most of the conditions that lead to itchy eyebrows aren’t very dangerous and shouldn’t change your vision when they are well controlled. Some conditions are easy to treat at home. Others require a trip to the doctor’s office or ongoing treatment.

Whatever the case may be, don’t ignore itchy eyebrows if they’re interfering with your quality of life. Relief may be easy to find.

Other symptoms

Before you call your doctor, ask yourself if you have any other symptoms that accompany your itchy eyebrows. Consider if you’ve noticed:

  • flaking skin
  • redness
  • bumps
  • burning
  • pain
  • stinging
  • similar symptoms on any other part of your body

It’s also important to note if you have a history of skin conditions that cause itching or irritation on other parts of your body. Your itchy eyebrows may not be related, but some conditions can flare up on different parts of your body.

What causes itchy eyebrows?

If you’re experiencing itchy eyebrows on a regular basis, there may be a specific cause. Common causes of itchy eyebrows include the following:

Waxing and other beauty services

Beauty treatments such as waxing, plucking, and threading can irritate the delicate skin around your eyebrows. Usually, the bumps and itching are mild and go away in a few days. If symptoms persist, you may have a superficial skin infection. Your doctor can help determine if your eyebrow area is infected, along with the best course of treatment. In some cases, a mild infection in this area may be safely treated with over-the-counter (OTC) products.

Seborrheic dermatitis

This condition is closely related to dandruff. It often affects the scalp, but it can also cause itchy, flaky eyebrows or skin issues in other oily areas. Seborrheic dermatitis may cause the skin to be slightly red. The specific cause of these skin issues isn’t entirely understood. It may be a result of yeast, an inflammatory response, or a change in the seasons. The condition tends to be worse in the winter and early spring. It commonly needs to be managed with repeated treatments. This condition isn’t contagious.

Psoriasis

If you have psoriasis of the face, it can affect your eyebrows along with your forehead, hairline, and the skin between your nose and upper lip. Along with itching, you may notice the following on other parts of your body:

  • scales
  • soreness
  • redness
  • patches of irritation

This condition is often chronic and may require ongoing treatment, but it isn’t contagious.

Skin parasites

Although it’s not common in the United States, parasites such as mites and lice can live in the eyebrow area and cause itching. Lice, for example, can live on the body as eggs, nymphs, and adults. The adults feed on human blood several times per day. The itching comes from an allergic reaction to the bites. You may also notice itching or a crawling sensation on your scalp if you have lice. These conditions are often contagious especially to other people with your similar hair

Shingles and other viruses

Viruses such as shingles can cause localized rashes on different parts of the body. Another name for shingles is herpes zoster. Though it’s uncommon for shingles to start on the eyebrows, it is possible. The condition may start as a simple itch and progress over days into burning or tingling, and then to a full rash. The rash can last anywhere from two to six weeks. Contact with the open blisters of shingles will cause disease transmission from one person to another. Shingles typically affects:

  • older adults
  • people who are sick
  • people who are under significant stress
  • people who are sleep-deprived

It can be contagious for people not immune to chickenpox. Skin-to-skin contact with the open blisters of shingles can allow it to spread.

Diabetes

Poorly controlled type 1 and type 2 diabetes can create skin issues and itchiness on different parts of your body, including your eyebrows. This is often because consistently elevated blood sugars can depress your immune system. Because of this, fungal or bacterial skin infections may develop.

Neuropathy

This condition is a nerve dysfunction that sometimes occurs in people who have poorly controlled diabetes. With this condition, you may feel an itch but find that scratching brings no relief or only temporary relief. Some people who itch from neuropathy scratch to the point of self-injury.

When to see your doctor

If your discomfort continues, consider making an appointment to talk to your doctor. Your visit will likely include a physical exam and a conversation about your symptoms. If you’ve been keeping track of your symptoms, bring your doctor any notes that might be helpful.

Your doctor may ask you these questions:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • How severe is the itching? Does it interfere with everyday life?
  • What at-home treatments have you tried for this issue?
  • Does anything seem to help?
  • Does anything make your symptoms worse?
  • What medications, vitamins, and supplements are you taking?
  • Have you been sick recently?
  • Have you been under more stress lately?
  • How has your sleep schedule been?

Start with a visit to your primary care doctor. If the issue needs targeted attention, they may refer you to a dermatologist or another specialist for evaluation and treatment.

How to treat itchy eyebrows

The treatment for your itchy eyebrows will depend on the underlying cause. Your doctor may ask you to try different OTC remedies before giving you a prescription if the itching is a result of mild irritation. If you have a skin condition that requires more attention, a variety of treatments that can help.

Treatment for seborrheic dermatitis

Antifungals or antibiotics, whether they’re OTC or prescription medications, can be very effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. These medications are often applied topically in cream or even shampoo form. This is sometimes given in combination with a topical steroid cream. This combination of treatments is generally very effective against seborrheic dermatitis. Biologic medication or light therapy may be necessary if your seborrheic dermatitis is severe.

Treatment for psoriasis

Your doctor may prescribe topical steroids to treat your psoriasis symptoms. The skin on the face is very sensitive, so always follow instructions and report any worsening symptoms right away. Try to use creams and ointments sparingly because they can irritate your eyes.

Psoriasis can flare up in response to different triggers. Try to monitor your stress level and watch what you eat since psoriasis can be triggered due to stress and certain foods. Some medications can trigger psoriasis and you should speak to your doctor to see if you can substitute them for safer alternatives. Like seborrheic dermatitis, if your psoriasis is severe, your doctor may treat it with oral/topical antifungals, oral/topical steroids, biologics, or light therapy.

Treatment for reactions to beauty services

If irritation or inflammation from waxing or another beauty service are causing itchy eyebrows, you may be able to ease your symptoms at home. Be careful if you’re applying any OTC product or home remedy near your eyes.

Gently applying ice may help reduce inflammation and cool the area. Be sure to wrap the ice in a towel or soft cloth to protect the delicate area around your eyes. If you’re looking for a topical home remedy, aloe vera gel is a safe choice for most people.

If you think your itchy eyebrows are the result of a beauty service that you received at a salon, let the salon staff know. They may be able to tell you if other clients have also experienced a reaction in the past. If you go for another appointment, they may be aware of other products that might work better for your skin.

Treatment for lice

The most common way people contract head lice is by direct contact with an infected person. You should avoid sharing the following to prevent contracting or spreading head lice:

  • bedding
  • hats
  • scarves
  • brushes
  • other personal items that can come in contact with your head

If you do have lice, you’ll need to treat the condition. You can generally treat lice at home using OTC products that have 1 percent permethrin lotion. You can also use products that contain a mixture of pyrethrin and piperonyl butoxide.

Your doctor can prescribe lotions and shampoos to treat lice. For example, your doctor may prescribe a product containing ingredients such as benzyl alcohol, ivermectin, or malathion. It’s important never to combine different lice medications. If you try a product two to three times and it doesn’t work, talk to your doctor. You may need to try a different medication.

Treatment for shingles

There’s no cure for shingles. Treatment focuses on reducing your risk of complications and easing your discomfort. Your doctor will likely prescribe antiviral medications to get the virus under control. A variety of the following treatments are available to treat the pain:

  • creams
  • numbing agents
  • corticosteroids
  • anesthetics

Cases of shingles generally last between two and six weeks. Most people will only have one outbreak of shingles, but it can recur two or more times. If you’re older than 60, you should get vaccinated against shingles.

Treatment for other causes

If the cause of your itching isn’t clear, your doctor will consider any existing conditions. It’s important to determine the cause of the itching. This will help determine the best course of treatment.

What is the outlook?

In most cases, your symptoms should improve with treatment. How long treatment takes to work depends on the cause. For example, itchy eyebrows may be a longer-lasting condition that requires long-term treatment if you have psoriasis.

Talk to your doctor if you don’t feel your symptoms are improving. You may be able to switch to a different medication. You might also receive a different diagnosis if new symptoms have appeared since your last appointment.

Although itchy eyebrows are typically not a symptom of a serious medical condition, they can certainly be a source of irritation, especially if the condition recurs. Talk to your doctor if itchy eyebrows are affecting your quality of life. If the symptoms you’re experiencing are related to an underlying medical condition, your doctor can work with you to create a treatment plan.

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