12 Causes of Eyebrow Thinning and Loss

Woman Looking in Mirror

“Why are my eyebrows so thin?” A lot of us look in the mirror and want an answer. The cause isn’t always easy to pin down because so many conditions can make eyebrows fall out or stop growing. We’re going to touch on many of the possible causes for eyebrow loss and thinning. Even though some can be a reason for concern, others are simply normal or manageable and it will certainly be possible to grow eyebrow hair again.

Overplucking

Overplucking is a common culprit, but it isn’t the only cause of thin or patchy eyebrows. Plucking (tweezing) is one type of cosmetic reshaping of the eyebrows; others types include threading and waxing. Any of these methods are potentially damaging.

Eyebrows usually survive occasional reshapings, but continual removal over an extended period can destroy a hair follicle. Or, if the follicle is still viable, it may produce much thinner hair.

Growing back eyebrows that have been cosmetically reshaped takes patience. If an eyebrow hair is in a resting phase of its growth cycle, you may have to wait over a hundred days to find out whether you’ll be able to grow eyebrow hair back. Have hope!

Dietary Factors

The body functions best when it’s getting the ideal levels of required nutrients. Poor nutrition can cause hair thinning and loss. Eyebrow hairs are no exception.

Vitamins A and C, zinc, protein, and iron are a few of the nutrients that contribute to healthy hair and scalp. A nutritional deficiency can be seen in the hair. For example, iron deficiency in women is a common cause of female balding.

Consuming too much of a nutrient can also cause hair loss. Vitamin A, for example, supports healthy hair growth in recommended dosages, but excessive amounts of this vitamin over time can lead to hair loss. Too high a dosage of Vitamin A overstimulates hair, making it finish its growth phase prematurely and fall out during a resting phase. When an abnormally high percentage of hairs are in a resting phase, a thinned-out or balding look can result.

Thyroid Problems

Both an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can result in hair loss. On the scalp, the hair loss tends to be uniform and diffuse rather than isolated to certain areas. But on the eyebrows, the outer third (the “tail”) of the eyebrow shows the most hair loss due to thyroid problems. Hair usually grows back when the underlying condition is treated. Thyroid problems should be diagnosed by a doctor.

Age-related Changes

Aging usually causes hair to lose pigment, thin, or fall out. The effects of aging on hair are normal and affect almost everyone to some degree. The extent and pattern of hair loss and thinning are determined by an older person’s gender and genes.

Aging

Along with scalp hair, the hair of the body and face are affected by aging. Some eyebrow hair may fall out. Remaining eyebrow hair may get either thinner or coarser in both men and women.

Thinning eyebrow hair can be more noticeable than thinning scalp hair because of the prominent position of the eyebrows on the face.

Hormones

Hormones are one of the factors that affect hair growth on the scalp and body. Reduced estrogen levels in midlife can cause hair thinning.  During pregnancy, hair (including brows) can grow faster and fall out less than usual. But after childbirth or the end of breastfeeding, a woman may lose an exceptionally large amount of hair.

Pregnancy can also cause eyebrows to fall out more than usual.  Hormones (estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)) can trigger an overactive thyroid in some women, leading in turn to hair loss.

Alopecia

Alopecia is an autoimmune condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack a person’s own hair follicles, resulting in a loss of hair. There are a few kinds of alopecia, some of which can affect the follicles of the eyebrows. Alopecia can cause some or all of the eyebrow hairs to fall out.

Unfortunately, alopecia can be hard to treat, but topical anti-inflammatory medications are often helpful.

Skin Conditions

A number of conditions can cause the skin to become irritated, itchy, and inflamed. In many cases, the skin condition isn’t the direct cause of hair loss.  Instead, the resulting scratching and possible infection are the culprit.

A person experiencing red, itchy skin should see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and be treated. If the scratching hasn’t been happening over an extended period, hair should grow back in when the underlying problem is resolved.

Here are a few of the skin conditions most likely to affect eyebrows:

Atopic Dermatitis

This chronic inflammatory condition can occur just about anywhere on the body, including the eyebrows. The immune system overreacts to something within or outside the body, and skin becomes red, itchy, cracked, crusty, or weepy. People with hay fever and asthma may be more prone to atopic dermatitis. When this skin condition occurs in the brow area, the hair will typically thin out in irregular patches.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

A person with a sensitivity develops allergic contact dermatitis as the skin responds to an allergen. When skin itches, burns, and turns red after contact with allergens such as ingredients in certain soaps, detergents, hair products, or cosmetics, the reaction can be so severe that brow hairs are lost.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This condition most often affects oily parts of the body, and for many people that includes the brow area. Seborrheic dermatitis causes skin to become red, flaky, scaly, or inflamed. The skin that flakes off as a result of seborrheic dermatitis is dandruff.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis occurs when the immune system causes skin cells to turn over more rapidly, resulting in silvery scales and red, scaly patches. It’s not so much the scales and patches that damage hair but our reaction (such as itching or picking at the area). Psoriasis is a complex condition with a lot of treatment options, so it’s important to find a highly qualified professional to help you get clear skin and healthy brows.

Washing Face Gently

Aggressive Rubbing and Cleaning

Applying eyebrow pencil or removing it with excessive pressure or friction can cause eyebrow hairs to fall out. The missing hairs can result in eyebrows that appear sparse or thin. Aggressive rubbing and cleaning over an extended period can even damage the follicles permanently. It’s normal to shed eyebrow hairs, but if you notice a lot of them on your washcloth, maybe you should ease up when washing your face and see if this helps.

Infections

A few skin infections commonly cause eyebrows to fall out. One is ringworm, a fungal infection that can be treated with oral and topical medications. Another is folliculitis, a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that starts when a follicle is damaged, irritated, or blocked. The follicle becomes infected and looks like a red bump or white headed pimple. In severe cases the follicle can be destroyed.

People turn to a variety of home remedies as well as prescription treatments to treat skin infections. It’s important to make sure skin infections are treated while they’re still tiny to prevent their spread.

Side Effects of Medications and Medical Treatments

An unfortunate side effect of some medications and medical treatments is hair loss. Like any other type of hair on the body, eyebrows can be lost as a complication of medical treatment.

Medications

A familiar example is hair and eyebrow loss during chemotherapy. But not everyone is aware that commonly prescribed drugs can impact hair growth. Certain antidepressants, blood thinners, gout medications, anticonvulsants, acne treatments, blood pressure medications, steroids, antibiotics, and other drugs are thought to contribute to hair loss.

If your eyebrows are thinning, check any inserts that come with your medications and ask your doctor or pharmacist if any drugs you’re taking could be the culprit.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder marked by an irresistible urge to pull out one’s own hair. Eyebrows are a common target. People with this disorder realize that they’re damaging their hair, but they find it impossible to control their urge to pull. The pulling often has a soothing, tension-releasing effect in the moment, but the resulting hair loss can bring lasting problems including social stigma and permanent destruction of follicles. The cause of trichotillomania is unknown. Treatment can include behavior therapy or medication.

Stress

While not a clinical disorder like trichotillomania, stress can be severe enough to cause a wide range of physical problems in people who experience it. Stress should not be discounted as a factor in your eyebrow loss. If you’re going through an extremely stressful period, it’s possible that your hair growth patterns are being disrupted by chronic “fight, flight, or freeze” reactions to your environment. Please talk with a trusted person and practice self-care and relaxation.

What Now?

So why does it matter what causes eyebrow loss? Well, the best treatment for each person’s eyebrow problems will depend on what caused the condition. We hope this article helped you understand what might be happening if your eyebrows aren’t what they used to be. Future articles will cover treatments to grow eyebrows back and offer tips to get the brows of your dreams.

Please leave your comments and questions below. I’d like to know what you think and what your own experiences have been like!

 

 

 

 

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