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Social and Psychological Effects of Eyebrow Loss

Quite a few conditions (many mentioned here) can lead to eyebrow hair loss, also called madarosis. For people who’ve lost them, growing eyebrows back or replacing them is more significant than just wanting to look good. Getting their eyebrows back can be life changing.

Why Eyebrows Matter

Expressing emotions and reactions through the eyebrows is part of being human. Actually, it’s even more basic. It’s part of being a primate, as all primates communicate socially through eyebrow movement. But in humans there’s high contrast between the eyebrows and the hairless skin that surrounds them, thus creating more emphasis on the brows as a signal in communication.

Even babies have predictable involuntary eyebrow movements in reaction to happenings in their environment. Making and understanding eyebrow cues are hardwired into us.

They’re also passed on through culture. For centuries, in cultures around the world, hair has been associated with fertility, virility, and power. In biblical times, when Samson lost his hair, he also lost his great strength. Ancient men and women enhanced their eyebrows with makeup and plucking, and people continue to do so even today.

Eyebrows can convey facial symmetry or be altered cosmetically to correct asymmetry. According to Bader (2014), a key factor in a person’s attractiveness is facial symmetry. People with symmetrical faces are judged to be healthy potential mates, with good genes to pass on to future generations. Symmetry is also thought to be preferred because it is easier for the brain to process. Thus, there are social advantages to having eyebrows that contribute to facial symmetry.

It’s also been found that the eyebrows are more important than the eyes themselves as a factor in human facial recognition (Peissig, Goode, & Smith, 2009).

Social and Psychological Reactions to Eyebrow Loss

Because of the importance of eyebrows to our sense of self and human interaction, reactions to their loss (Hunt & McHale, 2005) can be severe and can include:

  • Self-consciousness
  • Shock (for example, as a reaction to sudden unexpected hair loss from alopecia, a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the follicles)
  • Emotional distress
  • Low levels of confidence
  • Shame (especially if the eyebrow hair loss is due to trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder)
  • Sense of loss
  • Lack of worth
  • Fear of exclusion, leading to a higher risk of social anxiety

Some of these reactions refer to the loss of scalp hair in general (“The Psychological Effects of Alopecia Hair Loss” (n.d.)).

Consequences in People’s Lives

These reactions to eyebrow loss are not only personally painful but also potentially devastating to a person’s health, career, and social and family life. According to Hunt and McHale (2005) and the Mayo Clinic staff (2016), hair and eyebrow loss can result in:

  • Withdrawal from social activities and job opportunities
  • Refusal to have photos taken
  • Not wanting to meet new people
  • Marital problems and avoidance of intimacy
  • Clinical depression and anxiety
  • Use of alcohol or street drugs (in cases of trichotillomania)
  • More difficulty in recovering from a traumatic event that caused the hair loss

As understandable as it is for people to want to avoid dealing with these issues, it’s hard to escape them. Because the brows are front and center on the face, eyebrow hair loss is highly noticeable.

Solutions

Fortunately there are many potential solutions to eyebrow loss. The best fix depends on the cause of an individual’s hair loss.  In general, a healthy mind and body support healthy hair growth.  So, it’s a good idea to

  • See a health care provider, if you haven’t already done this, to pinpoint the cause of your hair loss and get the right treatment
  • Stay as healthy as possible by eating well, sleeping enough, and getting some exercise
  • Talk to a close friend or mental health professional about what you’re going through
  • Join a support group of folks living with hair loss

To deal specifically with eyebrow hair loss, options include:

  • Topical treatments to help grow eyebrows back
    • Natural or organic eyebrow serums to ensure the health of skin and hair and to create an optimal environment to grow eyebrow hair back
    • Lab-synthesized eyebrow serums to stimulate the follicles to grow eyebrow hair
    • Minoxidil (Rogaine) for eyebrows to lengthen the growing phase of the hair cycle
    • Latisse for eyebrows to lengthen the growing phase of the hair cycle

  • Cosmetic procedures
    • Conventional makeup, for example, eyebrow pencil, eyebrow shadow, eyebrow gel
    • Permanent makeup (also called micropigmentation, microblading, brow embroidery, semi-permanent eyebrow makeup, and eyebrow tattooing)
    • Eyebrow extensions (many dozens of hairs glued among existing eyebrows to increase density)
    • Eyebrow wigs (just what they sound like: a replacement eyebrow attached with adhesive)
  • Eyebrow transplantation (also called a follicular unit transplant or FUT). An eyebrow transplant is similar to the better known hair transplant to thinning areas of the scalp.

When deciding which treatment is the best fit for you, it’s important to consider why you lost your eyebrows. In many cases, especially where there’s been no scarring of follicles, eyebrows will grow back.

Considering individual lifestyle is critical too. If someone is physically active, conventional makeup is probably not a good solution to eyebrow hair loss because frequent, heavy exposure to sweat and water may make cosmetics run.

It’s also a good idea to be aware of possible fears and doubts over treatments. Some people may be sensitive about an obvious or low-quality procedure bringing even more unwanted attention to the condition they’re trying to disguise.

What Do You Think?

When it comes to eyebrows, as with many things, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Has something happened that has resulted in partial or complete eyebrow loss for you or a loved one? Please tell us how you coped or dealt with it. Have any of the solutions listed here worked (or failed) for you? Maybe I’ve left out an important idea or tip. Please share it in the Comments section below! Thanks for helping, and I’ll be sure to answer.

References

Bader, L. (2014). “Facial Symmetry and Attractiveness.” Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/evolutionofhumansexuality/2014/03/24/facial-symmetry-and-attractiveness/

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trichotillomania/symptoms-causes/syc-20355188

Hunt, N., & McHale, S. (2005). The psychological impact of alopecia. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 331(7522), 951-3.

Peissig, J. Goode, T. Smith, P. (2009). The role of eyebrows in face recognition: With, without, and different [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 9(8):554, 554a, http://journalofvision.org/9/8/554/, doi:10.1167/9.8.554.

The Psychological Effects of Alopecia Hair Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.belgraviacentre.com/blog/the-psychological-effects-of-alopecia-hair-loss/.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wendy

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