They say eyes are the window to the soul, but we say that doesn’t give nearly enough credit to our eyebrows. Good eyebrows are sometimes all the makeup you need, and while we’ve taken them for granted a few times over the years (especially if you grew up in the 90s), there's nothing more sexy and timeless than bold, thick eyebrows.
Of course, some are blessed with full eyebrows and some have had to find more enterprising ways to get the look. No matter the hand of cards you’ve been dealt, much like the hair on your head, you need to baby it a little to keep it as thick and healthy as possible. Despite our best efforts, it's not totally uncommon to notice your eyebrows thinning out. In fact, dermatologist Anar Mikailov, MD, FAAD, estimates that in a typical week at his office, about 15 percent of patients have thinning eyebrows.
Meet the Expert
- Anar Mikailov, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Skintensive.
- Robin Blum, MD, FAAD, is board-certified dermatologist at Central Park South Dermatology in New York City.
- Chesahna Kindred, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist, researcher, and founder of Kindred Hair and Skin Center in Baltimore, MD.
If you’re lucky, the solution is just taking it easy on the tweezers. But there are some bigger, more complicated causes to watch out for. Ahead, we asked three dermatologists what the most common reasons are for eyebrow thinning and what you can do to curb the hair loss.
Over-plucking or Grooming
When you spend time in front of a mirror—especially a magnified one—it’s easy to overthink every last hair. It only takes one mis-pluck to throw the balance off, and before you know it, you’re over-correcting your arches until there's barely anything left.
It’s happened to all of us, and one aggressive pluck session won’t break the eyebrow bank. But doing it too often could cause long-term thinning. “It’s repeated trauma that can ultimately cause the root of your hair follicle to stop functioning properly,” says Mikailov. “Ultimately the stem cells that create new hair stop regenerating.”
If your brows are suffering from over-grooming, the first step in rehab is easy: put down the tweezers. Let your eyebrows grow back the best they can and stop attacking every errant hair if you know you won’t be able to help going hunting for more. “Be gentle and kind to your eyebrows,” says Mikailov. “Minimize the number of products you use on your hair, be gentle with washing, and minimize sun burns.”
If you still have some thin patches or the regrowth just isn’t happening, there’s still hope. Dermatologist-prescribed Latisse and Rogaine can both help fill out-over plucked brows. Mikailov also recommends Folliflo by Cell Accel Eyelash and Brow Enhancing Serum, an over-the-counter serum that is formulated with castor oil and panax ginseng to help stimulate hair growth naturally.
Underlying Skin Conditions
Those with eczema or psoriasis will likely not be surprised to hear this—these chronic skin conditions can also cause hair thinning on your scalp and eyebrows. If you do have one of these conditions, you’ve likely already noticed it in the form of itchy rashes. If you don’t think you do—but you’re experiencing itchy, inflamed, flaky skin under and around your brows—it might be worth having a dermatologist look at it. Any scratching or rubbing you're doing might cause hair to fall out.
Once you nail down what's causing the skin irritation, stopping brow hair loss is all about targeting the condition. “I always look to see if there is any underlying skin condition affecting the eyebrows, surrounding skin, and also scalp,” says dermatologist Robin Blum. “I also use a handheld device called a dermatoscope to get a better visualization of the hair follicles and surrounding skin. If there is inflammation in the area of hair thinning, that can be treated with either topical, intralesional, or oral steroids,” says dermatologist Robin Blum.
Hormonal disorders like hyper- and hypo-thyroidism or androgenetic alopecia can also cause eyebrow thinning. While these conditions mostly surface in middle age, it can also be genetic, and not everyone is the same. “The most important thing I do when someone comes to me for eyebrow thinning is to take an in depth medical assessment of the thinning,” says Blum. “I take a full medical history and ask about family history as well.”
In this case, early detection is best. “Treatment can be difficult, so addressing it early is recommended,” says dermatologist Cheshana Kindred, MD, FAAD. “This is one of the few cases in which treating the underlying condition does not automatically reverse thinning eyebrows.” Once you’ve addressed your health (which should always be your first priority), a hair growth treatment like Latisse could help to regrow lost brow volume.
Aging affects us all in different ways, but loss of hair density is a very common occurrence as we get older. With time, our hair follicles aren’t regenerating or maintaining hair as well—and you may notice a thinner or more brittle quality to your hair. Hormones play a role here, too. “People typically start to see thinning in their 40s with the decline of their testosterone or estrogen levels,” says Blum.
We can’t stop time, but we can find ways to fill out brows that have lost a little volume over the years. Blum recommends tinting the hair for a darker appearance, or looking into microblading—a kind of semi-permanent makeup that mimics the look of individual hairs with fine, tattooed strokes.
When your body is deficient in necessary vitamins, it tends to draw what it can from non-essential functions. Hair growth is one of those functions. For example, vitamin D—a common deficiency in American adults and one that can cause eyebrow thinning—is needed to build bone density, control infection, and lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Your body would much rather protect you from disease than make sure your brows were looking thick and bushy (and honestly, fair). So it takes vitamin D from your hair follicles to keep everything in working order.
Other common deficiencies that your body might be compensating for are zinc, selenium, and iron. “You’ll want to seek out a nutritional diet with essential vitamins, or supplement the diet with the appropriate vitamin,” says Blum. That could mean simply making a little more time for sunshine and eating more red meats and legumes, or it could mean making a daily supplement (like the Foligain Stimulating Supplement for Thinning Hair, which contains hair-thickening super ingredients like folate, biotin, and zinc) part of your routine. Your hair wont grow back overnight, but you should notice any thinning slow down.
It can be frustrating to learn about all the ways stress can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. Unfortunately, hair loss is another unexpected side effect of being overworked or not spending enough time on mental health and mindfulness.
When you’re stressed out or upset, your body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. While very helpful for giving us the adrenaline boost we might need to outrun a predator like a bear or tiger, it can cause some non-essential functions like hair growth to kick into “rest mode.” While you can’t get rid of cortisol (nor would you want to), you can learn to manage it. “If the cause of your eyebrow thinning is stress or picking, it’s best to seek out stress management therapy,” suggests Blum.
Can thinning brows grow back?
Yes! Depending on the root cause of your eyebrow thinning, prescription creams, medications, or simple over-the-counter products can help you rehab your brows and encourage thicker growth.
Do I need to see a doctor about eyebrow thinning?
It depends. If, after reading this, you’re pretty sure your eyebrow thinning is from over-tweezing and over-waxing, you can start by giving grooming a rest. But there are certain things you should look out for. “Promptly see your doctor if you notice sudden eyebrow thinning or thinning on just one eyebrow,” says Kindred.
What deficiency causes eyebrow thinning?
If you’re experiencing eyebrow thinning, you could have low levels of vitamin D, zinc, and selenium.
Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017;7(1):1-10.