Just as clothing fashion morphs and changes with the decades, so do our hairstyles, makeup, and yes, even how we choose to sculpt our eyebrows! Gone are the days when pencil-thin, drawn on brows were the height of style. We are now embracing thick, full, natural brows and celebrities such as Cara Delevigne are the envy of women the world around.
But what if your once bushy brows now look more like a sparse forest? Thinning and patchiness affects many people, especially as we age. Our hair thins and loses pigment, our skin becomes drier and less elastic, and our brows age in a similar manner, the loss of which is called “eyebrow hypotrichosis.” There are also more serious medical conditions that may be causing thinning of brow hair. Read on for potential causes and what you may be able to do to help!
4 CAUSES OF THINNING BROWS:
1. Put Down the Tweezers! Step Away From the Wax!
Too much plucking, waxing, threading, and shaping our brows could actually be the cause of eyebrow thinning. Dr. Dray, a board certified dermatologist, says that this can lead to scarring or what is called “traction alopecia” which traumatizes the hair follicles and renders them unable to grow hair. She suggests reducing the amount and frequency of these practices to limit follicle damage. Avoid the area directly on top of the brow bone and stick to just above and just below.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies
Multiple nutritional deficiencies have been linked to hair loss, and determining the medical risk factor is necessary for proper treatment with the hope of reversing or halting hair and eyebrow thinning. Dietary and medical history and physical workups with a physician should be explored.
Zinc deficiency, in individuals who maintain a healthy, balanced diet are unlikely to occur, but in certain cases like extreme weight loss from illness or eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, a zinc deficiency can occur. This requires medical attention and you should seek consultation with a physician immediately. Some genetic disorders can inhibit zinc uptake and require medical treatment as well.
Other nutritional deficiencies that should be addressed as a possible cause are low iron, low vitamin D, and fatty acid deficiencies. Red meat, beans, and spinach are good dietary sources of iron. Vitamin D is found as a supplement but also can be synthesized through the skin with UV exposure. Fatty acids are found in foods like nuts, seeds, and fish and are essential to skin and hair health. Along with your doctor, consider consulting with a nutritionist to establish a balanced diet that will resolve these deficiencies and support healthy hair, skin, scalp, and eyebrow growth naturally!
3. Thyroid Disorders and Hormone Changes
According to Medical News Today, changes in thyroid hormones in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, can cause eyebrow thinning. Typical loss of brow hair in thyroid conditions happens in the outer third of the brow, the section closest to the temple. Other physical symptoms common to thyroid disorders that may coincide with brow loss are dry, brittle hair and nails, a dry, itchy scalp, and swelling in the neck. A doctor can prescribe medication to balance thyroid hormones and resolve these symptoms. The loss of hair in this situation should not be progressive once treated, and may possibly be reversed.
Reproductive hormone changes can also cause loss of hair and eyebrow thinning and is common after giving birth and at menopause. These rapid hormone changes can cause a condition called telogen effluvium, sudden hair loss, and is (usually) temporary. Postpartum hair loss typically peaks at 4 months after birth and reversed after one year. The loss of estrogen and progesterone during menopause gives rise to androgens (male hormones), which shrink hair follicles on the head and brows resulting in hair loss, but can also lead to increased hair growth on the face, specifically on the cheeks and chin. Eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, exercising, and getting enough sleep and water may help to reduce this hair loss.
It can also be triggered by severe stress and certain autoimmune diseases. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition which causes hair loss and frequently causes loss of hair on the face and brows and elsewhere on the body. Doctors at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) indicate that the follicles remain alive and when the disease is not active, regrowth can occur. Lupus and psoriatic arthritis are also autoimmune disorders which can contribute to thinning eyebrows.
4. Skin Conditions
In order to grow healthy hair and brows, the skin and scalp must be healthy. Eczema, atopic and seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis (as mentioned previously) all can lead to itching, flaking, inflamed, and irritated skin. Scratching, rubbing, and excessive exfoliation associated with these conditions can cause brow and hair loss. A dermatologist can prescribe medication to limit inflammation and following a healthy diet and skin routine that is rich in essential fatty acids can dramatically reduce redness and irritation. Topical application of oils and butters that are high in linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid are beneficial to people who have these conditions.
4 TIPS TO HELP YOU:
First and foremost, any medical conditions should be presented to a medical professional so treatment for the underlying condition can be obtained. But there are actions you can take at home to increase growth and improve the appearance of your eyebrows!
1. Manicure with a Light Hand!
As previously mentioned, limit the frequency and aggressiveness with which you manicure your eyebrows. All that waxing and plucking can lead to scarring and trauma of the follicles which is what you want to avoid. Though it might be tough to break the habit, try to stretch out the time between salon appointments and allow the hair to grow.
Perhaps try using an eyebrow razor to clean up stray hairs - there are multiple options on the market and these instruments do not damage or scar the follicles like plucking, waxing, and threading do. And BONUS, you can use it elsewhere on the face, too!
2. Fake it ‘til You Make It!
Brow mascara, pencils, powders, gels and more! With a careful hand you can meticulously and artfully draw on your eyebrows to give the appearance of full and bushy eyebrows. It is easy to over do it though, and definitely takes practice to get a natural look. Products that encourage individual strokes as opposed to wide sweeping coverage tend to look more like the real thing. Try Papillon Organic’s Brow Pomade- made with 85% organic ingredients and comes in three shades. Formulated with castor oil to promote brow growth while making them look full and lush!
Microblading is a semi-permanent solution to thinning brows. Think of it like a very superficial tattoo - it is done with very tiny needles and does not penetrate into the deep layers of the epidermis, so it will only last approximately 18 months and will need to be repeated or touched up periodically. A typical procedure costs anywhere from $500-2000 depending on your location and the experience of the technician.
4. Grow Your Own!
How can I do that, you ask? There are multiple over the counter eyelash and eyebrow serums on the market today, and one prescription currently available. The main active ingredient in prescription serum is bimatoprost, ( as mentioned it is only available with a doctor’s prescription) and is very effective at growing longer, thicker lashes and brows in just 4-6 weeks, however, it does come with some possible serious side effects: irritation and eye color change are two of the most common side effects.
Cosmo recommends a list of over the counter eyelash and eyebrow serums that have shown good potential for increased volume. Their active ingredients vary, but most contain petroleum derived ingredients such as butylene glycol or PEG derivatives, preservatives like phenoxyethanol which is banned in Japan and is known to cause irritation and is a potential reproductive toxin, and methylparaben which a known sensitizer and has greatly restricted use outside of the US.
Another alternative is to use a completely natural, effective, plant based serum, with little likelihood of negative side effects. Papillon Organic’s Eyelash and Eyebrow Serumis a 5-star, organic serum that contains castor oil which has a long history of encouraging hair, lash, and brow growth*.
* Recent studies have shown that balding subjects have an increased level of prostaglandin D2 (PGD2), and therefore treatments that inhibit the production of PGD2 show promise in hair regrowth. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology looked at 12 herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and found that out of 389 constituents in those herbs, ricinoleic acid was among the most effective at inhibiting PGD2. Castor oil contains 85% ricinoleic acid! Although more formal studies need to be conducted, anecdotal evidence supports the theory that castor oil helps to regrow hair.
Castor oil is the key ingredient in Papillon Organic’s Eyelash and Eyebrow Serum and is combined with organic tea oils and extracts and nourishing argan oil and vitamin E to create an all natural, pampering serum that will help you grow the longest, most lush lashes and eyebrows even Cara would be envious of!
Hair and eyebrow loss is a frustrating and sometimes embarrassing situation but thankfully there are ways to mitigate it.