Hypotrichosis is the thinning or development of irregular patterns in the hair of your eyebrows. This may occur at the same time and for the same reasons as hair loss on your head. It can also occur independently.
Eyebrow hair loss affects thousands of people every year. That’s why eyebrow hair transplant is the second most common type of hair transplant after the head, with 12% of female hair transplant patients and 3% of male transplant patients opting for this procedure.
Here is all you need to know about why eyebrow hair loss happens and what you can do about it.
Thinning eyebrows can be just as distressing as hair loss on your head. Eyebrow hair loss can happen for a number of reasons:
- Eyebrow alopecia is frequently one of three kinds. Alopecia areata occurs when hair in the eyebrows falls out in spots, due to an autoimmune condition . Androgenetic alopecia refers to male/female pattern baldness . Frontal fibrosing alopecia is where scarring and hair loss occur on the scalp and the eyebrow region for genetic, autoimmune or environmental reasons .
- Other autoimmune disorders such as lupus and localised scleroderma may also result in eyebrow loss.
- Some people have congenital eyebrow loss, such as those suffering from keratosis, Fraser syndrome, Meige syndrome or congenital erythroderma.
- Losing your eyebrows could also be the symptom of an endocrinologic (hormonal) disorder such as an underactive thyroid.
- Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as medicine such as Niacin, Thallium or Retinol (also known as Vitamin A).
- Skin conditions, ranging from the benign (such as atopic dermatitis and eyebrow psoriasis) to the severe (such as facial skin cancers and systemic mastocytosis).
- Trauma can cause eyebrow hair loss. This includes accidental scarring, local tattoo removal and mechanical damage to the skin.
- Psychological conditions, such as chronic stress, telogen effluvium (emotional shock causing hair follicles to become dormant) and trichotillomania (a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder which makes patients pull out their eyebrow hair when nervous or under pressure) can damage the eyebrows.
- Biological processes also play a role in eyebrow hair loss. It’s natural to experience some hair loss in older age due to a decline in hair follicle quality. This is usually more visible around the eyebrows than on the head.
- Finally, lifestyle choices, such as an imbalanced diet, excessive plucking or makeup can all lead to temporary or permanent thinning of the eyebrow hair.
Diagnosing Eyebrow Loss
It is very important to know the exact cause of your eyebrow loss, as treatment is dependent on it. Some conditions respond best to medication. Others require a hair transplant or alternative non-surgical treatments, while some sadly remain incurable.
A dermatologist or trichologist (hair and scalp doctor) is the most suitable specialist to diagnose the cause of your eyebrow loss. They will ask you about your medical history and perform a clinical examination.
During the exam, your doctor will use a tool known as a dermoscope. The dermoscope is a painless medical instrument that illuminates and magnifies your eyebrow hair and the skin underneath it.
If your doctor suspects certain conditions, such as alopecia areata, they may use a scale such as the Brigham Eyebrow Tool to assess its severity.
If necessary, your clinician will perform a pull test, which involves gently tugging on a few strands of hair from your eyebrows to see if they fall out easily.
Should these tools alone prove insufficient to positively diagnose the root of your problem, your doctor may also order blood work. This should reveal the cause of your eyebrow loss.
Preventing eyebrow hair loss
Where possible, prevention is better than cure. To stand the best chance of keeping your eyebrows glossy and in good condition, here are a few basic steps you can take:
- Eat a balanced diet that contains sufficient nutrients and calories. When your body perceives there’s not enough of either to go around, non-essential functions such as hair growth will be shut down.
- If you don’t think you’re getting sufficient vitamins and minerals a supplement can help, but don’t overdose as it could make matters worse.
- Sufficient rest and relaxation can prevent stress and reduce the chances of your eyebrows falling out due to telogen effluvium.
- If you’re taking any drugs or medication, check the side effects as hair loss may be an unwanted byproduct.
- When performing your beauty routine, focus on shaping rather than thinning your eyebrows. Also, when removing make-up, use cosmetics which are gentle but effective, and avoid rubbing the hair too roughly.
Treatment for Eyebrow Loss
The most efficient way to treat your thinning eyebrows greatly depends on the reason which caused them to fall out in the first place. Thus, depending on your particular condition, your doctor may recommend:
There are a number of topical, oral or injectable substances which can help minimise eyebrow loss. They can be used on their own or in combination with other treatments. Here are some of the most common:
- Corticosteroids – anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant medication ideal for the treatment of alopecia areata. Also suitable for eyebrow loss caused by skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or eyebrow psoriasis.
- Minoxidil (popularly known as Rogaine) – a hormone-mediating substance. Minoxidil has shown promising results in promoting hair growth and density in the field of eyebrow androgenetic alopecia.
- Bimatoprost (popularly known as Latisse) – an ophthalmological medication. This drug is more commonly used to treat glaucoma and to promote eyelash growth, but studies suggest it can encourage eyebrow growth, too. However, bimatoprost isn’t suitable for everyone, especially if you have other medical issues affecting your eyes and/or vision (such as cataracts).
- Anthralin – a topical medication used efficiently in the treatment of psoriasis. However, recent research shows it may also have beneficial effects in the treatment of alopecia areata.
An eyebrow transplant is a minimally-invasive and virtually pain-free minor surgical intervention.
It consists of carefully harvesting some strands of hair (normally around 200-400) from the back of your head (or from your healthy eyebrow if only one of them is affected) and transplanting them into the areas where your eyebrow hair is thinning.
The entire procedure is performed in a single session under local anaesthesia. That means you won’t feel a thing and are free to go home the same day.
Eyebrow transplants have excellent results, particularly for alopecia. However, they are usually ineffective against alopecia areata, trichotillomania and in certain other medical conditions. Furthermore, they cannot treat very scarred or otherwise severely damaged tissue.
Natural Treatments and Therapies
Many patients try alternative or natural hair loss remedies before seeking medical intervention. While there is limited evidence to suggest therapies like acupuncture do stimulate hair growth, they are widely used.
Acupuncture is believed to stimulate blood flow to the area and thus make the hair follicles healthier. Castor oil is a natural treatment traditionally used for hair loss. The reason for this is that it has certain properties which help with hormone production. This indicates that it should be more effective in hair loss due to hormonal causes, although there isn’t consistent scientific evidence to support this.
Furthermore, nutritional supplements, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, as well as antioxidants are healthy for your body in general and are believed to promote hair growth as well.
Cosmetic intervention is unlikely to help conditions which stem from psychological disorders, such as chronic stress, anxiety or trichotillomania.
If your doctor identifies mental health causes for your eyebrow loss (or hair loss in general) the best course of action is to consult a psychologist and start the recommended form of therapy.
Providing there is no ongoing untreated medical condition, an eyebrow transplant can be an excellent solution for thinning or loss of hair.
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