Hypotrichosis may sound like a terrifying illness, but it is nothing more than the thinning or 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, or may be independent from it. Here is all you need to know about why it can happen and what you can do about it.
When thinking about hair loss, the first thing that comes to mind is often a balding head. However, thinning eyebrows can be just as distressing, as they are facial features which play a significant role in defining one’s look. This phenomenon can happen for a number of reasons, most of which are the same which cause the hair on the head to fall out:
- Eyebrow alopecia is frequently of three kinds: alopecia areata (where hair in the eyebrows falls out in spots, due to an autoimmune condition), androgenetic alopecia (male/female pattern baldness) and frontal fibrosing alopecia (where scarring and hair loss occur on the scalp and the eyebrow region for a number of genetic, autoimmune or environmental reasons).
- Other autoimmune disorders may also result in eyebrow loss, such as the Graham-Little Syndrome, some forms of Lupus, localized scleroderma and the Parry-Romberg syndrome.
- 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 hypothyroidism, where your thyroid gland is underactive.
- Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as medicine such as Niacin, Thallium or Retinol (also known as Vitamin A) can have eyebrow loss as an undesired side effect.
- Skin conditions, ranging from the rather benign (such as atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis, eyebrow psoriasis, etc.) to the severe (facial skin cancers, systemic mastocytosis) may cause the hair in your eyebrows to thin or partially fall out.
- Trauma can cause hair loss in general and the eyebrows make no exception: accidental scarring, local tattoo removal and mechanical damage to the skin of your eyebrows can lead to hair loss in this region.
- Psychological conditions, such as chronic stress, telogen effluvium (hair follicles going dormant due to emotional shock or hardship ) and particularly trichotillomania (a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder which makes patients rip out their eyebrow hair when nervous or under pressure) can produce damage to the eyebrows.
- Biological processes also play a role in eyebrow loss, as it is unfortunately natural to experience some hair in older age, due to an overall decline in hair follicle quality. While this phenomenon is less obvious when it comes to the hair on the head, it is more visible around the eyebrows.
- Finally, lifestyle aspects, such as an imbalanced diet when it comes to protein, iron or vitamin intake, 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 to hair transplant or alternative non-surgical treatments and finally, others sadly remain incurable.
A dermatologist or trichologist (hair and scalp doctor) is the most suitable specialist to diagnose the cause of your eyebrow loss. To do so, they will ask you about your medical history, perform a clinical examination on you.
During the exam, your doctor will often use a tool known as a dermoscope (a painless, harmless medical instrument which illuminates and magnifies, helping the doctor get a better view of the aspect of your eyebrow hair and the skin underneath it).
If certain conditions, such as alopecia areata, are suspected, your doctor may then use a scale such as the Brigham Eyebrow Tool to assess its severity (by the extent of your hair loss).
If necessary, a pull test will also be performed, 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 specific blood work, which should reveal the true cause for your eyebrow loss.
If at all possible, it is a well-known fact that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you want to make sure that you stand the best chance of keeping your eyebrows glossy and in good condition, here are a few basic steps you can take:
- Make sure your diet is well balanced and 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 think you aren’t 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 emotionally-induced telogen effluvium.
- If you’re taking any drugs or medication, check the side effects as hair loss may be an unwanted side effect.
- 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, avoiding rubbing the hair too roughly.
Treatment for Eyebrow Loss
As previously stated, 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 with your eyebrow loss, 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, but also for eyebrow loss caused by skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or eyebrow psoriasis.
- Minoxidil (popularly known as Rogaine) – a hormone-mediating substance which has shown promising results in promoting hair growth and density particularly in the field of eyebrow androgenetic alopecia.
- Bimatoprost (popularly known as Latisse) – an ophthalmological medication which has also been scientifically shown to have benefits for eyelash and eyebrow hair growth in both genders. Similar to Minoxidil, it is most effective in treating eyebrow alopecia and telogen effluvium (dormant hair follicles), but not limited to these conditions.
- 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 in 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 planting them into the problem areas where your eyebrow hair is thinning.
The entire procedure is performed in a single session, under local anesthesia, which means you won’t feel a thing and are free to go home the same day.
Eyebrow transplants have been known to have exceptional results, particularly for alopecia. Studies show that 80% of patients with frontal fibrosing alopecia experienced “excellent hair growth” 6-12 months after the procedure.
However, they are normally considered ineffective against alopecia areata, trichotillomania and in certain other medical conditions. Furthermore, they cannot be performed on very scarred or otherwise severely damaged tissue.
Natural Treatments and Therapies
Acupuncture is used by many as a remedy for eyebrow loss, as it is believed to stimulate blood flow to the area and thus make the hair follicles healthier. This is particularly helpful in alopecia areata.
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.
There is little hope for conditions which stem from psychological disorders, such as chronic stress, anxiety or trichotillomania, to be cured merely through cosmetic intervention.
If your doctor has identified 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.