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Thinning eyebrows: It could be a medical issue, not just a sign of ageing

The rate of hair growth slows when you’re older, but certain health conditions could also be the cause of your brows looking worse for wear.

If you've been too enthusiastic with tweezers in the past resulting in sparse eyebrows or you're just not naturally blessed with Cara Delevigne level brows, well, you're not going to look forward to getting older. 

In fact, you might already have noticed your brows’ disappearing act in your 40s. One sign of that is, you are getting increasingly liberal with your eyebrow pencil or powder. Even if you don’t wear makeup, you might see bald patches, or your brow tails are getting shorter.

READ: Where does hair grow the fastest or slowest – on your head or body?


So, what is going on? Just as the hair follicles on your scalp grow thinner and finer hair as you get older, so too, can the follicles above your eyes, said dermatologist Dr Sejal Shah, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, on Self.

READ: Living with birthmarks: What are the ones you can and cannot remove

The rate of hair growth also slows when you’re older, said New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner on Allure. “Eyebrow hair grows actively for three to four months, followed by a resting phase, after which the hairs are released from the skin,” he said. But when the active phase shortens and the resting phase lengthens because of age, your brows will start to look patchy.

At the same time, your body starts to shut down its pigment factory, according to Medline Plus, meaning that the hairs produced won’t look so dark if you have black hair to begin with. The result? Brows start to look thinner and more sparse.


However, it's not just ageing that could be affecting the fullness of your eyebrows – it could be caused by certain health issues as well. Here are four reasons why thinning brows may warrant a trip to the doctor.

  • Skin conditions

That itch on your face may be more than a mozzie bite if you’re losing brow hair. That’s because healthy hair needs healthy skin to grow, and if the affected area has become red and flaky, it could be a sign of eczema, psoriasis or other forms of skin conditions, noted Medical News Today. Unfortunately, the use of some medication to treat psoriasis, such as acitretin, can also cause hair loss, including the brows.

(Photo: iStock)
  • Thyroid issues

The thyroid gland in the neck produces hormones to regulate metabolism. But when there is too little or too much of certain hormones, it disrupts many processes, including hair growth, according to Healthline. The loss of brow hair may be more pronounced in the outer third of the eyebrow in hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid hormones), noted Medical News Today.

  • Autoimmune diseases

Doctors don’t know what causes alopecia, an autoimmune disease, but it is when your immune system mistakenly identifies the hair follicles as the enemy and attacks them. Several kinds of alopecia exist, according to Healthline, including alopecia areata, which causes random spots of baldness; alopecia universalis, which causes all hair, including your brows, to completely disappear; and frontal fibrosing alopecia, which scars the scalp and also creates brow loss.

  • Lack of sebum and Vitamin A

Sebum is every tropical dweller’s nightmare because it greases up everything, from the scalp to the face. But sebum has its purpose: To moisturise skin – and apparently, help hair grow. A 2011 study on Science Direct, a platform for peer-reviewed research, found that a lack of vitamin A can hinder the production of sebum, which is essential for moisturising hair and promoting its growth.

Source: CNA/bk