What Is Eyebrow Dandruff?

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Eyebrow dandruff and scalp dandruff have similar symptoms and causes. Eyebrow dandruff causes itchy, whitish skin flakes that shed, and—just like with regular dandruff—there are several types of eyebrow dandruff, depending on the underlying cause.

This article focuses on the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and prognosis of eyebrow dandruff.

eyebrow dandruff

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Symptoms

The symptoms of eyebrow dandruff may include:

  • Light, white to yellowish flakes of skin that shed
  • Mild erythema (redness) and irritated patches of skin on the eyebrows
  • Mild itching (or in some cases, there is no itching)
  • A rash in some types of eyebrow dandruff (such as when contact dermatitis is the underlying cause)
  • A scaly appearance of the eyebrows
  • An increased amount of sebum (oil) in the eyebrows

Note, when eyebrow dandruff is caused by environmental factors—such as cold weather or harsh skin products—the symptoms do not include inflammation. But when seborrheic dermatitis or contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction) are the underlying cause of the dandruff flakes, inflammation is a cardinal symptom.

Causes

Just like scalp dandruff, the exact cause of eyebrow dandruff is not well understood. It is thought to be linked with an increase in oil from the sebaceous glands, which reside in the hair follicles.

As the oil production increases, so too does a type of yeast that naturally resides on the skin, called Malassezia yeast. This feeds off sebaceous oil and can wreak havoc with the skin, causing irritation and even an allergic reaction that can lead to inflammation. 

Diagnosis

Dandruff can often be diagnosed during a physical examination. The diagnostician can evaluate the appearance of the skin on the eyebrows and gather information from a person about current symptoms.

It’s unusual to require a lab test to diagnose eyebrow dandruff, but in some instances a skin biopsy may be performed to rule out other conditions.

Treatment

Over-the-Counter Medication

When eyebrow dandruff is mild to moderate, it can usually be treated at home, using an over-the-counter type of medicated dandruff shampoo. These shampoos contain medication—such as zinc pyrithione—which helps loosen dandruff, making it easier to remove.

Can You Use Dandruff Shampoo on Your Eyebrows?

You can use dandruff shampoo on your eyebrows by treating it like a face wash. Work the lather up in your hands, then rub it into the affected area and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing.

Be sure not to get medicated shampoo in your eyes, though, as it can cause irritation.

If your symptoms include redness, irritation, and itchiness, over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may help reduce these symptoms.

Note, there are many types of dandruff shampoos, each with different active ingredients. If one type of shampoo doesn’t work for you, try a different one, including those that have:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Selenium sulfide
  • Tar
  • Salicylic acid
  • Zinc pyrithione

Prescription Medication

If eyebrow dandruff symptoms are severe, your healthcare provider may order:

  • A prescription-strength shampoo, such as ketoconazole or selenium sulfide
  • A topical cream (for use on the skin), such as prescription-strength antifungal or corticosteroid cream

These preparations are essentially the same as the over-the-counter versions, but they have a higher concentration of medication.

Prevention

Tips for preventing eyebrow dandruff flare-ups include:

  • Moisturize the skin with a mild moisturizer that does not contain harsh chemicals or ingredients that dry the skin.
  • Use a mild shampoo, free of sulfates and other harsh additives (for the hair regularly, and eyebrows when you have very mild symptoms).
  • Wash the face with warm, not hot water.
  • Avoid extreme outdoor temperatures.
  • Use a humidifier in the winter to combat dry air from central heating systems.
  • Use sunscreen to protect the face (including the eyebrows).
  • Take note of allergens or irritants, and avoid them whenever possible.
  • Avoid scratching or picking at the eyebrows.

Prognosis

Dandruff—as well as the skin conditions that cause eyebrow dandruff—are chronic conditions. Treatment may help alleviate the symptoms, but it won’t cure the condition.

Eyebrow dandruff involves periods of flare-ups and remissions (when there are no symptoms). Flare-ups occur most commonly during the winter months or when a person experiences stress.

If you have tried at-home treatment and your symptoms are not resolved or they get worse, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Borda L, Wikramanayake T. Seborrheic dermatitis, and dandruff: a comprehensive review. J Clin Investig Dermatol. 2015;3(2). doi:10.13188/2373-1044.1000019

  2. Kids Health. Dandruff. Updated August 2014.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Seborrheic dermatitis. Updated May 29, 2020.