Potential Causes of Itchy Eyebrows and How to Treat Them

There are many causes of itchy eyebrows. Often the underlying cause is not serious and will go away on its own or may be treatable using home remedies. Other times, itchy eyebrows can be caused by something more serious, such as an infection, allergic reaction, or other conditions.

Learn about the potential causes of itchy eyebrows and when to see a doctor.

itchy eyebrows

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Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a long-term (chronic) skin disease that involves inflammation of the affected area. It's commonly found on various areas of the head and trunk, but can also occur on the face, including the eyebrows.

The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, but there are many theories, including hormones and genetics.

Factors linked with flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis may include:

  • A type of yeast called Malassezia
  • A person's general health
  • A person's hygiene 
  • The environment (such as a change in humidity or temperature)

Symptoms of facial seborrhea may include:

  • Patches of greasy skin covered in white or yellow scales (particularly in the folds of skin)
  • Redness or swelling of the affected area
  • Crusty, flaky skin
  • Itching or burning

Treatment

Home remedies that help to control seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • Good hygiene
  • Avoiding frequent cleansing with harsh soaps that remove natural skin oils
  • Moisturizing with a product that doesn't clog the skin's pores (such as CeraVe lotion)
  • Cleansing with a mild, non-sulfate soap
  • Avoiding sun damage

Medical intervention may be required for severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis, and treatment may include:

  • Medicated topical cream (such as ketoconazole cream)
  • Topical corticosteroid cream (to reduce the swelling and help alleviate itchiness)

Waxing, Plucking, and Threading

Beauty treatments such as plucking, waxing, and threading the eyebrows can result in itchy eyebrows and other symptoms including:

  • Skin irritation
  • Mild rash (bumps)
  • Skin infection

Usually, the itchiness and other symptoms caused by waxing, plucking, and threading are mild and go away without treatment. But if your symptoms persist or become severe, you should consult with your healthcare provider.

Treatment

Treatment for irritation or itchy eyebrows caused by waxing, plucking, and threading includes:

  • Applying a cool compress to reduce inflammation: If you use ice to decrease inflammation, avoid applying it directly to the skin. Rather, cover the ice with a cloth before applying it to the eyebrow area. Direct exposure to ice can cause damage to the skin.
  • Applying aloe vera gel: This is a natural over-the-counter product that may help reduce redness and itchiness. (Be careful when using any type of topical treatment near the eyes to avoid getting them in the eyes.)

Malassezia

Malassezia is part of the body’s normal skin flora (the natural microorganisms that live on the skin), but when there is an overgrowth of this type of yeast, it can cause inflammation, itchiness, and other symptoms.

There are several types of skin conditions, each associated with a specific species of Malassezia. These conditions include skin disorders such as:

Factors that are known to worsen Malassezia infection include:

  • Sweating
  • Immunodeficiency (such as having a disorder like human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV)
  • Environmental factors (such as high heat and humidity)

Treatment

Treatment options for an overgrowth of Malassezia include:

  • Antifungal agents: Given topically (such as ketoconazole cream) or by mouth (such as fluconazole) antifungals, are common treatments for an infection resulting from an overgrowth of Malassezia.
  • Topical steroids: These may also be given to alleviate itching and help reduce swelling.

Allergic Reaction

Allergies occur when certain substances trigger an immune system reaction in the body. In the United States, 41.7% of adults report having allergies; and of those people, 47.7% also experience allergic skin reactions.

A skin allergy involving itchy eyebrows may occur when a beauty product—such as facial moisturizer, shampoo, or cosmetics—is used at home or at a salon.

Another name for a skin allergy that results from exposure to a specific allergen is contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction that causes eyebrow itchiness include:

  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • A hive-like rash
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Burning or stinging
  • Flaking
  • Scales

Treatment

Treatment of skin allergies may include:

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Steroids
  • Immunosuppressive medications                                 

How Long Does It Take an Allergic Reaction to Clear Up?

It may take several weeks for allergic symptoms to resolve, even with medical treatment.

Preventive measures to keep allergic reactions of the skin at bay involve avoiding allergic triggers, including:

  • Jewelry or metals (such as those used in eyebrow piercings)
  • Certain cosmetic products
  • Shampoo
  • Body or facial wash products

Shingles

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a common infectious disease that occurs in approximately four people per 1,000 in the United States annually. In adults age 60 and older, that number jumps to one case of shingles per 100 people each year.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus goes dormant and reactivates later in life, usually when a person is 60 years of age or older. But when it reactivates, it only involves one area of the skin.

Shingles can develop in the eyebrows, but because shingles usually only affects one side of the face, a single eyebrow is usually symptomatic.

The symptoms may begin with eyebrow itching, but they would soon progress to burning, tingling, and a rash comprised of fluid-filled blisters. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of shingles, particularly around the eye area, because shingles could lead to vision loss. 

Treatment

Because shingles is a contagious disorder, any contact with the blisters before they are completely healed could spread the varicella-zoster virus. Treatment of shingles may include:

  • Antiviral medications
  • Pain management
  • Home remedies to help alleviate symptoms

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Psoriasis that affects the eyebrows (and other areas of the face) is called facial psoriasis.

Symptoms of facial psoriasis may include: 

  • Dead skin cells (that may resemble dandruff)
  • Mild to intense itchiness
  • Soreness
  • Skin sensitivity
  • Thick, red skin patches with silver-colored scales

Treatment

Treatment of facial psoriasis may include:

  • Prescription topical creams
  • Phototherapy
  • Oral medications (when topical treatments are ineffective)
  • Injections (such as methotrexate in severe cases of facial psoriasis)
  • Over-the-counter cleansers or moisturizers

Products for Psoriasis

You can check the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Seal of Recognition program to ensure products are safe and nonirritating to people with psoriasis.

Diabetes

People with diabetes are often at risk for many different types of skin problems. This is due to abnormal blood sugar levels that interfere with normal immune function. Examples of skin conditions that may cause itching of the eyebrows (or other areas) include:

  • Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle, which may involve the hair of the eyebrows)
  • Candida (a type of fungal infection that causes a rash that itches)

Skin conditions are often the first sign of diabetes in many people.

Treatment

Treatment of skin conditions caused by diabetes depends on the underlying causative organism. For example, fungal infections will be treated with antifungal cream.

Things you can do to prevent skin complications when you have diabetes include:

  • Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
  • Keeping your skin clean, dry, and moisturized
  • Keeping the air in your home well humidified and avoiding showers that are extremely hot

Consult with your healthcare provider if your skin condition does not resolve with self-care.

Skin Parasites (Lice)

Head lice are parasites that usually live and breed on the scalp. They are small enough to reside in the eyebrows and can even live on eyelashes. The medical term for head lice is Pediculus humanus capitis.

Symptoms of lice may include:

  • Feeling something moving in the hair
  • Severe itching on the scalp and eyebrows
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Bleeding

Treatment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an online, very detailed protocol for the treatment of lice that includes:

  • Applying permethrin lotion 1%
  • Ongoing treatment for live (crawling) lice that continue to hatch (permethrin 1% does not kill eggs) to include combing out live lice and nits (eggs) and using other lice medicines
  • Washing items used or worn by the infested person in hot water (above 128.3 F), including hats, scarves, bedding, clothing, and towels, and placing items that cannot be washed in a sealed plastic bag for two weeks or dry-cleaning them
  • Not sharing grooming aids, brushes, or other items that have direct contact with a person who has lice (particularly items used on the head or hair)

When to See a Doctor

It is important to consult with a healthcare provider anytime your eyebrows:

  • Continuously itch
  • Are painful
  • Appear infected (with symptoms of redness, warmth, or swelling)
  • Blister
  • Have symptoms that go away and then return

Summary

There are many reasons why you may be experiencing itchy eyebrows. If you've tried to treat your itchy eyebrows at home and they do not improve, see a doctor.

 

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Article Sources
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