Experimenting with your brow look is all fun and games until you go a little too far with your tweezers. As a child of the ‘90s, I too have succumbed to the consequences of over-plucking my brows and have spent hours on the internet searching for eyebrow growth solutions, wondering if it was even possible to get back to my natural full brows.
To find out exactly what to do if you’re looking to go from thin to thick fluffy eyebrows, I turned to four dermatologists and a brow technician to share their expertise on growing your brows. The consensus across experts is that regrowth is possible, but they stress the importance of digging into the root cause of hair loss or thinning to address any potential underlying conditions.
“One can definitely expect that with good nutrition, robust supplementation, and healthy nourishing topical treatment, your skin will have all the raw materials it needs to build thick beautiful eyebrow hair,” says Dr. Macrene Alexiades, MD, PhD, FAAD, a double board-certified dermatologist in New York City and founder of MACRENE Actives.
Holistic Facialist and Licensed Esthetician (and my personal brow technician), Lynn Gallagher agrees and notes that “depending on the nature of the skin, follicle and hair shaft, and the individual’s typical [growth] pattern/shape, it is possible to reestablish full brows.” She adds that “regrowth can take anywhere from four to eight weeks or a few months until the desired result is achieved.”
Keep reading for all of the details on how to grow thick eyebrows, including best practices, effective serums and ingredients, plus the products or semi-permanent treatments to try while waiting for regrowth.
What Causes Thinning Eyebrows?
“The decrease in brow hair can signal hormonal disruption, various deficiencies, or immune responses/conditions,” says Gallagher. For example, “if the outer third of the brows is thinning, this may be a sign of thyroid disease,” says Dr. Alexiades. She adds that other causes could include “alopecia areata [which] may manifest with loss of eyebrow hairs, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis [that] can cause redness and eyebrow thinning.”
Alternatively, thinness can simply be a result of damaged hair follicles caused by popular brow grooming techniques. When growing out your brows, Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology group based in New York City, recommends avoiding hair removal techniques that can damage the hair follicle and lead to sparse eyebrows. That means “no plucking, no threading, and no waxing,” although trimming is permitted.
If you do have an unfortunate eyebrow hair removal experience where too much is removed, you don’t need to worry – “a rare occasion of overly plucked hair can rebound and recover within several weeks,” says Dr. Nazarian. She recommends immediately applying an over the counter hydrocortisone cream for a week to help with inflammation and irritation around the hair follicles.
Best Practices for Growing Your Eyebrows
After determining the reason for hair loss, Gallagher suggests avoiding hair removal. “Even if the brow may be a bit unruly for a few months, give your skin and hair a break,” she says. “The hair is always cycling through phases of growth and shedding so it’s best not to disrupt nature.”
Before I started going to Gallagher, I plucked a little here and there and inevitably, my brows would never have the thick arch shape I coveted. I love my brow sessions with her for many reasons – one: she’s a master at her craft and two: the eyebrow education she provides with each visit. She recommends seeking the guidance of professionals who can help you come up with a plan. “A brow technician [will] show you best practices for maintaining the shape, volume, and health of the skin and brow hair, and maintain an excellent look even while growing.”
The Best Brow Growth Serums & Ingredients
For healthier and fuller brows, try conditioning serums that help hair appear thicker in the area of application. Ingredients like “peptides help provide [the] building blocks for hair growth,” says Dr. Michele Farber, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia.
Dr. Jeanine Downie, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Image Dermatology, recommends the Obagi Nu-CilTM Eyebrow Boosting Serum. With ingredients like biotin, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, and a proprietary lipid compound, this serum has been shown to address thinning and patchy brows and demonstrated “fuller, denser and darker” brows in eight weeks during the brand’s 12-week study from this year. By 12 weeks of use, 89% of study participants had an improvement in an overall healthy eyebrow appearance.
Another serum option is bimatoprost ophthalmic solution 0.03% (commonly known as Latisse). The medication is FDA-approved to grow eyelashes for people with inadequate or not enough lashes but has been used off-label for eyebrow growth. It’s important to speak to your dermatologist to see if this is an option for you, and “go in with your eyes wide open because there may be side effects such as iris darkening,” says Dr. Alexiades. Other common side effects include skin hyperpigmentation, redness and an itching sensation. “Be careful using eyelash and eyebrow growth serums that are not by prescription,” says Dr. Alexiades.
Three of the dermatologists mention that some studies have demonstrated efficacy for the use of topical minoxidil (Rogaine) for eyebrows. “Minoxidil has been shown to help address [hair loss] from hormonal signaling. It can increase the time the hair spends in the growth phase and improve follicle size,” explains Dr. Nazarian. “Minoxidil also likely works through the vascular channels, improving blood flow to hair,” she adds. “Use caution when applying the treatment as it can cause eye irritation and hair growth in unwanted areas.”
As far as trendy essential oils go, rosemary oil “has been shown to increase blood flow and therefore nutrients to hair follicles – which is the primary pathway thought to be responsible for [improving] hair growth,” says Dr. Nazarian. “It’s anti-inflammatory, which can treat different forms of irritation and damage,” she adds. She notes that it’s important to use it for at least six months to see a noticeable difference. Dr. Nazarian also recommends Suave Rosemary and Mint Conditioner as it’s “great for sensitive skin because it uses no added dyes or parabens [and] contains natural rosemary, not just the scent.” Use this product daily in the shower or as you would apply a mask. Dove Thickening Ritual Shampoo is another great option as she says it “works well to build volume and fullness, even with eyebrows.”
Another at-home option is dermarolling, which can “stimulate increased circulation around the brows, but needs to be done gently, without applying too much pressure,” says Dr. Nazarian. This “allows for better penetration of topical products.”
What To Look For In A Brow Growth Product
It can be tempting to use an over-the-counter product or at-home remedy to address sparse hair growth but, like with any ingredients, it’s important to look to the data to evaluate efficacy. “There are not many science-backed remedies to improve hair growth,” notes Dr. Nazarian. If you’re considering essential oils, use caution as “anything with fragrance can cause irritation around the hair follicles and can cause a secondary rash” leading to a worse outcome, notes Dr. Farber.
Gallagher notes that castor oil has historically been used to nourish the skin and hair because of its moisturizing properties and vitamin E/fatty acid content, although “claims of lengthening or thickening may not be conclusive” for use in hair growth, she adds. Several dermatologists agree that remedies like castor oil have not been clinically tested and would not recommend it. “People break out because oil clogs their pores,” says Dr. Downie.
How To Mask Eyebrow Thinness In The Meantime
While growing out your brows takes time and patience, there are many options now to help mask thinness in the meantime. “If the brow is healthy enough, a semi-permanent solution to enhance the color, such a henna tint, can be used,” says Gallagher. Procedures like lamination and microblading are more expensive options, but they can be a great way to create the appearance of fuller brows. My personal strategy is to use a combination of tinting, shaping, and penciling in-between appointments. The Kosas Brow Pop Eyebrow Pencil is one of the best I’ve tried.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is to not be too hard on yourself, with eyebrows and any other uphill climb. “Practice self-compassion and patience,” says Gallagher. “We can speed it up with growth serums but we must remember to maintain balance when treating any skin or hair concern.”
After all, the hair growth phase is around three months, so like with any form of hair loss, you’ll need to wait it out to evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment method.