I can think of only one look that’s been unrelentlessly on-trend for the better part of a decade: bold brows. Whether your personal style leans more towards minimalism (via a single swipe of Boy Brow) or maximalism (via a layered application of powder, pencil, and pomade), there’s no denying that big brows are The Thing To Have. Which makes it all the more frustrating when yours start thinning or stop growing back. There are plenty of reasons this might be happening — age, environment, over-plucking, and illness can play a part. But rest assured, there are also plenty of ways to treat eyebrow hair loss and restore your arches to their full, former glory.
“There are two factors that make for healthy-looking brows: the surface and the deeper-rooted follicle health," Dominique Bossavy, a celebrity eyebrow expert (she’s Lena Dunham’s microblading artist), tells The Zoe Report. Treatments like hair supplements aim to boost actual growth by focusing on your follicles, but Bossavy says surface-level care is just as important for long, strong brows. “We can not activate dead or damaged follicles [with topical treatments], but we can do our best to keep the skin in good health and condition,” she stresses. The expert compares brow care products to fertilizer: “The fertilizer and soil at the top are helpful to the process, but nothing grows without seeds below.”
Ahead, exactly how to boost your brows with metaphorical Miracle-Gro.
Make Sure Your Makeup Isn’t Clogging Your Follicles
“Currently, there is no evidence that use of leave-on makeup products adversely affects the growth of eyebrows in an otherwise healthy individual,” Dr. Caroline Robinson, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist, tells The Zoe Report. “If patients are already experiencing thinning or lack of growth, however, I caution to proceed with a less-is-more approach with regard to daily eyebrow makeup and products.” She notes that brow makeup is sometimes formulated with allergens that cause contact dermatitis. “Rashes can occur as a result, and this can certainly temporarily impact hair growth,” Dr. Robinson says.
As far as which products are the least likely to (negatively) impact growth? Powders. “Brow products that are powder-based would not be able to obstruct the hair follicle canal, because the oil and oxygen would perspire and pierce through it,” Bossavy says. On the other hand, thick waxes and pomades may clog follicles, interrupting the growth cycle.
Cleanse Your Brows — But Be Mindful Of Ingredients
“You need to clean and remove makeup from the surface of the skin so that it doesn’t build up and gather bacteria, oil, and sweat,” Bossavy says. “If the surface area is full of dead skin cells, excess sebum, or debris, it could limit the potential of good eyebrow growth.” Basically: Thoroughly cleanse your arches every night.
However, be mindful of the ingredients in your go-to face wash. “Cleansers can contain a range of active ingredients including sulfate-based detergents and synthetic detergents,” Dr. Robinson says. “Overuse of these types of facial cleansers can cause excess dryness of not only the skin, but also the eyebrows — and this can create more brittle hairs that are certainly predisposed to thinning.” She recommends a gentle, creamy cleanser to keep your face and follicles happy.
Eyebrows Need Exfoliation, Too
Do you include your brows in your weekly exfoliation ritual? Well, you should. “A great way to protect your brows and prevent loss is gentle exfoliation,” Bossavy tells TZR. “It will stimulate blood flow to the follicles and remove dandruff, oil, and dead cells.” It might be a good idea to skip the acids (aka, chemical exfoliators) in favor of a mild physical scrub, though. “Anything with glycolic, salicylic, or lactic acid can impede the growth of your brows,” Jerami Robins, a brow specialist at Antonio Prieto Salon, tells The Zoe Report. “I feel these harsh chemicals can break and thin the fragile brow hair.”
Don't Forget The Conditioner
“Like our hair on our heads, eyebrows are porous, so conditioned brows that retain moisture appear to be healthier,” Bossavy says. “Products like castor oil are absorbed into the hair shaft and help keep the hair looking fuller.” Disclaimer: Castor oil won’t necessarily promote growth (that’s one of the industry’s longest-running rumors, which sadly doesn’t have much science behind it). But it will make the hairs you do have stronger and shinier.
Robins says “a little goes a long way” with castor oil. “You don’t want to use too much and clog your pores, which will impede brow growth.” Instead, he recommends dabbing a bit of oil on your ring finger, then lightly running your fingertip over the brow, against the direction of growth. “Then go back in the direction brows naturally grow,” Robins instructs. “This will ensure that brows are coated thoroughly.” Obviously, this step is best saved for before bed.
Treat Yourself To Facial Massage
“Stimulating blood flow with circulatory facial massage is helpful,” Bossavy adds. A few minutes of self-massage boosts circulation and oxygenates hair follicles. “When you consistently oxygenate the area and maximize circulation, you have healthy cellular turnover at the top levels of the epidermis to support best conditions for growth,” she says. Use your fingers, your jade roller, or gua sha every morning for best results. (You’ll be surprised at how amazing a mini brow massage feels, too. Furrow, who?)
Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This
Healthy brows don’t require much — cleanse, exfoliate, condition, massage. Adding extra skincare steps could have the opposite of the intended effect. “Topical retinoids, those used for anti-aging, may cause eyebrow hair loss,” Bossavy warns. That doesn’t mean you need to give up your precious retinol products — just keep them off your arches. “Don’t apply your retinoid to your eyebrow or the area immediately above, where it may migrate,” the pro suggests. “Keep a little distance for best brow growth.”
Be diligent with laser treatments, too (like laser hair removal or laser facials). “Lasers, of course, can damage follicles,” Bossavy says. “But using them on other areas of the face” — i.e., not your eyebrows — “should not have any effect.”
Finally, if you’re experiencing sudden or unexplained eyebrow thinning or hair loss, it's best to seek professional input. “Consult your board-certified dermatologist, as this may be a result of a medical condition,” Dr. Robinson says.