Flaky Brows, Help Me Out!
January 25, 2009 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Why are my eyebrows so dry, and how can I make this better?

The cold weather has exacerbated a problem that I have had for a while now - the skin around and underneath my eyebrows is becoming very flaky and dry.

My routine consists of washing with plain water in the morning followed by a regular, noncomodogenic moisturizer (paying special attention to my eyebrow area) and at night using a cream cleanser and the same moisturizer. I don't have this problem on the rest of my face, at all.

Is there a more intense moisturizer I should be using on my eyebrows alone? Will exfoliating more often help? Perhaps use a conditioner on my eyebrows (although this seems weird, and I would rather not). Is there a reason the dryness is so concentrated?
posted by amicamentis to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Not having seen your eyebrows, it sounds like seborrhoeic dermatitis. You can use normal dandruff shampoos such as T-gel (a tar based shampoo) or selsun blue, on just your eyebrows.
posted by deliquescent at 2:10 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have eyebrow dandruff too (mainly in the winter). Use a dandruff shampoo, brush your eyebrows with a wet toothbrush to exfoliate, and moisturize. Should do the trick.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:18 PM on January 25, 2009

Seconding seborrhoeic dermatitis.

I started spontaneously having similar symptoms about 8 years ago. Flaky eyebrows and general dryness on my forehead, hairline and under my eyes. Moisturizers didn't help and often made it worse the next day. I tried dandruff shampoo on my eyebrows and that didn't really do anything either.

After a couple years of embarrassing flakes falling from my brows at the worst times, a trip to the dermatologist confirmed that it was seborrhoeic dermatitis. They prescribed T-Gel for my hair/brows every few days, dandruff shampoos for daily use, and Elidel... a completely sketchy cream which might give me skin cancer at some point. But it works. It's nice to have, for the important days when you really don't want flakes falling off. But I hardly ever use it otherwise.

I've tried a lot of the natural remedies (cider vinegar washes, etc) and just about lost my mind trying to get rid of it. None of them have worked.

Now, it's to a point where I just mostly put up with the flakes. It gets a little better or worse each day, and I've found no real pattern. In general, here's what helps me the most:

- Sun. In the summer, a decent day in the sun seems to really help clear it up.

- Regular showers. Every day if possible. However, I only wash my face a couple times a week. I use my wife's Clinique Mild Liquid Soap and gently rub the area.

- Sweat. Seriously. Working out and putting out some good sweat for a while seems to help the seborrhea. I don't know why. Maybe it's just in my head.

- No moisturizers or exfoliating. That only makes mine worse.
posted by csimpkins at 2:50 PM on January 25, 2009

!!! Skin Disease Picture Warning !!!

Here's a pic (not of me) similar to what my seborrhoeic dermatitis on the eyebrows look like at it's worst:

posted by csimpkins at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2009

I have seborrheoeic dermatitis also. Basically, that amounts to flakiness around my eyebrows, hairline and the corners of my nose. Apparently, this is genetic and tends to flare up in times of stress. Elidel has helped me a lot but needs to be used frequently (every day or other day) or the flakiness returns.. Consistent use should help you manage the problem.
posted by rglass at 3:06 PM on January 25, 2009

Having never experienced this (and IANAD), I can't offer much help...but consider taking Cod Liver Oil, or some sort of strong Vitamin D supplement, as that (apparently) does wonders for the skin and may help a bit. This may or may not tie into csimpkins remarks on sunlight.
posted by sektah at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2009

I had something similar on my eyebrows, around my mustache and the orbitals below my eyes. I tried all manner of moisturizers and oils to no avail - they just made the newly emerging skin a little less red. My MD declared it psoriasis and suggested OTC hydrocortisone. It worked like a dream.
posted by plinth at 4:51 PM on January 25, 2009

If I were you, I'd take deliquescent's suggestion and try T-Gel or Selsun Blue. If it really is dermatitis, you might make sure you're taking enough B vitamins, particularly--per the Wikipedia article-- biotin, pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and riboflavin (vitamin B2).

If you can't stomach cod liver oil, you might try fish oil chews. Tastes exactly like slightly oily orange Starburst (and is definitely worthwhile for a number of reasons).

I've found the quickest, easiest way to exfoliate the area above my eyebrows is to scrub them with a dry toothbrush, followed by a judicious application of scotch tape.
posted by aquafortis at 5:54 PM on January 25, 2009

Response by poster: CSimpkins, that picture was probably the grossest thing I have seen all day... yikes! Luckily mine is nowhere NEAR that bad. Thanks to everyone for your answers; I think I will give the shampoo/brushing thing a try and if it is still a problem in a month or two, I will try more drastic measures.
posted by amicamentis at 6:13 PM on January 25, 2009

Just a note on the hydocortisone sugguestion. It works, yes. But don't use it long-term (more than a couple weeks if I recall correctly) . It will thin your skin out and do generally bad things.
posted by csimpkins at 6:32 PM on January 25, 2009

As recommended by plinth OTC topical hydrocortisone cream works very well for two family members who have occasional flaky eyebrows. Clean with plain soap (we use Ivory soap) and warm water. Blot dry. Apply cream sparingly and let it dry. Every other day application (1%) in winter is usually effective for us.
posted by maggieb at 6:35 PM on January 25, 2009

I had this happen to me ONCE. I used conditioner on my eyebrows and forgot I ever did it till I read your question. YMMV.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:04 PM on January 25, 2009

Ah, csimpkins, you are so brave to post skin disease pix, and you have such pretty green eyes.

Amicamentis - it does seem clear that washing and moisturizing won't cut it. I suggest seeing a derm if at all possible. If that's not possible right out of the gate, you might try a sufla-based shampoo first.

And what are you washing your brows with? A soft nail brush or toothbrush?

Seriously though, skin is the enemy - you could have a mild fungus or any of the conditions mentioned herein or god knows what. You just can't trust your own skin. See a doc and get something prescription.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:10 PM on January 25, 2009

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