Few things cause alarm the way white flakes falling from your hairline do. You might know how to deal with the deal with the scalp condition, but you might want to brush up on how to treat eyebrow dandruff, too, since it can happen to anyone.
Dandruff, regardless of where it is, is technically called seborrheic dermatitis. “Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by a fungus called malassezia” says Dr. Steven Shapiro, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Shapiro MD. “An excess amount of malassezia breaks down the oils in your skin, causing your skin cells to shed faster than usual.” That’s what causes the infamous large, flaking clumps. And if those clumps are gray, white, or yellow, you’ve likely got dandruff, according to Shapiro.
It may be easier to spot dandruff when it flakes from your head, but it looks a little different south of your hairline. “If your skin and eyebrow hairs appear oily, and you see large flakes, it is most likely eyebrow dandruff,” says Veronica Tran, eyebrow expert and founder of Pretty in the City. If your flakes are smaller, she notes it is usually a result of dry, irritated skin. You could also be experiencing dandruff if the brow area is “flushed and itchy,” adds Shapiro.
There are a few ways brow-druff can happen. “Triggers include cold weather, allergies, and personal care products, as well as skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis,” says Shapiro. Dry skin is also a common culprit: “When the skin is dry, the body produces more oil to compensate,” says Nilam Holmes, founder of Eyebrow Queen. “That causes the flaking effect of dandruff.” Or the flakes can be caused by factors like your diet (too much dairy or sugar), stress, or even the face wash you’re using, explains Holmes.
But if you’ve got the pesky flakes, it’s no biggie — here are five easy, expert-approved ways for treating eyebrow dandruff.
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1. Pick The Right Cleanser
One of the easiest ways to combat brow flakes: Find a good face wash. Nalim recommends an exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid to help unplug blocked pores. Veronica also says it’s important to find a face wash that doesn’t dry out your skin, as this could lead to more dandruff. For something moisturizing, look for a cleanser that is free of sulfates (which are drying) and has skin barrier-reparative ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
2. Avoid Oily Products
Also key? Avoid skin care products that clog your hair follicles, says Nalim, who notes this is common with heavy formulas like pomades or glue-like brow gels. Steer clear of comedogenic ingredients (these tend to plug pores) like coconut oil, cocoa butter, beexwax, and shea butter. While the jury is out on whether Vaseline blocks hair follicles which helps fester bacteria, maybe think twice about including your eyebrows in your nighttime slugging routine.
3. Moisturize Them!
To prevent brow-druff from happening, keep (clap) your (clap) skin (clap) moisturized (clap). Though your arches are on your face, how many people actually take careful steps to ensure they’re including their brow hairs (or other appendages) in their skin care routine? “Balancing oil production with products is important,” says Nilam. “Make sure you moisturize through the brows.” Veronica also emphasizes this point, and recommends doing it right out of the shower to seal in the product.
4. Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an ingredient that can be used in countless ways — including in the treatment of eyebrow flakes. “To treat true eyebrow dandruff, try applying apple cider vinegar with a cotton pad daily to kill or reduce the number of fungi present,” says Veronica. And, hey — it works on your scalp, so chances are it’ll work on your brows too.
5. Use A Dandruff Shampoo
Finally, use a dandruff shampoo — they can help with the issue on places beyond the scalp. Nilam advises using products with ingredients like pyrithione zinc, selenium disulfide, and coal tar, all of which are commonly found in dandruff treatments and combat seborrheic dermatitis. Soon enough, you’ll be back to your flake-free arches.
Borda, L. (2015). Seborrheic Dermatitis and Dandruff: A Comprehensive Review. J Clin Investig Dermatol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852869/
Kim, G. (2009). Seborrheic Dermatitis and Malassezia species. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923939/
Ranganathan, S. (2010). Dandruff. The Indian Journal of Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887514/
Dr. Steven Shapiro, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Shapiro MD
Veronica Tran, eyebrow expert and founder of Pretty in the City
Nilam Holmes, founder of Eyebrow Queen