The eyebrows are an aesthetic consideration for most people but it may be just as important functionally as it is cosmetically. It is believed that the eyebrows shield the eyes from water and sweat. Like any other part of the skin, with or without hair, the eyebrows may be injured, damaged or diseased for a number of different reasons. This can cause swelling, redness, rashes, hair loss and sensations like pain or itching.
Why do the eyebrows itch?
Eyebrow itching, like itching anywhere else on the body, is a result of activation of specialized receptors in the skin. These receptors send signals to the brain that are perceived as itching. The purpose of itching is believed to be a means of prompting scratching, which can then remove any irritation or threat on the skin surface. However, itching may be a symptom of several skin diseases where there is no surface irritation or potential threat to the skin integrity. In these cases, inflammatory chemicals may stimulate the itch receptors.
There are instances where itching may be due to othe reasons. For example, a nervous itch is where a person scratches an area despite there being no itching sensation. In some people, scratching the eyebrow may be one of these reflex actions. It occurs usually under a period of psychological stress similar to when people tend to scratch their heads when thinking intensely. Scratching the eyebrows may also be a habit.
Due to the close proximity, it is important to differentiate itching of the eyelids from itchy eyebrows. The causes of itching at both areas are largely the same.
Read more on itchy eyelids.
Causes of Eyebrow Itching
Itching of the eyebrows may occur for many of the same reasons as itching elsewhere on the body. However, there are a few causative factors that are unique to the eyebrow mainly due to the cosmetic aspect of this part of the face. The causes of eyebrow itching may be due to infestations, infections, irritation, allergies and other skin diseases that occur by a number of different mechanisms that cause damage to the skin.
When eyebrow itching occurs with itching of the eyes then it is important to consider other possible causes. It is equally important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The eye tissue is very delicate and any disease or disorder resulting in itching may progress to more serious complications that could affect vision. A doctor must assess the area and commence with the appropriate treatment as necessary.
Read more on itchy eyes.
Scabies and lice are more common bugs to cause skin infestations but with the eyebrows it is another mite that is more likely to infest the area. The Demodex mite lives in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and may not always cause a problem. In some people these mites result in symptoms like itching but usually does not cause any significant problems on the skin.
Like skin elsewhere, the eyebrow skin may become excessively dry which can lead to itching. Usually this area is well moisturized due to the high concentration of hair follicles and oil glands. However, skin dryness at the eyebrows can still arise for a number of reasons. Dryness can also be a symptom of several skin diseases. People who remove their eyebrows for cosmetic reasons may be particularly prone to skin dryness in the eyebrow area.
Acne tends to occur on areas of the skin where there are more oil glands. Therefore the face is most often affected although iacne also commonly involves the scalp, back, shoulders and chest. Acne arises for a number different reasons but is mostly associated with a change in the sex hormone levels which results in more active oil glands. The characteristic lesion known as pimples can also occur on the eyebrows. It can itch and even become painful as the pimple enlarges.
Fungal infections can sometimes involve the eyebrows. These infections are also sometimes referred to as a ringworm although it is not caused by a worm. A fungal infection of the eyebrows may be an extension of an infection elsewhere, like the scalp which is commonly affected by fungi. These infections are usually superficial and itchy. Sometimes there may also be hair loss.
Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin and there are many different types. Contact dermatitis is one type that arises when substances irritate the skin or trigger an allergic reaction. This may occur on the eyebrows with exposure to chemicals such as hair dyes, cosmetics, soap, sweat and even water that is on the skin for too long. Other types of dermatitis, like atopic and seborrheic dermatitis, may also affect the eyebrows.
Injury to the eyebrows can occur for many of the same reasons as trauma elsewhere on the body surface. Some relatively unique contributing factors are eyebrow shaping and trimming for cosmetic purposes. The eyebrow skin may be injured with the use of tweezers or hot wax as well as other hair removal methods. This in turn may contribute to dermatitis and even infections of the eyebrow skin.
Folliculitis is a condition where the hair follicle becomes inflamed. Most of the time this is due to an infection caused by bacteria. Staphylococci are common bacteria that cause superficial infections like folliculitis. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is another bacteria that may be responsible. Usually there is some irritation or injury of the skin. In the eyebrow region this infection is more likely to occur with activities like hair removal from the eyebrows.
Eyebrow Ingrown Hairs
Ingrown hairs do not often occur at the eyebrows. It arises when the erupting hair shaft curls inwards into the follicle. This may sometimes cause a type of non-infectious folliculitis known as pseudofolliculitis barbae. Although uncommon, ingrown hairs may be more likely to occur when new hair shafts are erupting after having been removed as part of eyebrow modification for cosmetic purposes.
The skin on the eyebrows may also experience sunburn like the rest of the face although the eyebrow hair does provide some degree of protection to the skin. This is more likely to occur with prolonged exposure to intense sunlight and may also arise from using tanning beds. The ultraviolet (UV) light exposure causes skin inflammation which presents with burning, redness and itching.