Can You Use Minoxidil on Eyebrows?
Hair loss is common as we age, and eyebrow thinning is also common. Besides getting older, you may have eyebrow thinning from over-grooming, genetics, underlying skin conditions like eczema, or medical conditions such as thyroid disease or autoimmune disorders.1
Minoxidil, brand name Rogaine, is a vasodilator that increases blood flow to the skin. It also increases the growth phase in the hair growth cycle. How it works is not currently known. The longer you can keep your eyebrow hair follicles in the growth cycle, the more likely you are to develop longer, thicker eyebrow hair.
Using minoxidil for eyebrow growth is an off-label use because it is only FDA-approved to treat male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss. If you use minoxidil for hair loss on your eyebrows, be aware that it can take a few months to work.
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Does Minoxidil Work on Eyebrows?
Minoxidil was not designed to treat thinning eyebrow hair (eyebrow hypotrichosis). Researchers have investigated whether it would work for this purpose.
In a 16-week study that enrolled forty patients who applied a 2% Rogaine solution to one of their eyebrows and a placebo solution to the other, researchers noted that two-thirds of the study participants had an increase in eyebrow hair. Most rated the improvement as a slight increase. Six out of the thirty-nine people who completed the study noted a moderate increase in eyebrow hair. Improvement was noticed after minoxidil was used for eight weeks.1
Minoxidil, 1% solution, was also found to be superior to placebo when treating eyebrow thinning. The side effects were mainly skin irritation and burning. Sometimes, study participants developed side effects from both minoxidil and placebo use, suggesting that it was the vehicle used to stabilize minoxidil and not the drug itself that was the problem.2
In another study, participants were screened for any medical cause for eyebrow hair loss. Study participants who were not excluded applied topical minoxidil 3% to one eyebrow and bimatoprost (Latisse) 0.03% to the other for 16 weeks. Minoxidil and bimatoprost were almost equally effective in stimulating eyebrow hair growth.3
In a recent follow-up study, researchers compared the safety and effectiveness of bimatoprost and minoxidil gel formulations. The clinical study enrolled sixty participants who were randomized into three groups: 0.01% bimatoprost, 0.03% bimatoprost, and 2% minoxidil. All three groups had increased eyebrow hair growth, with the groups using the 0.03% solution having the best results.4
Causes of Thinning Eyebrows
Eyebrow hair goes through the same hair cycle as other hair, with about 10% to 15% of follicles in the anagen (growth phase) and 85% to 90% of follicles in the telogen (resting phase). Minoxidil shortens the resting phase and can help with eyebrow hair regrowth.4 Other factors can affect the hair cycle and cause thinning eyebrows, including:
- Normal aging: The most common cause of eyebrow hair loss is aging. Over time, hair follicles spend more time in the resting phase, leading to shorter and finer hairs. Before attributing your hair loss to normal aging, consider consulting with a dermatologist about the medical causes of hair loss and potential anti-aging treatments that can slow or reverse the aging process.
- Thyroid disorders: Thyroid hormones regulate growth and metabolism. Too little (hypothyroid) or too much (hyperthyroid) thyroid hormone can affect hair growth. If you have too little thyroid hormone, you may notice a distinctive pattern in your hair loss, with more hair loss in the outer third of your eyebrows.
- Autoimmune conditions: Your immune system protects you from pathogens, but sometimes, immune cells mistake your body cells and hair follicles for the proteins typically seen on bacteria and other pathogens. In this case, your immune system attacks your hair follicles and causes hair loss. This is called alopecia.
- Skin conditions: Inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis can cause inflammation and trigger the immune system to attack your hair follicles. Scratching and rubbing irritated skin can also cause hair loss.
How to Use Minoxidil for Eyebrows
Before applying minoxidil to your eyebrows, consult with a dermatologist. Your dermatologist will help you determine whether there is a medical cause for your hair loss. They can also help you decide whether oral or topical minoxidil is the best option for you.
If you do not have an underlying medical condition, your dermatologist may suggest starting with the 2% minoxidil solution. Apply the solution carefully using a cotton swab. Apply daily for the best results. It may take two months or so to see results.
If you are not seeing good results, talk to your doctor to see if you should increase it to the 5% minoxidil solution.
Warnings and Possible Side Effects
Like all medications, minoxidil has side effects. Your medical history and other medications you are taking may also increase your risk of side effects. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about minoxidil side effects.
Be careful to apply minoxidil only to your eyebrows to avoid unwanted hair growth in other areas. Avoid getting any minoxidil in your eyes.
The most common side effects of topical minoxidil are skin-related and include:
- Scalp itching
- Scalp scaling
- Excessive hair growth
- Changes in hair color or texture
According to drugs.com, the following serious side effects may occur:
- Severe scalp irritation
- Unwanted excessive facial hair growth
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Rapid weight gain from fluid retention
- Vision changes
In a study comparing minoxidil use to a placebo, there was no statistically significant difference in the likelihood of developing side effects. All side effects that were reported in the minoxidil and placebo groups were mild to moderate in severity and resolved within a few days.1
Alternatives to Minoxidil for Eyebrows
Aging is the most common cause of thinning eyebrows. Many people consider hair loss treatments as part of their comprehensive age management plan. Finasteride is another hair-loss treatment that works via a different mechanism. Sometimes, one or the other works better for hair loss. Your doctor may also recommend using both if necessary.
If you experience side effects when using minoxidil or finasteride, your doctor may suggest rosemary oil as an alternative to minoxidil.
More Tips for Eyebrow Care
Avoid over- or under-grooming your eyebrows to reduce eyebrow hair loss.
Other tips to improve or retain eyebrow hair growth:
- Avoid excessive plucking, waxing, and threading, as these procedures can damage your hair follicles over time.
- Ensure you get plenty of folic acid, biotin, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. If you don’t, consider supplements.
- Avoid harsh cleaning products and makeup around your eyes and eyebrows.
- Treat inflammatory skin conditions promptly. Avoid rubbing or itching the sensitive skin around your eyebrows.
- Gently massage your eyebrows to increase blood flow to your hair follicles.
Minoxidil is an effective treatment for eyebrow hair loss, but it is not the only one. Your dermatologist may recommend other options.
- Lee S, Tanglertsampan C, Tanchotikul M, Worapunpong N. Minoxidil 2% lotion for eyebrow enhancement: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, spilt-face comparative study. J Dermatol. 2014 Feb;41(2):149-52. doi: 10.1111/1346-8138.12275. Epub 2013 Nov 8. PMID: 24471459.
- Worapunpong N, Tanglertsampan C. Treatment of eyebrow hypotricho-sis with 1% minoxidil lotion: a prospective, randomized, double-blind,placebo-controlled trial.J Med Assoc Thai.2017;100(5):574–577
- Zaky MS, Hashem OA, Mahfouz SM, Elsaie ML. Comparative study of the efficacy and safety of topical minoxidil 2% versus topical bimatoprost 0.01% versus topical bimatoprost 0.03% in treatment of eyebrow hypotrichosis: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Dermatol Res. 2023 Nov;315(9):2635-2641. doi: 10.1007/s00403-023-02679-2. Epub 2023 Jul 30. PMID: 37517060; PMCID: PMC10514173.