Submitted via the FutureDerm Facebook page:
What can be done to make eyebrows grow? Mine are very sparse!
Many women experience thinning eyebrows in their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond. Thinning eyebrows are usually the cause of natural aging, overplucking of the eyebrows, or a condition called seborrheic dermatitis (Dermatology Times, 2011). Overplucking of the eyebrows is the most common cause; each time a hair is plucked, there is a chance of permanent follicular damage and no regrowth. After years of plucking, the probability of hair loss from traumatic plucking increases.
Seborrheic dermatitis causes an itchiness of the eyebrows, which in turn leads patients to vigorously scratch the area. Treating the seborrheic dermatitis with a combination of desonide cream and ketoconazole cream twice daily for one week should control the problem, as can ketoconazole shampoo. It is best if a dermatologist diagnoses this condition in person.
So what can be done?
Prescription eyelash growth product Latisse has been shown to increase the growth of eyebrows (ABC News, 2011). Although the evidence is anecdotal, many women do report experiencing fuller, thicker eyebrows after just 4-6 weeks of nightly use. Prostaglandin analogs, like the active ingredient lumigan in Latisse, have been cleared by the FDA as perfectly safe and unlikely to cause glaucoma, though this is only for use on the eyelashes. While the eyebrows are further from the eyes and therefore less likely to cause harm, take care not to use so much product that you accidentally drip some into your eyes.
If you would like an over-the-counter product rather than a prescription, there is an eyelash growth treatment called Revítalash ($70.50, amazon.com) with a milder active prostaglanoid, latanoprost. The risks with Revítalash are the same as Latisse, because latanoprost and bimatoprost are both prostaglanoids, namely a very slight risk of increased intraocular pressure (i.e., glaucoma) and a change in eye color, but only if you get the product near your eyes. Revitalash is likely to produce a similar effect as Latisse, but more slowly; expect 6-8 weeks for full effect.
If you are losing hair from the top of your head and have thinning eyebrows, perhaps you should consider a hair growth supplement. Viviscal, a marine protein supplement, is the best-selling supplement worldwide with the most substantial scientific backing of any I have seen to date. Though it has been around for about 20 years, it recently gained popularity as Hollywood stylists started using it on celebrities like Kate Hudson (In Style Makeover, 2011). Viviscal has shown to treat alopecia areata and androgen-related hair loss (Journal of International Medical Research, 1992). Changes in dietary protein have been found to create corresponding changes in the level of protein within the hair within six to twelve months of the dietary adjustments (American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 1999).
The mechanism by which marine protein works is not known. However, due to the fact that Vivida®, a fish protein extract, resulted in similarly improved hair growth, it has been suggested that marine protein may provide missing amino acids to the hair follicle that aid in hair growth (Journal of International Medical Research, 1992). It has also been suggested the silica compound component of Viviscal® may be important, as silica supplements have been associated with increased hair growth, though there are few studies to substantiate this (Hair Savers for Women, 2000). Again, this is the best option only if you have demonstrated hair loss from the top of your head in addition to your eyebrows, suggesting that you may have a protein deficiency of some sort.
As of right now, the best course of action is to first determine the cause of your thinning eyebrows; if seborrheic dermatitis, see a dermatologist for a desonide/ketoconazole treatment; if aging or overplucking/subsequent damage to the hair follicle, then prostaglandin analog-rich prescription Latisse or over-the-counter Revitalash may be your best bets; if, however, you have generalized hair loss, you may suffer from a protein deficiency or another underlying medical condition. It is best to see your doctor, and perhaps try a protein-rich supplement like Viviscal.