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What do actress Emilia Clarke, the entire Kardashian clan, British model Cara Delevigne – and for us Boomers, actress/model Brooke Shields – all have in common? They all have thick and glorious eyebrows! Unfortunately, many women with thyroid disorders can only dream of having star-quality brows, or keeping up with the latest trends favoring full, feathery, laminated, and even bushy eyebrows!
While many invisible signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, hair loss is very visible. Coarse, dry, thinning hair and diffuse hair loss – from the head and body – are common symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Many people aren’t aware, however, that in addition to hair on the head, hypothyroidism can also increase the risk of hair loss from another visible area – the eyebrows. The medical term for the eyebrow hair loss is “eyebrow hypotrichosis,” and it’s far more common in people with an underactive thyroid.
Interestingly, loss of the outer third of the eyebrows -- known as “lateral eyebrow loss” or “the Hertoghe sign” -- is considered a unique, characteristic, and almost definitive sign of hypothyroidism by many experts. In some cases, it’s the first clinical sign of hypothyroidism.
For an artistic depictions of apparent thyroid-related eyebrow loss, take a look at this famous 1434 painting by Dutch master Jan van Eyck. “The Arnolfini Portrait” depicts real-life Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife. Closeups of his wife reveal that his wife is missing the outer edges of her eyebrows, along with other signs that have led many thyroid experts to conclude that Arnolfini’s wife was in fact hypothyroid!
If you’re noticing that your eyebrows have become sparse and thin, you have a number of options to get back in the brow game.
1. Test for and treat undiagnosed hypothyroidism
When you notice loss of eyebrow hair or sparse patches, your first step is to get a complete panel of thyroid blood tests to determine if your thyroid is underactive. You can ask your doctor to run these tests, or grab a Paloma home thyroid blood test kit. If your results show hypothyroidism, your doctor will treat you with thyroid hormone replacement medication. In some cases, treatment will reverse the loss of eyebrow hair.
When hypothyroidism treatment is less than optimal, you’ll often experience continuing symptoms, including thinning brows. Make sure that your thyroid levels are not just “normal,” but optimal. Optimized treatment means you’re on the best medication to safely resolve your symptoms, and your thyroid levels support healthy functioning throughout your body – including hair growth.
3. Follow a healthy diet
Healthy hair and a healthy thyroid both rely in part on your diet. Our article, How Hypothyroidism Affects Your Hair, Skin, And Nails, describes some of the foods and nutrients essential for hair health, including healthy fats, anti-inflammatory foods, and antioxidants.
What else can you do if you’re hypothyroid and your treatment is optimized? That’s the time to turn to specialized approaches to help enhance – or even regrow – your eyebrows.
The simplest way to get your brows in shape is using eyebrow-enhancing makeup products, including brow gels, thickeners, powders, and eyebrow pencils. Many terrific products – from inexpensive drugstore options to pricey makeup lines – can help you get beautiful brows. (If you’re having a hard time choosing, Allure has a terrific “Best of Beauty'' roundup of the best eyebrow makeup products on the market!)
Over-the-counter products to promote eyebrow growth
There are a number of products available to treat eyebrow hair loss and encourage growth. Some popular options include Rapidbrow and RevitaBrow. (For more options, Vogue has an excellent rundown of the best and most effective serums for eyebrows.)
The over-the-counter hair loss drug minoxidil – also known by its brand name Rogaine – is an option. While not designed for use on the eyebrows, the product has been well studied and shown to be effective at helping stimulate growth and fullness in the eyebrows.
One study evaluated minoxidil for eyebrows compared to a pricier prescription treatment bimatoprost (Latisse). After 16 weeks of use, about half of the participants had similar hair growth results.
A caution: minoxidil is designed for tougher skin on the scalp, and when used on more sensitive facial skin, it may cause irritation and itching. (Hint: You also don’t want to get it in your eyes!)
Speaking of Latisse, it’s been shown to help eyebrows and eyelashes grow longer, fuller, and darker. Latisse requires a prescription from a physician, however, and the drug can be pricey. The retail price for Latisse can end up costing you around $150 a month, and it’s not typically covered by insurance. (Pro tip: Check GoodRx and SingleCare for coupons that can get your monthly cost of Latisse down to around $50!)
If you’d like to see some real “before and after” photos of the effect of Latisse on thinning eyebrows, check out this article from the medical journal Cureus.
Another popular option is semi-permanent eyebrow makeup, known as “microblading.” Similar to a tattoo, microblading uses a blade with special needles to create very short, thin, hair-like lines of pigment that give you the look of fuller eyebrows. The effects of microblading typically last from one to three years.
If you’re wondering if you’re hypothyroid, the Paloma Complete Thyroid Blood Test kit can get you started on the road to diagnosis, with easy and affordable thyroid testing to determine your thyroid hormone levels. Your at-home thyroid test kit comes with everything you need to collect and test your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Free T4, Free T3, and thyroid antibodies (Thyroid Peroxidase TPO). You'll also have the option to add on reverse T3 and vitamin D tests.
New and veteran hypothyroidism patients can also schedule a virtual visit with one of Paloma’s top thyroid doctors to review lab results and determine the best thyroid medication and treatment plan to restore optimal thyroid function – and, fingers crossed, your eyebrows too!