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What hormone is responsible for eyebrows?

Eyebrows play an important role in facial expression and aesthetics. The growth and maintenance of eyebrows are regulated by hormones, mainly androgens like testosterone. Understanding the hormonal factors influencing eyebrow growth can provide insight into conditions like eyebrow hair loss or excess hair growth.

The Role of Eyebrows

Eyebrows serve several functions:

  • They shade the eyes from sweat, water, and debris.
  • They frame the eyes and influence facial expressions.
  • They provide tactile feedback when touched.
  • They influence facial aesthetics and grooming practices.

Given these important roles, hormonal conditions affecting eyebrow growth can impact daily functioning and psychosocial wellbeing. Identifying the hormonal mechanisms regulating eyebrows is necessary to understand and treat abnormalities in eyebrow hair.

Hormonal Regulation of Hair Growth

Hair growth occurs in cyclic phases of growth (anagen), regression (catagen), and rest (telogen). Hormones regulate this hair cycle by binding to receptors in the hair follicles. Androgens like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are the primary hormones stimulating hair growth:

  • Androgens bind to androgen receptors in the dermal papilla at the base of hair follicles.
  • This extends the anagen growth phase, producing longer, thicker, and pigmented hairs.
  • Androgens also increase the conversion of thinner vellus hairs into thicker terminal hairs during puberty.

In contrast, estrogens like estradiol have an inhibitory effect, shortening the anagen phase and producing finer, lighter hairs. The ratio of androgens to estrogens influences the type of hair grown. Eyebrow hair follicles are generally more sensitive to androgens than scalp hair follicles.

Key Hormones Influencing Eyebrows


Testosterone is the primary androgen stimulating eyebrow growth. It is produced by the testes and adrenal glands in both men and women. Testosterone is converted to DHT by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase in hair follicles, where DHT then binds to receptors. DHT is even more potent than testosterone in stimulating facial and body hair growth.


Estrogens like estradiol inhibit hair growth by opposing the effects of androgens. Estradiol is the main estrogen in women produced by the ovaries. The marked drop in estrogen levels during menopause allows testosterone and DHT to stimulate excess facial hair growth in some women.

Growth Hormone (GH)

Growth hormone (GH) promotes hair growth directly by stimulating dermal papilla cells and indirectly by increasing the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). GH levels decline naturally with age, contributing to thinner eyebrows in older adults. Artificially elevated GH, as seen in acromegaly, leads to thick, coarse eyebrows.

Thyroid Hormones

Thyroid hormones like triiodothyronine (T3) influence eyebrow growth by regulating metabolism and the hair cycle. Low thyroid hormone levels in hypothyroidism are associated with sparse eyebrows, while elevated levels cause extra eyebrow hair growth.


Insulin enhances eyebrow growth directly and indirectly by increasing the bioavailability of GH and IGF-1. This leads to hyperinsulinemic conditions like insulin resistance being associated with excess facial and body hair growth in women.

Adrenal Androgens

The adrenal glands secrete weak androgens like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione (A4). These contribute minimally to normal eyebrow growth but excess secretion in conditions like congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) can overstimulate hair follicles.


Prolactin opposes the effects of androgens by binding to receptors in hair follicles. Elevated prolactin secretion decreases eyebrow growth, while bromocriptine treatment to lower prolactin is associated with increased eyebrow hair thickness.

Sex Differences in Eyebrow Hair

Eyebrow hair growth patterns differ between males and females due to differences in androgen and estrogen levels:

Males Females
  • Higher testosterone levels
  • Increased DHT conversion
  • Longer, thicker eyebrow hairs
  • More terminal hairs
  • Continued growth into old age
  • Higher estrogen levels
  • Reduced testosterone conversion
  • Shorter, thinner eyebrow hairs
  • More vellus hairs
  • Reduced growth after menopause

These hormonal differences lead to males generally having bushier, more pronounced eyebrows than females. However, individual variation based on ethnicity, genes, and age modifies these patterns.

Disorders of Eyebrow Hair Growth

Abnormal eyebrow hair growth or loss can occur due to hormonal disorders:

Excess Hair Growth

  • Hirsutism: Excess androgen levels cause hirsutism or increased facial and body hair in women, including more coarse eyebrow hair.
  • Insulin Resistance: Hyperinsulinemia is associated with hirsutism and bushy eyebrows.
  • Cushing’s Disease: High cortisol levels increase adrenal androgens, stimulating excess eyebrow hair.
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH): Elevated adrenal androgens like DHEA-S lead to hirsutism and thick eyebrows.
  • PCOS: Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes high testosterone and insulin levels, often associated with excessive eyebrow hair growth in women.

Hair Loss

  • Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid hormone levels cause sparse, thinning eyebrows.
  • Hypopituitarism: Deficient GH and gonadotropins decrease eyebrow hair.
  • Hyperprolactinemia: High prolactin levels from pituitary tumors inhibit eyebrow hair growth.
  • Menopause: Falling estrogen levels allow unopposed androgen effects on eyebrows.
  • Aging: Declining GH and sex steroids with age lead to thinning eyebrows.

Treatments for Eyebrow Hair Disorders

Treatments for excessive or insufficient eyebrow hair aim to correct the underlying hormonal imbalance:

  • Hirsutism and alopecia are treated with anti-androgens like spironolactone, combined oral contraceptives, or anti-androgen glucocorticoids like cyproterone acetate.
  • Insulin sensitizers like metformin and PPAR-gamma agonists combat hyperinsulinemic hirsutism.
  • Cushing’s disease requires surgery or medications to reduce cortisol levels.
  • CAH is managed with glucocorticoid therapy to decrease adrenal androgens.
  • Hypothyroidism and hypopituitarism are treated with thyroid hormone and growth hormone replacement respectively.
  • Hyperprolactinemia responds to dopamine agonists like bromocriptine or surgery to remove prolactinomas.
  • Menopausal hormonal therapy containing estrogens can temper excessive eyebrow hair growth.

In the absence of correctable hormonal abnormalities, symptomatic treatment includes plucking, waxing, laser hair removal, or bleaching to reduce unwanted eyebrow hair overgrowth.


Eyebrow growth and characteristics are largely determined by the balance between androgenic hormones like testosterone and DHT, and estrogenic hormones like estradiol. Androgens stimulate more prominent, bushy eyebrows while estrogens favor thinner, sparser hair growth. This hormonal balance underlies many conditions of excess eyebrow hair like hirsutism and insulin resistance, or insufficient eyebrow hair as in hypothyroidism. Understanding these hormonal mechanisms allows targeted treatments to correct abnormalities in eyebrow hair growth.