Derms say you should be exfoliating your eyebrows—here’s exactly how to do it


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Photo: Getty Images/Sol Bela

Just like your scalp, the skin under your eyebrows can become dry and flaky in the cold winter months. You’ve probably already been exfoliating the rest of your body, but you might want to exfoliate your flaky eyebrows, too. Just hear me out, okay?

“When we talk to patients about the look and feel of their eyebrows, many are surprised when we recommend exfoliating them because we’re so used to talking about exfoliation in terms of just skin. But if you think about it, your eyebrows can benefit from exfoliation, just like your scalp benefits from a scalp scrub,” says Gretchen Frieling, MD, a dermatopathologist in Boston. “All exfoliation is doing is helping clear our dead skin to make room for new skin cells. This helps maintain your natural protective skin barriers, helps skin cell turnover, and—while we still need more research—it’s believed that it can aid hair by helping it grow healthy and strong for better-looking eyebrows.”

Exfoliating your eyebrows doesn’t just get rid of those pesky flakes. It can also help with growth, giving you the bushy brows of your dreams. Before rushing off to the bathroom and scrubbing away, first do yourself a favor and find out how to get the job done properly, straight from the experts.

How to exfoliate your flaky eyebrows

1. Choose the right exfoliant and be gentle

When it comes to exfoliating your brows, chemical exfoliants might be better than physical exfoliants. “They’ll leave the brow hairs less disturbed as you’re sloughing away dry skin,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “It’s very effective in breaking down skin cells and also increasing collagen production because of the removal of dead particles.” Exfoliating the area can dramatically refine your skin texture, and it also stimulates your lymphatic system. “Blood increases in that area and eliminates waste, which can reduce inflammation,” she says.

If you choose a physical exfoliant, the key is being super, super gentle. “Unlike your scalp, which has thicker skin layers, the hairs and skin of the brows need to be treated much more delicately,” Dr. Frieling says. If you’re being too rough, pulling or scrubbing your brows too harshly, you could accidentally remove hair or create a pattern of hair loss. “If you want to scrub the actual follicles, you should be very gentle to avoid thinning your hair count,” she says. “Instead, you could stick to only exfoliating the area around the brows where flakes and dry skin is most visible.”

2. Stick to a schedule

Two to three times a week is the most you should be exfoliating your flaky eyebrows if you’re scrubbing. “If you’re first starting out after ignoring your brows, you may want to start by addressing your brows just once a week,” Dr. Frieling says. “Spend an extra 30 to 60 seconds applying your exfoliant agent to the skin around the eyebrows in a circular motion to help clear out flakes caused by the dryness and cold of winter.”

If you’re using a chemical exfoliant, you can exfoliate your brows more often. In fact, Dr. Engelman recommends using an exfoliating cleanser daily. “It’s safe enough to use on the skin every day while removing dead cell pile up and flaky layers for smooth skin,” she says. “I first start with a cleansing oil to remove all makeup and bacteria, then use the exfoliating cleanser to target skin buildup.”

Then to really enhance cell turnover and eliminate dry, dull-looking skin, she uses a pad with 5 percent glycolic acid 2 to 3 times a week. “Glycolic acid—derived from sugar cane—is the smallest acid in size, meaning the molecule can get deep into the skin,” Dr. Engelman says. “It’s very effective in breaking down skin cells and the removal of dead particles.”

3. Add some moisture to the mix

After exfoliating, you’ll want to moisturize your brows in order to fight off dryness and help them become fuller and healthier. Dr. Frieling recommends conditioning your brows after exfoliating—as well as throughout the week—with a hydrating oil, like coconut oil or castor oil. “The jury is still out on the hair growth benefits of castor oil, but anecdotal evidence points to its ability to increase growth and moisturize,” she says.

Dr. Engelman’s go-to way to replenish hydration post-exfoliation is to look for a product with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and peptides to strengthen the skin barrier because “overworking the skin with too many actives can start to break the bonds between healthy skin cells and thinning the skin.” You can also use a sheet mask or overnight mask. “Pairing a mask with the active serum already applied will boost absorption and efficacy through occlusion,” she says.

You’re only a couple exfoliation sessions away from flake-free brows.

Here’s why you might want to give moisturizing body wash a try for dry skin this winter. Also be sure to check out the $16 moisturizer derms agree is the best of the best for dry skin.

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