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Eyebrow Cyst Causes

By A.M. Boyle
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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An eyebrow cyst, often mistaken for a simple pimple, is actually a distinct type of skin condition that can manifest as a noticeable bump on the eyebrow. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, cysts are common and can arise from various underlying causes, including blocked sebaceous glands or hair follicles, with prevalence rates varying based on the specific type of cyst. 

While acne vulgaris and folliculitis are frequent culprits, it's important to note that not all bumps are benign; the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that melanomas, although less common, can present as cyst-like growths on the skin. Dermoid and sebaceous cysts are other possibilities, each with their own characteristics and treatment protocols. Understanding the nature of a bump on the eyebrow is crucial for determining the appropriate course of action, whether it's monitoring or medical intervention.

When a cyst appears on the eyebrow, it might be asymptomatic, or it could cause pain or sensitivity. It can also vary in size. Often, an eyebrow cyst is nothing to worry about. There are times, though, especially if the cyst is larger in size or causing uncomfortable symptoms, when removal or other treatment might be necessary.

Acne vulgaris is a common cause of eyebrow cysts. This condition typically occurs when dead skin blocks the pores on the surface of the skin. An infection can result, and the affected area develops a raised skin pouch recognized as a cyst. It can be especially prevalent for people with thick eyebrows because dead skin can more easily accumulate at the base of the eyebrow hairs.

Another common cause of an eyebrow cyst is folliculitis. Basically, this condition occurs when one or more of the hair follicles on the eyebrows becomes inflamed. This inflammation can result from a blocked follicle or some sort of damage there, such as might be caused by a person plucking his or her eyebrows. The swollen area appears as a small lump in the skin.

Melanoma, one of the most common forms of skin cancer, can also cause a cyst in the area of the eyebrow. With a melanoma, damaged skin cells do not die off but rather continue to reproduce, resulting in a random lump on the surface of the skin that often continues to grow over time. This lump of tissue can occur anywhere on the surface of the skin, including the eyebrow area.

Depending on the nature of an eyebrow cyst, it could also be considered a dermoid or sebaceous cyst. Dermoid cysts are primarily a congenital defect that is present at birth. It is caused when a small hollow in the skin becomes filled with skin tissue. The size can vary, and while a dermoid cyst might not cause any discomfort or other health concerns, an individual might want it removed for aesthetic reasons.

Many times, the oil glands in the skin become blocked, causing a soft pouch of skin to develop. When this happens, it is called a sebaceous, or epidermal, cyst. This condition sometimes occurs in the eyebrow area, where the sebaceous glands are located near the eyebrow hair follicles. Normally, an eyebrow cyst caused by blocked oil glands is filled with a thick, whitish or yellowish fluid.

Frequently, an eyebrow cyst is a nonthreatening condition. Still, a cyst should always be evaluated by a medical professional to determine its cause and whether treatment is necessary. This is especially true if the eyebrow cyst appears red, causes pain, or if it appears to grow over a period of time.

Lump Under Eyebrow

If you have a lump under your eyebrow, the chances are that it is just a pimple. Pimples occur when your pores become clogged with dirt or bacteria. There are several reasons you may develop pimples in your eyebrow area.

Cosmetics

Hairstyling products and makeup products are one major cause of pimples in the eyebrow area. This is especially true if you don't wash your face before you go to bed at night. Even if you wash your face every evening, bacteria that builds up in your makeup brushes and sponges can develop pimples along the eyebrows often. Clean your makeup brushes after every use and replace them periodically to prevent this.

Excess Oil

The pores of your skin have sebaceous glands that produce oil. The hair follicle in each pore then carries the sebum to the surface of your skin. It helps to carry away dead skin cells and dirt as well as protects your skin from losing moisture. Some parts of the skin, like the T-zone, create more sebum than other parts of the skin. The excess sebum may trap the very debris it's meant to pull away from your pores, creating clogs that lead to acne.

Ingrown Hairs

Sometimes, a bump may look like a pimple but is actually an ingrown hair. Ingrown hairs happen if the strand, such as eyebrow hair, gets stuck under the skin and curls inward. Eventually, it begins to grow backward or sideways. People who regularly tweeze, pluck, or shave their eyebrows are more susceptible to ingrown hairs. The hair may cause mild discomfort or itching, but it may also become red and filled with pus, creating a tiny cyst.

What's That Bump on Eyebrow That's Not Pimple?

Sometimes, a bump under the eyebrow is not a pimple at all. Sometimes, it is a type of cyst. While people tend to associate cysts with cancer, the truth is that the vast majority of cysts under the eyebrow are harmless.

Folliculitis

Some people develop folliculitis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicles. It is common in facial hair and typically occurs as a reaction to makeup or other chemicals. It may be red and look like a pimple with hair in the middle of it. Folliculitis is often itchy and usually requires antibiotics or antifungals to treat.

Lipomas

Sometimes, people develop a fatty deposit under the skin on the eyebrow. These smooth areas are harmless and cause no pain. They usually do not require treatment and may go away on their own.

Melanoma

Sometimes, a cyst under the eyebrow can be cancerous. Melanoma is a type of cancer that often looks like a small, discolored spot. It may begin to look like a mole over time. Look for changes in shape, size, or color. Melanoma spots may also be itchy or bleed easily. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

There are other types of skin cancer as well. If you have a lump under your skin that is sore and doesn't seem to respond to medications it may be a type of skin cancer. This is especially true if it grows, becomes scaly, bleeds, or looks ulcerated.

Sebaceous Cysts

A sebaceous cyst occurs when an ingrown hair causes infection. They are typically darker than the surrounding skin and painful to the touch. Discharge from these cysts is common and treatment typically includes antibiotic creams. Depending on the size of the cyst, removal may be necessary.

Skin Cysts

Skin cysts are tiny pockets of tissue that may fill with pus or fluid. A skin cyst is usually smooth and does not cause any pain. They can develop over a period of time and typically go away with the help of antibacterial cream.

Eyebrow Cyst Removal

If you have a cyst on your eyebrow, never try to remove it on your own. Doing so can create skin infections that lead to even bigger problems. If a cyst under your eyebrow doesn't seem to be going away on its own, talk to your doctor. He or she can prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications for you. Depending on the situation, your doctor may request that you see a dermatologist or another specialist to ensure the cyst is not cancerous or to have it professionally removed.

How To Prevent Future Eyebrow Cysts

To prevent pimples or cysts under the eyebrows in the future, wash your face at least twice a day. This is especially necessary if you wear makeup or use hair products. When sleeping, pull your hair away from your face if necessary. Talk to your doctor about the best skincare options for you if the problem persists.

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Discussion Comments
By anon997384 — On Dec 30, 2016

I have developed a bump just underneath my eyebrow which has gradually increased in size. I woke up 2 days ago with my eye half its normal size due to swelling. The bump has become very painful and very large.

I went to the GP and the doctor (who barely looked at me), she was not sure what is was but prescribed me Flucloxacillin 500mg which I need to take four times a day for seven days!

The next day I noticed that the swelling had increased. The swelling is now not only on my eyelid but also under my eye, making it look as if I have massive bags. I look awful as well, as if I have been punched in the eye - just missing the blackness and bruising.

It is also slightly painful with my resting face and obviously hurts more when I move my eyebrows.

GPs are absolutely useless. I said that swelling has slightly increased from yesterday and was told to monitor the swelling over the course of the day.

I am now also taking Piriton Allergy Tablets (you can take these with the above antibiotic or so I was told) to see if this reduces the swelling.

If my condition worsens overnight, I think a trip to A&E is needed.

By anon357764 — On Dec 06, 2013

I have a bump under my eyebrow hiding in the hairs and yesterday I just thought it was a pimple but it had no head and it was painful to touch and very sensitive. I went to sleep and woke up today only to notice its gotten a little bigger now my eye is noticeably smaller than the other.

By anon339954 — On Jun 28, 2013

I have a cyst under my eyebrow that I've had since birth. It is getting bigger and I notice I get more pressure in that area when I have head aches. I tried to get it removed, but insurance doesn't cover the procedure.

By DylanB — On Dec 09, 2012

I had no idea that eyebrow cysts could be cancerous! I am definitely going to get my lump checked out now.

By lighth0se33 — On Dec 09, 2012

@healthy4life – I always pluck those wayward hairs. I know that the thought of that is a little scary, since it is so tender right now, but getting rid of that hair will make you feel better sooner.

After I pluck the hair at the root, I apply alcohol to prevent infection. I avoid touching the area for a day or so to let the tenderness subside, and usually by the next day, all is well.

By healthy4life — On Dec 08, 2012

What do you do if you have an inflamed eyebrow hair? I have this one that is pointed in the opposite direction from the others, and when I touch it, I feel that the skin below it is very sore.

By Perdido — On Dec 08, 2012

I've had little bumps under the hair of my eyebrows before. I just thought they were acne. I had never heard of the term “sebaceous cyst.”

If they had a head, I squeezed them. Mayonnaise colored fluid came out.

I did notice that eyebrow cysts were always more painful than regular pimples elsewhere on my face. Just touching the area afterward would send waves of pain through my forehead.

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