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What Are the Common Causes of Eyebrow Pain?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Eyebrow pain is most often caused by a sinus infection or tension or cluster headaches. Less common causes of eyebrow pain include acute closed-angle glaucoma and temporal arteritis. Eyebrow twitching, while typically not painful, often has no known cause and is usually short-lived.

The most common causes of eyebrow pain are sinusitis, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Sinusitis is caused by an infection in the sinus cavity, which lies behind the face. During the immune response against the infection, the sinuses become inflamed, producing pain and pressure that radiate outward to the areas of the eyebrows and the upper cheeks. Antibiotics to destroy the infection and pain killers are often used to treat this type of pain.

Tension headaches are a feeling of pain or discomfort in the area of the head, especially around the eyebrows. These types of headaches often feel as though the head is being compressed. The exact reason for a tension headache is rarely known, but some of the more common causes are lack of sleep, stress, or the onset of a cold or flu.

Cluster headaches are severe head pain often concentrated around the lower forehead and are another common cause of eyebrow pain. These types of headaches get their name because they often come in groups or waves and then subside for a short period of time. Both tension and cluster headaches are treated with over-the-counter or prescription pain-killing medications.

Two other less common causes of eyebrow pain are acute closed-angle glaucoma and temporal arteritis. Acute closed-angle glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma that produces a quickly accelerating intraocular pressure and results in severe eye pain that can spread to the eyebrow region. This form of glaucoma is treated with drugs to reduce the pressure inside the eye, or with surgery. Temporal arteritis is a disease in which the main arteries which supply blood to the head swell, reducing the supply of nourishment and blood to the head. This disorder can result in intense pain in the eyebrow region and jaw.

Muscle spasms in the eyebrow or eyelid or involuntary tremors in the area of the eyebrow or eyelid are annoying but not an indication of a problem. These uncontrollable muscles spasms, also known as benign essential blepharospasms (BEB), typically appear for a few days and then subside. BEB has no known cause, but many people feel this problem occurs when normal sleep patterns are interrupted or when poor sleep has been experienced for several days. Often these spasms will stop after a good night’s sleep.

How To Pluck Eyebrows Without Pain or Discomfort

When you already experience pain in or around your eyebrows, whether due to an acute or chronic illness or a passing headache, the prospect of any more discomfort is certainly unwelcome. Plucking your eyebrows can help you to achieve a more ideal brow shape, but the pinching and stinging feelings that come with the task are highly unpleasant and can be painful enough to make your eyes water.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to minimize the amount of pain you experience while grooming your eyebrows.

Sharp Tweezers

Some of the pain involved with plucking your eyebrows is due to dull tweezers that cause you to miss eyebrow hairs, which can snag your skin or require you to make several passes over the same area. If your tweezers have grown dull, are difficult to squeeze open and shut, or have simply gotten old, a new, sharper pair can make the task less irritating for your eyebrows.

Hot Water

Your hair follicles are a lot more open after having been exposed to heat or steam, which makes the hairs much easier to remove from your skin. A warm bath, a hot shower, or a washcloth saturated with warm water can open up your hair follicles and reduce the amount of resistance you encounter with each strand of eyebrow hair. Just make sure to leave the heat or steam applied for at least a couple of minutes for optimal results.

Proper Form

Your eyebrow grooming routine could be more painful than it has to be simply due to your technique. Eyebrow hairs should always be grabbed near to the root of the hair and pulled out in the direction of hair growth. Pulling hairs from the end or from the opposite direction can cause breakage or unnecessary irritation to your hair follicles.

As well, it’s best to grab a small section at a time. In fact, plucking one hair at a time can prevent extra pain, as you can be more careful and precise with your routine. Go into your grooming regimen with a plan for the shape and size you’d like to achieve, and make sure to only pluck the hairs that will result in your intended outcome. Overplucking not only makes your brows thinner than you’d hoped, but it adds unnecessary pain to the process.

Aftercare

Hair removal can be stressful for your skin. Get ahead of redness and inflammation as soon as you finish plucking your brows with a small amount of aloe vera gel to soothe the area. The sooner you can apply this solution, the less painful your eyebrow region will be after you’re done.

How To Relieve Sinus Pain Above Eyebrow Areas

Eyebrow pain that is caused by an underlying sinus condition can be treated in a number of ways, but the ideal relief solution largely depends on the root of the problem. Common treatments for sinus conditions include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Cool compresses
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal sprays
  • Anti-inflammatories

The goal of any treatment method that aims to treat sinus pain is to reduce the pressure and discomfort of inflamed or irritated sinuses. Over-the-counter pain, anti-inflammatory, and decongestant medicines can reduce the amount of pressure within the nasal cavity and minimize or eliminate eyebrow pain entirely, and nasal sprays and cool compresses to the forehead can reduce symptoms of painful congestion or swelling. However, if pain or discomfort persists, you may need to schedule a visit with your doctor for further treatment.

How To Thread Eyebrows Without Pain and Soreness

Eyebrow threading is a popular method of brow grooming that is said to hurt less than typical wax or tweezer methods of hair removal. Though it’s known to be less painful, it can still cause pain and discomfort for some.

Before an eyebrow threading session, some people find it helpful to take anti-inflammatory pain medication and avoid any skin treatments that could leave skin more irritated or sensitive than usual. At the session, a qualified eyebrow artist always pulls the skin taut in the proper direction to minimize pain, so it’s important to keep your eyelids closed for the skin to remain as tight as possible and to avoid unnecessary pulling.

A cooling lotion, such as aloe vera gel, is typically applied as soon as the artist is done with hair removal to reduce inflammation and redness. You can continue to soothe your eyebrows after your appointment with cooling compresses, soothing aloe lotions, or non-irritating moisturizers.

Often, eyebrow pain, whether caused by grooming procedures or medical conditions, can be avoided through preventive measures. Because the pain does not generally originate in your eyebrows, treatment should approach the underlying cause of tenderness and discomfort.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon996019 — On Jun 25, 2016

I was in the middle back seat of the car. The light said go but car went before us and stopped the car which i got hit on the seat chair. I found out i had a red thing above my eyebrows. And i don't know how to get rid of the pain. It hurts sometimes in the middle upper or the left upper.

By anon306360 — On Nov 29, 2012

When I raise my eyebrows or apply pressure to the middle/top area of the eyebrow, it causes me slight pain. What could this be?

By anon265532 — On May 02, 2012

I'm exactly the same. I've had the flu for the past two weeks and now that I'm almost over it I've got this really intense pain behind mainly one eyebrow. I've also still got congestion in my head and ears but other than that I'm fine. It's really annoying though,

I think I might give in and go see the doc. It's been a few days now and the pain seems to be slowly getting worse. Being sick stinks!

By StarJo — On Apr 22, 2012

Sometimes, the skin under my eyebrows becomes sore, and the pain seems to radiate outward through one or two hairs of my brow. When this happens, I know that the follicles are irritated.

I gently run my finger across my eyebrow until I feel an intense pain. Sometimes, I don't even have to touch the brow to find the source of the soreness. The hair growing out of the tender spot is often out of place or bent downward.

I get a good grip on it with the tweezers and yank it out quickly. It hurts like crazy, but in an hour or so, all the pain will be gone.

By lighth0se33 — On Apr 22, 2012

@kylee07drg – I know that type of eyebrow pain. I get it whenever I have a bad cold.

Every sinus in my head seems to become filled with mucus and congested. My eyebrows ache, and I can't concentrate on work at all. I feel out of my head and groggy, even when I haven't taken any cold medication.

The thing about the eyebrow pain associated with a cold is that it goes away in about a week. Sinus infections can last for months. If I were you, I'd see a doctor and end my suffering a lot sooner.

By seag47 — On Apr 21, 2012

I started having tension headaches after my duties at my job and at home increased. I had way too much on my plate, and the demands that everyone was placing on me started to cause me physical problems.

I would get intense pains that felt like they were right behind my eyebrows. I knew it felt like a headache, but rather than being in my forehead, it seemed to concentrate in the area around my eyes.

As long as I stayed stressed out, I had to deal with the headaches. I noticed that they went away during times of relaxation.

By kylee07drg — On Apr 21, 2012

I currently have a sinus infection, and my whole head hurts. I do have a lot of pressure around my eyebrows and the sides of my nose, as well as in my ears.

The area under and above my eyebrows is very tender right now. Whenever I forget about this and put my head in my hands, I feel the pain as I touch my eyebrows.

I have been waiting for it to go away on its own, but I think it is getting worse. I know I should probably go get some antibiotics from my doctor, but I'm pretty stubborn about waiting until I can no longer tolerate the pain to go see him.

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