Changes to your eyebrows and eyelashes during treatment

Some cancer treatments may cause your eyelashes and eyebrows to become thinner or fall out completely. But remember that eyebrows and eyelashes usually grow back.

About changes to your eyebrows and lashes

Some chemotherapy drugs may cause your eyebrows and eyelashes to become thinner or to fall out completely. Certain targeted therapy drugs may cause eyebrows or eyelashes to grow longer.

Your eyelashes and eyebrows may fall out later than the hair on your head. Sometimes this happens more gradually during treatment or after treatment has finished.

Your specialist nurse can tell you if this is likely. It depends on the drugs and the dose you have.

Losing your eyebrows and eyelashes can change your appearance. This can be upsetting, but they usually grow back. There are things you can do to help disguise these changes.

Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors can help you with the techniques described here.

We have more information about hair loss that you may find useful.

Managing changes to your eyebrows

You can redraw eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil that is slightly lighter than your normal hair colour. Another natural-looking way to redraw the eyebrows is by applying eyeshadow powder with a make-up brush.

Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors can show you how to redraw your eyebrows, as it can be daunting to try this at first if you are not used to it.

Creating natural-looking eyebrows

There are different ways you can create natural-looking eyebrows:

  • Practise drawing on your eyebrows before your treatment begins. This way you can get used to following the shape and arch of your brow.
  • Take a close-up photo of yourself before treatment. This will help you remember the position of your eyebrows and what they looked like.
  • Try drawing a dot of colour above the outer and inner corners of each eye, and a dot where you think you will create an arch. The arch is normally at its highest point where you hold the pencil at the bottom of the nose. It should line up through the middle of the iris of the eye (coloured circle around the pupil). You can make a mark on the eyebrow and use this as a guide.This way, you can then check for symmetry before you start drawing.

An illustration showing a woman who is preparing to redraw one of her eyebrows. The illustration shows that the woman has drawn two dots with an eyebrow pencil, where she plans to create an arch. This illustration shows step one in a four-step eyebrow redrawing process.

Step 1: Redrawing eyebrows 

  • Use your brow bone and your eyes to identify where your brows should be. Place the brow pencil alongside your nose and skirt the outer corner of your eye at a 45 degree angle. This shows where a natural brow would start and finish.

An illustration showing a woman who is redrawing one of her eyebrows using an eyebrow pencil. The illustration shows that she has placed the eyebrow pencil alongside her nose, and the drawn a thin line across the natural arc of her eyebrow line at a 45 degree angle. This illustration shows step two in a four-step process.

Step 2: Redrawing eyebrows

  • Use a lighter pencil than your normal hair colour. Draw from the centre of the brow line outward, using light, feathery strokes. Plenty of tiny strokes with the pencil will look more realistic than a single line.

An illustration of a woman redrawing her eyebrows using an eyebrow pencil. She has already created a thin line across the arc of her eyebrow to guide her. She is now drawing from the centre of the eyebrow line outwards, using light, feathery strokes, to add more texture to the eyebrow. This illustration shows step three of a four-step process.

Step 3: Redrawing eyebrows

  • Create a brow that is thicker-looking at the inner end (nearest to the nose) and thinner at the outer edge.
  • Light pressure is all that you need. Comb through the colour with an eyebrow wand to give a more natural appearance.
  • Check for symmetry when you move on to your other eye. Remember though that no two brows are identical. Just make them look more or less the same.

An illustration of a woman who has redrawn an eyebrow using an eyebrow pencil. In this illustration the woman has finished redrawing an eyebrow, and she is now checking that her two eyebrows are symmetrical. This is step four of a four-step eyebrow redrawing process.

Some people choose to have permanent or temporary tattooing to create new eyebrows. This should not be done during treatment.

Managing long and thick eyebrows

Some targeted therapy drugs may make your eyebrows grow long and thick. If this happens, you can carefully trim them.

Managing changes to your eyelashes

There are different make-up tips you can try if your eyelashes become thinner or fall out completely.

  • Use a soft eyeliner and smudger to define your eyes and create the illusion of eyelashes. You can use a dark eyeshadow instead of eyeliner to create a softer line.
  • Lift the skin at your eyebrow when applying the make-up (see the illustration below). This will tighten your skin and make the pencil easier to apply.

An illustration of a woman who is creating natural looking eyelashes using make-up. She is lifting her eyebrow to tighten the skin, which is making it easier for her to apply the make-up. She is using soft eyeliner. This illustration shows the first step of a two-step process for creating natural looking eyelashes.

Step 1: Creating eyelashes

  • Use soft strokes along the eyelash line by applying a smudger to soften the line and push colour further into the lashes.
  • Apply the make-up lightly to make your eyelashes well-defined and natural-looking.

An illustration of a woman who is creating natural-looking eyelashes using make-up. She is applying the make-up lightly, to make sure the eyelashes are well defined and look natural. This illustration shows the second step of a two-step process for creating natural looking eyelashes.

Step 2: Creating eyelashes

  • Use a gentle, teasing action when applying mascara. A wand with short bristles may be easier to use on short and sparse eyelashes.
  • If you want to wear false eyelashes, check with your cancer nurse specialist or cancer team first. The glue may irritate sensitive skin.

Tips for looking after your eyelashes

  • Do not use eyelash curlers. They can damage fragile eyelashes.
  • Try not to rub your eyes to help prevent you losing eyelashes.
  • When you are removing eye make-up, hold a cotton pad soaked in eye make-up remover to your eye. Keep it there for a couple of seconds before gently wiping away. This stops you pulling too much on your lashes.
  • Avoid waterproof mascara. It can be harder to remove. If your eyes are sensitive, try using mascara that dissolves in warm water.

Long or ingrowing eyelashes

Some targeted therapy drugs can cause your eyelashes to grow very long or grow inwards. This can irritate your eyes. You may need to have your eyelashes trimmed by a nurse. Do not try to do this yourself. You should get advice from your cancer nurse or doctor.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 30 September 2019
Next review: 31 March 2022

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.