Pimples on the eyebrows? Here's how to get rid of them

Plus, what may cause them and how to prevent them from returning.

Written by
Tori Crowther
Medically reviewed by
min read
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Pimples anywhere can be annoying. Pimples on the eyebrows though? They are some of the most painful and annoying out there. 

It can be tricky to know where to start when it comes to getting rid of them. After all, you can’t slap on a pimple patch and call it a day. 

There are a few things you need to know when it comes to understanding eyebrow spots, including why they appear, how to get rid of them and how to prevent them from returning. The good news is that they can be treated with the right knowledge and tools.

What causes eyebrow pimples?

Eyebrow pimples are so prevalent that they actually have their own medical term: folliculitis, which essentially means inflammation of the hair follicle. Folliculitis are pimples that pop up in areas where there is hair. 

Eyebrow follicles are the same as all of the other hair follicles on our body but have a shorter growth phase than other hairs on our body [1]. 

Although spots in the eyebrows might seem straightforward, there are a few causes for them:


The first — and perhaps most common — is acne.

Your eyebrows are full of hair follicles and oil glands, which are constantly producing sebum. These pores can become clogged with this oil alongside dirt and bacteria, creating a pimple.

It’s the same process as happens on your face and body with acne

Many factors go into determining whether someone is more likely to develop acne and eyebrow pimples than others, including family history, lifestyle, medical conditions, incorrect skincare products, stress and poor sleep. 

Too much oil 

If you regularly use oil as a moisturising agent or as a hair growth treatment, then this could be the cause of your clogged hair follicle. 

If you have oily skin, excess sebum is typically more present which can exacerbate severe or persistent acne when in the brow area.

Using lots of oil without properly cleansing (and getting rid of those dead skin cells) in between uses can overload the area with oil, which can clog the pores and cause pimples.

So if you’re struggling with blemishes in your brows, consider using less oil and trying things like growth serums instead, which don't clog pores.  

Ingrown hairs 

If you’re doing regular hair removal, like waxing, plucking or threading your unwanted hair then chances are you’ve experienced an ingrown hair or two before. You can get these in your eyebrows, too. 

An ingrown hair happens when the small hairs curl back into the skin and decide to burrow in there and stay put causing the skin to grow over it.

You’ll notice these as they become inflamed, itchy and even discoloured. You might then develop a pimple caused by it. 

Dirty tools 

Guilty of not washing those makeup brushes as often as you should? Well, we’re sorry to say that it might be contributing to eyebrow pimples. 

In addition to applying product well, brushes also do a particularly great job at collecting dirt and bacteria. By using these dirty brushes daily, you’re introducing all of this bacteria onto your skin making the ultimate playground for this grime to collect and clog, producing a pimple. 

If your method of hair removal includes tweezing regularly, being on top of regularly sanitising them is a good idea to reduce the spread of bacteria. 

Makeup products 

In some cases, eyebrow pimples can be caused by makeup products, particularly things like eyebrow gels, waxes, powders and pens. Yep, those products you use to meticulously paint in between each hair can clog pores. 

This is because they can include ingredients that either your skin doesn’t love (particularly if you have sensitive skin) or can clog your pores.

For example, petroleum, silicones and dimethicone are said to cause pimples, but this is mostly anecdotal and studies to determine these as the cause are still needed. 

What types of acne can you get on your eyebrows?

Now we know the causes of eyebrow pimples, let's look into what types of pimples you can get. 


As the name suggests, these are pus-filled pimples and typically appear yellowish in colour. 


Papules are pimples that aren’t pus-filled. They present as being rounded and inflamed and often develop into pustules. 


Cysts are typically more severe pustules and tend to be a little bigger and more painful. Often people describe them at first as being ‘under the skin’ spots.

They can be particularly stubborn when it comes to treating them. Cystic acne isn't typically present when it comes to clogged oil glands in the eyebrows but it can happen more around the eyebrow area.


Whiteheads tend to be the smallest of the bunch and white in colour. They happen when the pore is closed, trapping the debris underneath the skin [2]. 

Pimples on the eyebrow-surrounding skin 

You can get acne around the eyebrow, as well as the eyebrows itself, which could be due to the overuse of certain ingredients like acids, including alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).

This is often more a case of irritation and a broken skin barrier than acne but can present with a pimple-like formation. 

This is typically your cue to slow down with whatever products you’re using and take it back to basics. 

You can also get this from treatments like waxing so be sure to stop using active ingredients like AHAs and retinoids at least 7-10 days ahead of waxing or threading. 

How to treat eyebrow acne

If you're hoping to eliminate those pesky blemishes around the eyebrow area, here's what we recommend:

Wash your face regularly

Regular cleansing is one of the best ways to both prevent and treat eyebrow acne by ridding those dead skin cells.

In the evening, before doing anything else, remove all of that makeup (if you’re wearing any) and give your brows a gentle but thorough scrub to eliminate all impurities for a blank canvas. 

You don't need to go OTT, just a gentle cleanser helps remove dead skin cells and impurities from the skin's surface and gets the job done.

Targeted spot treatments 

Treatments containing ingredients that work to reduce and fight bacteria-causing pimples are great at eliminating them quickly and effectively.

We recommend using a Q-tip (even better if it’s the type with a pointed tip) to get right into the area you want to target. 

Acne-prone skin particularly benefits from a targeted spot treatment to regulate sebum production and remove dead skin cells.

You can also use over-the-counter remedies like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help target acne-causing bacteria.

Don’t pick 

We know this is a hard one if you’re a picker of pimples but sadly this only makes it worse.

Picking and popping can cause inflammation, redness, and potential post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. You also run the risk of spreading the bacteria elsewhere and creating more spots. 

Consider laying off the makeup for a week 

We know it can be tricky but if you can, you might consider forgoing the brow products for a week while your skin heals.

Loading more product onto the spot can, in some cases, make it worse. This is particularly true if you’ve popped the spot and then added occlusive products over it. 

If you’re struggling with repeated pimples on your eyebrows, it’s worth visiting a doctor or dermatologist to get to the root cause and prevent it from occurring. 

How to unclog your eyebrow follicles

There are a few things to help keep your eyebrow follicles from getting blocked. 

The first is not to overload or use occlusive products on your eyebrows to avoid clogged pores and causing pimples. 

Make sure you’re giving them a gentle scrub at the end of each day to remove any debris left in there. You could even get a spoolie involved once in a while to get them a really good exfoliation. 

Keep your tweezers clean to make sure you’re not unnecessarily introducing bacteria into the brow area. 

You might be advised to use a warm compress but this isn’t a great idea for the inflammation and can actually make it worse. Instead, apply a cool compress to the area and relieve the pimple that is causing discomfort.

Preventing eyebrow pimples from coming back

There are plenty of ways you can prevent pimples from returning to the brows and the great news is that they’re not complicated. 

Consistent skincare 

Sticking to a simple, reliable and consistent routine is what gets you long-term results.

We’re not about quick fixes over here because they just don’t work. If you’re not great at staying on top of the admin of skincare, make it as easy as possible for yourself by doing things like ordering your skincare online to be delivered to your door.

Software’s acne treatment is designed just for you by our dermatology team and includes acne-fighting ingredients like retinoids, niacinamide and antibacterial.

Simply share your skin goals with one of our health practitioners and our team will create a customised formulation to be delivered straight to your door.

Additionally, you want to keep your skincare products where you can see them so that you remember to use them every night. And consider keeping your PM treatments at your bedside so you don't forget them before bed.

For eyebrow pimples, make sure your cleansing goes right into the brows and up to the hairline to prevent clogged pores and hair follicles and rid dead skin cells.

Avoid occlusives 

If you’re regularly using heavy ingredients in your eyebrows, take a break and see what happens with your pimples.

If you find that the pimples are lessening, then consider either using less of these ingredients or stopping them altogether. Occlusives are tricky, for some it makes skin conditions better and can reduce acne, but for others, it can make acne worse and clog pores.


Every once in a while, you might benefit from a quick exfoliation around the brow areas.

We’re not talking anything abrasive or intense going right into the eyebrows — we don’t want to cause trauma to the delicate hairs — but taking your exfoliating slightly further up and outlining that area can help keep bacteria and dirt at bay. 

Clean tools and dirty makeup brushes 

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: clean your tools!

It’s a no-brainer to make sure your brushes and tweezers are clean and free from bacteria to avoid introducing those nasties into your brow area and causing pimples to form or multiply. 

Switch up brow products 

When it comes to brow products, it can be a game of trial and error to make sure certain products aren’t causing irritation. 

Visit a sanitary salon 

If you’re getting your brows done professionally, it’s important to visit a sanitary salon so that you’re not being exposed to dirt and bacteria. 

Visit a dermatologist 

Doing all of the above and still not seeing any improvement with your eyebrow/pimple situation?

It’s time to visit a dermatologist for answers. There could be an underlying cause for your breakouts, particularly if you're experiencing severe acne.

Image credit: Getty Images

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