Why Do We Sneeze When We Pluck Our Eyebrows?


Every time I pluck my eyebrows, my eyes tear up and I’ve always thought it was a normal reaction… I didn’t think anything about it. My roommate recently told me that she sneezes every time she plucks her eyebrows- this was not the first time that someone has told me that, so I thought I should look into this more.

It just so happens that by plucking your eyebrows, you are stimulating your nerves!

Doctor Jeanie B. Downie, explains that plucking eyebrows is a reflex– a normal human reaction…who knew? When you go near the face, you might flinch when someone moves their hand in front of you, throws a ball near you, something gets close to you- this is a reaction (a reflex) because your body is reacting to whatever is near your face. The same thing happens when you pluck your brows, your eyes tear, you might sneeze, you might have a tear stream down your face, etc. You are touching your nerves which are highly sensitive.

Interestingly enough, Doctor Gervaise Gerstner also explains how by tweezing your eyebrows, the facial movement is triggered from pain causing you to tear up whereas the sensation on your face causes you to sneeze due to irritation.

It turns out that your nose and eyebrows are on the same branch of the trigeminial nerve- this causes you to sneeze with irritation (apply pressure to the area and you should be good). Ever notice in the Spring when allergies are bad your eyes bother you and your nose?… Blame your nerves!

This study can be observational because you can watch people when they get their eyebrows tweezed and witness this, but it can also we experimental. You can take the X variable which would be tweezing the eyebrows and the Y variable would be applying pressure to the area to experiment and take note of the differences. I don’t think there would be any confounding variables (maybe if your skin was already irritated/dry or if you were sick/had allergies and actually had to sneeze)?

There is a phenomenon called ACHOO or Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helioopthalmic Outburst- that explains why people sneeze when they look at the sun, this is the same phenomenon that can explain why people sneeze when they tweeze. Overexposure to light will make anyone sneeze, but when you pluck near the visual cortex you are disrupting the area causing an achoo.


There has been an experiment conducted that if antihistamines would control the sneezing because the study shows a possible correlation between allergies- however, the experiment is not strong enough to suggest that taking allergy medicine will cure the tweezing and sneezing phenomenon.

Brow specialist Kristie Streicher of Striiike salon in Los Angeles says she will hold the area above the brow when she shapes clients’ eyebrows because she wants to reduce the pain they might feel. Although she admits that there is no effect on a client sneezing when she holds the brow, she believes it relieves some pain.

Streicher emphasizes how around 15 to 20 percent of her clients have sneezed due to tweezing the brow. There is no evidence on if eyebrow waxing or threading has the same effect, but it is something that can be further investigated.

Unfortunately no one knows how to reduce the sneezing; we can only reduce the pain at this point. I wouldn’t bother with allergy medication only because I don’t think it will work just because it’s a nerve problem. I think you can psyche yourself out and believe the medicine does something… someone can experiment with a placebo and make a new group that’s controlled and test to see if the medicine does something.

I observed my roommate, Jill, after I decided to experiment with this and it was one of the funniest things I’ve seen. I advise you all to try this sometime and watch the results.

Below is a video explaining ACHOO



2 thoughts on “Why Do We Sneeze When We Pluck Our Eyebrows?

  1. Dana Corinne Pirrotta

    I love that your article mentions ACHOO! My little brother has ACHOO, and we never realized why the heck he was always sneezing in the sun until one day we brought it up at a physical! Every time he goes outside, he starts sneezing uncontrollably, often four or five times in a row. Although it really doesn’t affect his health, it is so ridiculous to see any person just start violently sneezing when they step outside. Anyways, this article was interesting and I am so tickled that I can connect to it with my little brother’s sneezing syndrome.


  2. Kateryna Okhrimchuk

    Hey Kaitlyn,
    I seriously always wondered why I sneezed almost every time I got my eyebrows done but I never bothered to research the cause of it. I thought it was because my eyebrow lady was always so close to my nose or maybe I was allergic to something in her salon, but after reading the studies you linked I thought it was so interesting that plucking your eyebrows can actually set off a nerve in your nasal passage, causing it. I decided to read up on this a little more and it’s actually not as common as we think. According Kristie Streicher, who works in Striiike salon in LA, it only happens in about 15-20% of her clients and to avoid it she holds the skin tightly and encourages clients who experience this to take allergy medication before coming to their appointment (which said said actually works, in this article http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/08/why-do-i-sneeze-when-i-tweeze-my-eyebrows.html ).

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