Naturally, beauty comes with a hearty crop of odd sensations. After all, it’s how we know when something is good for our skin — and when it’s screaming at us to abort the mission and seek help immediately. In the same way that an ingredient can lead to a particular reaction, the grooming act itself — in this case sneezing when you tweeze, wax, or thread your brows — just might be a direct response from the front line defenses in your body. So what’s it trying to tell us? Three experts help break down our latest Asking for a Friend and answered whether or not you can stop it from happening.
For starters, let’s think back to why we sneeze to begin with. It’s a reaction that your body has when it needs to get rid of anything foreign invading our sinuses and lungs. “One nerve system linked to sneezing is the trigeminal nerve complex,” explains Robb Akridge, scientist and co-founder and former president of clinical research of Clarisonic. “It consists of nerves that give facial sensation. Part of one of its three (Tri) branches, weaves through your eyebrow.” So when you’re plucking or tweezing this little branch may be tickled, causing you to sneeze.
Overall, the face is one of the most sensitive areas of the body. Akridge says that it’s tough to says how our brow area ranks compared to other areas of the face, but he does note that the tip of the nose is right up there. “The cause and effect of brow grooming and sneezing has to do with stimuli and how your body perceives it,” he notes. “For example, pain perception can cause your eyes to tear up. If it doesn’t, it could be that you have a higher pain threshold than others.”
Sneezing is a very natural response to the tiny plucking action that happens when you thread your eyebrows as well. “The brow area is sensitive in general, but the eyelid area is often the most sensitive whilst removing the stray hairs. This is related to the skin being much thinner around the eye area,” says Jaimineey Patel, head of training at BBB London, a threading salon in the UK and in NYC. Other factors like hormonal changes, stress, and even the weather can affect how sensitive your eye area may be during your grooming. “Colder seasons can tighten the pores making the removal process more uncomfortable, but in the summer you will find hair is easier to remove as your pores are more open,” says Patel. She suggests taking a pain killer an hour before the treatment (especially if you have your period) to help ease the discomfort.
Uni K Wax founder Noemi Grupenmager says that in her experience you may be less likely to have a sneezing fit if you wax your brows rather than tweezing and threading. “When we wax, we put more pressure on a larger area which helps to calm the nervous system; whereas, when you tweeze or thread you are addressing much smaller areas, which can trigger physical stimuli like if someone is very ticklish or sensitive to pain” says Grupenmager
Is there a way to stop the sneezes?
Although these facial nerves are hyper sensitive, there is a way to specifically prevent sneezing while grooming. “To break this link you can add pressure to the eyebrow area as the hairs are being removed, which may eliminate the need to sneeze,” says Patel. Akridge further explains that the action of applying pressure with the fingers can block the stimulus from traveling down the nerve. So whether you’re plucking yourself or having someone do it for you, prepare to press against the brow to keep those achoos at bay.
(Illustration by Zoë Burnett/Brit + Co, Photo via PeopleImages/Getty)