Snotty nose when eyebrows are plucked, why?

So I did the girl thing and went and got my eyebrows waxed/plucked shaped.

This always happens to me - not the waxing, but the plucking - I get a snotty nose. I don’t sneeze, but it can get bad enough that I need a tissue. My head is usually back for this, and I can feel it running down the back of my throat. If it goes on long enough I will have to blow my nose or snot will run down my face. (Ewww…)


Doesn’t happen if I pull hair from other areas of my face. Can happen if I poke my gum just right (but usually that leads to sneezing.)

It’s embarrassing. Can I stop it somehow?

I don’t have any suggestions for stopping it, but I can sympathize - I always sneeze when I pluck my eyebrows. There seems to be some kind of connection going on there.

WAG: irritation near the eyes causes them to water slightly. Tear ducts drain to the nose.

I “blink back” a couple tears when I pluck at nose or mustache hairs. Tears drain to nasal passages if they don’t get to go down your face.

My face is getting irritated by something. Maybe whatever it is is getting in my nose, too. Ooh, irritants in the nose is a bad thing. I’d better flush out the system just to be sure, to get rid of the irritant.

This is probably so, but I wonder if it’s more ‘something irritating my eyes’, because as I say it doesn’t happen anywhere else.

I more wondered if there was a specific nerve or something responsible.

There is a specific nerve. Actually, there is a reflex arc for this reaction.

Plucked eyebrows > nociception of opthalmic branch of trigeminal nerve > trigeminal ganglion > spinal trigeminal nucleus in the pons/medulla > parasympathetic facial nerve efferents > geniculate ganglion > greater petrosal nerve > pterygopalatine ganglion > maxillary nerve > nasopalatine nerve > nasal cavity mucosal glands.

Some people will lacrimate (cry) and get a snotty nose simultaneously because the pterygopalatine ganglion supplies parasympathetic input to both the nasal mucosa and the lacrimal gland. Although it is true that excess tears will drain to the back of the throat, most of the post nasal drip you get from reflexive (non emotional, involuntary) tears is from simultaneous parasympathetic stimulation of the nasopalatine and lacrimal nerves.

The only advice I can offer as to how to control the tears would be to use a topical lidocaine cream on your eyebrow before getting them plucked. That will prevent the pain stimulation of your opthalmic nerve and stop the entire reflex arc.

Neurology is fascinating. As an aside, my upper right teeth hurt right now because I recently had a viral URI which is irritating my anterior superior alveolar nerve.

Also, just doing it more helps. I used to get that same reaction (well, watery eyes) intensely from getting my upper lip and brows waxed. I do get it a bit now but way, way less.

So, you are plucking you facial hair in public?

There are salons—open to the public—where you can go to have this done, yes.

Wow. My gf goes somewhere to get her bikini wax done, but I never knew…

I’m kinda bored, so I decided to post a complete, wiki illustrated walkthrough of reflexive tearing.

rrrrRRRRIIPPPP. In one fell swoop, the waxing lady, who at this moment is the most evil person you know, rips some hair off the edge of your eyebrow. This stimulates the nociceptors branching from your supraorbital and supratrochlear nerves which innervate your lateral and medial eyebrow, respectively.

Dermatomes innervated by supraorbital and supratrochlear nerves (In green):

The pain stimulus is conducted by the supratrochlear and supraorbital nerves to the frontal nerve, which is located above your eye, superior to the levator palpebrae which lifts your eyelid. The frontal nerve then merges into the opthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve, which in turn merges with the other two branches of the trigeminal nerve to form the trigeminal, or semilunar, ganglion.

Superior view of the supratrochlear and supraorbital nerves merging into the frontal and opthalmic nerves:
Lateral View:

Pain information then travels through the sensory root of the trigeminal nerve, and enters the brainstem in the middle of the pons.

Lateral view of trigeminal nerve entering pons:
Cross section of pons showing trigeminal nerve entering:

From here, sensory information is divided based on what type of nerve fiber recorded it. Fine touch, vibration, and proprioception information are interpreted by the chief trigeminal sensory nucleus which is located in the pons. Pain, which is what we feel when our eyebrows are plucked, is interpreted by the spinal trigeminal nucleus which is a large structure which spans from the pons to the medulla.

Saggital ghost view of trigeminal nerve nuclei (in blue). Big blue oval is chief sensory nucleus. Long blue line below it is the spinal trigeminal nucleus:
Cross section of medulla showing spinal trigeminal nucleus near the right side:

Pain information from the spinal trigeminal nucleus then travels to the superior salivatory nucleus in the pons. The superior salivatory nucleus is responsible for the parasympathetic activity of the facial nerve. This is the nucleus that lets us cry, secrete nasal mucus, and is partially responsible for salivation, say when we see a nice big juicy steak. Parasympathetic fibers from the superior salivatory nucleus exit the brainstem at the border between the pons and medulla in the facial nerve.

Same image as before, but look for the superior salivatory nucleus. See how close it is to the spinal trigeminal nucleus, and how it exits the brainstem with the facial nerve:

The facial nerve then travels with the vestibulocochlear nerve (it lets you hear and balance) briefly and then branches off to enter the geniculate ganglion. Here the nerves controlling your tear reflex split from the nerves controlling the muscles of your face in the greater petrosal nerve.

Facial nerve travelling to geniculate ganglion, giving off greater petrosal nerve:

The greater petrosal nerve then carries parasympathetic information to the pterygopalatine, or sphenopalatine ganglion where it synapses.

Greater petrosal nerve leading to sphenopalatine ganglion:

Here is where the nerves leading to the nasal mucosa and the lacrimal gland split. Post synaptic parasympathetic fibers heading for the lacrimal gland hitch a ride on the maxillary nerve, which branches off to the zygomatic nerve, which gives a contribution to the lacrimal nerve, which FINALLY innervates the lacrimal gland, making you cry.

Maxillary nerve giving off zygomatic nerve which contributes to lacrimal nerve:

So the next time you get your eyebrows waxed, and the waxing lady asks you why you are crying, you can tell her that =P.

Ummm… I think I’ll just print out the post and hand it to her. Too Long, Can’t Memorise.

Is there any possiblity that you’re reacting to the wax? There are certain plants (tulips, poinsettias etc) I just have to spend 30 seconds around to get all of the symptoms described in the OP - plus a raging headache - within just a couple minutes of exposure.

You didn’t know that there were people who waxed eyebrows? Seriously?

What an awesome answer, heavyarms553, thank you so much! :slight_smile: I knew there must be a reason other than “I’m weird.” Well, I am weird, but…

kayaker, if you can grow hair on it, the salon will wax it off. This includes pretty much everything.

Yes, everything. That, too. :smiley:

The bikini waxing, or any sort of waxing, is done in a private room, not in front of everybody. At the salon where I get my eyebrows threaded, though, the threading takes place in front of everybody.

I didn’t either.

I’ve always wondered this too. I always sneeze when I pluck my eyebrows or even when I brush my hair.
Though the explanations are too much for my limited knowledge of neurology, so I’ll just accept that it’s “normal” and “makes sense” in some way. D’oh.

Thanks, man. I thought women did that in their bathrooms.