This Procedure is The Sure-Fire Way to Get Your Brows Back — Especially if You Plucked Them to Death

This Procedure is The Sure-Fire Way to Get Your Brows Back — Especially if You Plucked Them to Death

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Most of us have had our fair share of tweaking our eyebrows to fit a trend. Whether you like your eyebrows full and bushy or thin and barely there, all the work we do to try and get our brows to look best can do a number on their ability to grow.

A well-defined eyebrow that is the ideal width and length and compliments the face but can be challenging to achieve after years of tweezing, plucking and waxing. And even if you rely on microblading to create the look of more hair, laminating for faking fullness, or regrowth serums to encourage new hairs to form, at the end of the day, all these treatments must be repeated over and over since they are temporary solutions at best.

And that's where an eyebrow transplant comes into play. 

Hair transplants for bald spots and thinning patches on the head is a surgery that most people are familiar with. But adding hair to other parts of the face, like the eyebrows, for example, flies a little more under the radar. "Much of this evolved from the hair transplant itself. As that procedure evolved from a 'pluggy' look to a more refined, natural result, it allowed us to make more delicate hair transplantation procedures possible," says Beverly Hills double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and hair restoration specialist Natalie Attenello, MD.

Even celebrities are getting honest about their brow transplants. Chrissy Tegan did it. So did celebrity hairstylist and founder of Ouai, Jen Atkin. San Francisco facial plastic surgeon and Immediate Past President of AAFPRS, Corey S. Maas, MD, says "while some celebrities are reluctant to go public with aesthetic surgeries and procedures they do, those who share their experiences make it appealing for the public to assess and understand the procedure.”

What is an eyebrow transplant?

 An eyebrow transplant is a relatively easy surgery performed by a plastic surgeon (yes, this qualifies as plastic surgery) that restores hair to the eyebrows, providing natural and beautiful results. Dr. Shirley Madhère, a holistic plastic surgeon and founder of Jet Set Beauty Rx, explains that during the procedure, hair follicles are transferred from the scalp (or other areas) to the eyebrows to make them appear fuller. 

Eyebrows have always been at the forefront of beauty trends — from thin pencil brows in the '90s to today's fuller, more natural-looking eyebrows. “So many patients have over-tweezed their eyebrows or have less-than-desirable results from eyebrow tattooing and microblading, so the procedure is an excellent option to improve these mishaps,” Dr. Attenello says.

How does an eyebrow transplant work?

Board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of KaramMD Skin, Amir Karam, MD, explains that an eyebrow transplant is like any other type of hair transplant procedure. “It involves taking hair from an area that usually doesn't lose hair, such as the back of the head, and transplanting it to the eyebrows. The surgery creates the most natural-looking outcome because it ultimately replaces hair where hair used to exist."

Dr. Karam explains that the first step in an eyebrow transplant is to selectively remove single hairs with their follicles from the scalp. Anywhere from 70 to 120 follicles are then prepped and transplanted at a sharp angle into tiny holes made by a needle. "The entire process must be done artistically so that it looks natural."

The transplanted hairs take hold immediately (they will first go through the regular grow-rest-shed cycle), but the final fullness and thickness of the eyebrows aren't seen for several months.

How to tell if you're a candidate for an eyebrow transplant:

 A brow transplant works well for anyone with naturally thin or sparse brows, lost hairs from trauma or a scar where hair doesn’t grow or bald spots, which can result from natural aging or years of aggressive tweezing, waxing, threading, or over-plucking. "It is an excellent procedure for men and women wishing to restore their eyebrows using their natural hair,” Dr. Attenello adds. “Additionally, the surgery can cover up unsightly or discolored tattoos or microblading."

Surgery is usually a viable fix if a medical condition is to blame for sparse-looking brows. People with trichotillomania (a compulsive disorder that results in pulling out eyebrow hairs)  tend to do well with the procedure as long as the condition is not active. So do cancer patients in remission, who appreciate their new-found eyebrows.

However, not everyone is a shoo-in for the surgery. Dr. Madhère says those with alopecia areata or unstable hair loss of the eyebrows are generally not candidates for a brow transplant.

What happens during an eyebrow transplant surgery?

For starters, a consultation with the surgeon who will perform the procedure well in advance is recommended. Although a brow transplant isn’t as invasive as other types of cosmetic surgeries, it still comes with a recovery period and plenty to be aware of.

With your doctor's help, you’ll select the best brow shape for your face. Sometimes, it can be confusing for patients to nail down what they want, whereas others have a folder of inspirational photos. That’s why a collaborative decision is best since your surgeon can guide you toward the shape that will work best for you based on your hair type and where the hairs need to be transplanted. Dr. Maas says that the right brow shape varies for each person, but generally, the central portion of the eyebrow should be the thickest, and the peak of the eyebrow should align vertically with the outside of the iris (the colored part of the eye).

As the adage goes, the eyebrows are sisters, not twins. So, creating two uniformly perfect eyebrows may look more contrived and bizarre than a more natural shape and placement.

Before the surgery (it’s performed as an in-patient procedure at your surgeon's office), your eyebrows will be marked up with what will soon be their new shape. Next, local anesthesia is administered to the donor and transplant sites to make the procedure comfortable since you will be awake the entire time. Then, with extreme precision, the existing hairs are moved as a transplant from the scalp to the new area with adequately cut and placed individual or double hair grafts (known as follicular units). Next, the grafts are placed into the eyebrows through microscopic holes. “Each hair will develop its blood vessels to supply and nourish the new hairs,” Dr. Maas says. Removing hair from the donor location is undetectable once it heals, and the resulting scar is well hidden.

The procedure usually takes three to four hours from start to finish. Usually, one surgery is all it takes to achieve a fuller brow, but some patients may need a second go around to fill in areas that don't take.

What does an eyebrow transplant surgery feel like?

Since the scalp and eyebrows will be completely numb during the surgery, you won't feel anything as your surgeon moves the hairs from the back of the head to the eyebrows. But once the anesthesia wears off, there may be some discomfort. "There may be mild tenderness in the donor area, but usually no pain in the newly transplanted eyebrows," Dr. Attenello says.

What's the recovery from an eyebrow transplant like?

Once the surgery is complete, you may be sent home with a light dressing over the eyebrows.  Sutures aren't used so the brows can breathe and heal properly.

You'll want to lay low for three to seven days and let your brows and the donor site recover without interference. That means not wearing eye or eyebrow makeup or wetting the area since moisture can prevent the transplanted grafts from 'taking.' Instead, if you need to clean an area of the face or refresh the skin, swipe a bit of Olos Gentle Micellar Water on a cotton round or Strip Reusable Cleansing Wipes — avoid the eyebrows at all costs.

Tiny scabs will begin to appear where the transplanted hairs have been added and then fall off in about one week. About two weeks later, the eyebrows should be fully healed, and the newly transplanted hairs will start to fall out, which is normal.

How long do eyebrow transplant results last?

The results from a brow transplant are permanent. Immediately after the follicles are transplanted, you'll notice improved fullness and a better brow shape. However, what your brows look like directly after surgery will change in the coming weeks as their final appearance settles in.

The new brow hairs will go through a fallout phase, which is normal. "The transplanted hair follicles will first shed, and the hairs will enter into a resting period," Dr. Attenello says. Then, the new hairs will start to grow after 10 to 12 weeks of the hairs being in the resting phase. "The final results will be seen in around nine to 12 months.” The results are permanent and should last a lifetime as long as the factors that caused the hair loss in the first place are not repeated (if preventable).

How much does it cost to get an eyebrow transplant?

Brow transplants don’t come cheap. Dr. Madhère says you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000 for the surgery, depending on the case complexity and the number of hairs grafted.

Take this as your sign that it's less expensive to have a professional shape your eyebrows every so often than it is to experiment with them and long for their return.

Do you still need to shape your brows after getting an eyebrow transplant?

The new hairs grow like regular brow hairs, but faster, so Dr. Attenello says you’ll have to trim them once or twice per week. Rather than being left to your own devices, especially if you get scissor-happy, trust your new arches to a pro. They can show you the right way to trim them so you don’t end up cutting off too much or messing up the new shape.

“The transplanted hair is just like normal hair, as is the surrounding skin,” Dr. Maas says. “Aesthetic treatments, like microblading and waxing, can be performed if you decide to enhance the results further.”

Additionally, Dr. Attenello says that brow transplant patients must 'train' their eyebrows to grow flat using eyebrow gels or other products. You can use a traditional clear brow gel or wax like Benefit Fluff Up Brow Wax or one with added color, such as Grande Brow 2-In-1 Tinted Brow Gel + Brow Enhancing Serum.

What are the potential side effects of getting an eyebrow transplant?

Just like with any elective procedure, complications can arise even though they are rare. Dr. Karam says the potential downside of the surgery is infections or a poor graph. “So, there could be some cosmetic deformity due to that.” But overall, the surgery is considered safe and easy. Of course, going to a surgeon who knows what they're doing, has experience with the surgery, and has an artistic eye is best.

The hair growth pattern will be awry and may be for a long time or even forever. It’s possible for two different types of hairs to grow in an area or two — whatever natural hairs existed in the area pre-surgery and the ones that were moved there. Usually, the mix of hairs blends in together (it's hard to see a difference), but the transplanted hairs may grow faster or without a uniform direction.

No matter what, anytime your brows need a little help, be it in the trimming, shaping or just general maintenance department, trust them to a professional, especially if you're debating whether to pull out the tweezers and do a number on them if that’s what got you here in the first place.

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