Eyebrow hair transplantation is a cosmetic procedure of eyebrow restoration in which the hair grafts are transplanted from a donor area into the brow area. Such a procedure aims to grow the new hair and produce a fuller look on the eyebrows.
Although the thin, sparse eyebrows are usually being (un)successfully corrected using the make-up products to „fill in“ the brow hairs, there is an increasing interest in eyebrow transplantation as a permanent solution. The patients find eyebrow transplantation as a possibility to reinvigorate the hair growth in the eyebrow area. Initially, this procedure was aimed to restore the brow hair in patients who had lost it due to genetic issues or chemotherapy. Nowadays, however, this procedure has picked up the steam in cosmetic applications, in addition to medical ones.
Although it seems like a pretty straightforward procedure, there are several aspects that need to be considered before the surgery. These include the costs, risks, and side effects.
What is a eyebrow transplant?
Eyebrow transplantation is a surgical procedure aimed at enhancing the fullness and shape of your eyebrows. It is performed by a plastic surgeon who transfers the hair follicles from another (donor) area of your body. The hair grafts are usually harvested from the back of the scalp.
Eyebrows represent a significant feature of your appearance because they give facial symmetry and are essentially the frame of the face. Therefore, eyebrow hair loss can negatively influence your self-confidence and well-being. The causes of such hair loss can be some medical conditions or therapies and the tweezing and over-plucking the eyebrow hairs. Depending on your needs and expectations, eyebrow transplantation may re-create or re-shape the eyebrows. This procedure represents a natural-looking and permanent solution for patients with thin or absent eyebrows. The lifelong results make the eyebrow hair transplant different from the other options, such as microblading.
Eyebrow restoration technology had first been reported as far back as the early nineteenth century. However, the results of the eyebrow reconstruction we see today required the evolution and progress of conventional hair transplant surgery.
Eyebrow transplantation is a surgical procedure performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. As the eyebrows make a very important contribution to the overall appearance and presentation of oneself to other people, choosing a reliable clinic and an experienced doctor to perform this procedure is essential. The procedure itself is very similar to conventional hair transplant procedure. Using state-of-the-art techniques, it is possible to accomplish excellent results nowadays. For example, some patients wish to get fuller and thicker eyebrows, while some aim just for a subtle thickness. It is now possible to accomplish both of the desired outcomes.
The eyebrow transplant surgery usually lasts 3-4 hours. At the same time, the entire process, from the initial consultations to full recovery, takes about a year.
Characteristics of eyebrow hair loss
The eyebrow hair loss can occur the same as the hair loss on the scalp. The eyebrows can become thin or simply stop growing. There is also a medical term for the thinning and/or irregular patterns of the eyebrow hair – hypotrichosis. Hypotrichosis may occur for the same reasons as the scalp hair or could be independent of it. Furthermore, one or both eyebrows can be affected, more or less. There are multiple causes of eyebrow hair loss or thinning. These primarily include:
- autoimmune diseases (Alopecia, some types of lupus, localized scleroderma, Graham-Little syndrome, Parry-Romberg syndrome),
- infections (Hansen’s disease – leprosy),
- some skin conditions (atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, Tinea capitis, facial skin cancers)
- hormonal changes (thyroid issues),
- nutritional deficiencies (protein, fats, carbohydrates, zinc, biotin, vitamins A, C, B12, D, iron, cysteine, omega-3 fatty acids)
- emotional stress,
- physical trauma (accidental scarring, local tattoo removal, burns or, local surgery)
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease and represents one of the common causes of eyebrow loss. There are three main types of eyebrow alopecia:
– Alopecia areata may lead to random spots of hair loss;
– Alopecia universalis causing the loss of all head, face, and body hair (including eyebrows);
– Frontal fibrosing alopecia presented with scalp scarring, along with baldness and eyebrow hair loss.
Furthermore, some people have congenital eyebrow hair loss, meaning they are born with no brow hair. Plucking to reshape the brow can also result in permanent eyebrow loss, as well as the self-inflicted obsessive plucking of eyebrows (trichotillomania). Moreover, some medical or surgical treatments may lead to eyebrow loss. These include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgical tumor removal.
All of these causes can result in different patterns of eyebrow hair loss. Therefore, the cause of the eyebrow loss has to be carefully assessed and evaluated when considering the treatment.
The treatment option for your eyebrow thinning or loss hugely depends on their cause in the first place. Hence, depending on the particular cause or condition, the treatment options can be surgical or non-surgical.
Non-surgical treatments involve medications aimed at hair restoration, for example, Minoxidil, mostly in hormonal eyebrow loss. However, endocrinologists may prescribe additional drugs to accomplish the hormonal balance. Additionally, topical corticosteroids, corticosteroid pills, or injections can help in treating autoimmune and dermatological causes. An interesting option is the use of topical, contact-sensitizing chemicals, which could sometimes be effective for eyebrow restoration by eliciting an allergic reaction that induces hair growth. Acupuncture may also work by stimulating circulation. Another drug, anthralin, used in psoriasis treatment can be prescribed to those with eyebrow loss due to some inflammatory process. Furthermore, nutritional supplements are also recommended to those who have dietary deficiencies or specific diets. Platelet-rich plasma therapy can also be recommended. Last but not least, many people choose to camouflage their eyebrow loss using permanent make-up or microblading techniques.
On the other hand, surgical treatment options come down to hair transplantation. Eyebrow hair transplant procedures are pretty much the same procedures performed in scalp hair transplantation.
Two donor harvesting techniques are possible in eyebrow hair transplantation – follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplant (FUT). However, the hair follicle implantation is the same for both methods. The primary difference between the FUE and FUT is how hair is harvested and how the donor area is prepared.
The FUE procedure implies removing individual hair follicles one by one, usually from the back of the scalp. The incisions made during FUE are circular and well concealed, even with a short haircut. However, during the FUT procedure, a strip of hair is removed from the back of your scalp. The hair follicles are carefully taken from the strip and transplanted into the recipient brow area. The incision in the donor area is horizontal and gets stitched up. You will be left with a fine linear scar that can be hidden by the hair.
As for any other hair transplant procedure, the hair follicles are obtained for the donor area to be implanted into the recipient area – in this case, the eyebrows. In eyebrow hair transplantation, surgeons most commonly use single hair follicles or grafts from the sides of the back of the scalp, primarily near the nape of the neck, as this area contains the greatest number of hair follicular units having similar diameters to that of the eyebrows. Besides this lateral part of the occipital region of the head, the hair grafts are obtained from the area above the ears.
Cost and graft size
In eyebrow transplantation, the hair follicles, not only the individual hairs, are transferred from the donor area into the eyebrows. This ensures that the new hairs will grow in your eyebrows when the initially transplanted hairs fall out.
The approximate number of grafts required for this procedure may range from 50 to 325 grafts, depending on the extent of eyebrow loss. It is possible to undergo an eyebrow transplant with around 80 hair grafts and still achieve the desired results.
The precise costs for eyebrow transplantation vary depending on the number of hair grafts needed, your surgeon, clinic, and the location of surgery. The price range for this procedure is usually somewhere between £2 000 to £7 000 in the UK, including the additional costs. In Turkey, the price of the same surgery ranges between £500 and £2 000. However, in that sum the additional costs for flight, hotel and transfer are not included.
Surgery in the UK and Turkey
Besides the differences in the price in the two countries, there are no significant differences in the surgery itself. The eyebrow hair transplant is performed under local anesthesia and oral sedation, as a one-day surgery, lasting for 3-4 hours. Depending on the initial agreement, eyebrow hair transplant is performed as either FUE or FUT procedure in both the UK and Turkey.
Although the procedure costs are much lower in Turkey, as compared with the UK, you have to consider all other aspects and additional costs, including the flight costs, accommodation, insurance, sick leave, and so on. Furthermore, in case of any complications, you would have to fly to Turkey again and make even more costs. If the complications arise, you would rather have your surgeon close. Additionally, it is important to be prepared for the potential costs outside of the initial transplant procedure. For example, if you want any extra implants following the recovery phase, you will have to pay for these, as well.
Risks and considerations
Eyebrow transplantation represents a minor, minimally-invasive, and essentially pain-free surgical procedure. It is usually considered safe. However, like any other surgical intervention, it carries certain risks and potential complications.
Like in any other surgical procedure, certain risks associated with local anesthesia and saline injections exist. These risks primarily include allergic reactions. Additionally, there is a small risk of infections due to grafting. In that case, you may experience scabbing and slight bruising in the eyebrows immediately following the procedure. Other complications are very rare.
Furthermore, some cosmetic issues may also occur. For example, because the new hair follicles are harvested from the scalp in which the rate of hair growth is higher and faster, you may be concerned that your eyebrows will be unruly or that the rogue hair will grow in the wrong direction, so you will need to constantly maintain the eyebrows. However, it has been studied and concluded that no more than 15% of the new hairs in the eyebrow area would grow in the wrong direction. Furthermore, the new hair can be easily trimmed or plucked every few months. Some doctors even use finer hair grafts from the leg or hairs elsewhere on the body to avoid this issue.
When considering eyebrow hair transplantation, you should, of course, first think thoroughly and choose a reliable clinic with an experienced surgeon. However, you should also consider all the risks, costs, and other aspects.
Eyebrow transplant timeline
The recovery period for eyebrow transplantation is relatively quick as compared with the other hair transplant procedures. The entire eyebrow transplantation process takes about a year, from initial doctor consultation to full recovery.
- Week 1 – 2 before the procedure: Everything starts with good planning, choosing the clinic and the surgeon. At this time, you will meet your surgeon and discuss the procedure. If you are satisfied after this meeting, you will arrange the surgery date.
- The procedure itself 3-4 hours.
- Day 1-2 following the surgery: You can return to your usual daily activities. Some bruising is considered normal at this time. Furthermore, you should not be touching the eyebrows for at least 24 hours following the procedure or get your eyebrows wet. You may also be asked to limit your use of make-up for several days.
- Week 2-3: The transplanted eyebrow hairs will start to fall out
- Month 3: Hair will start to re-grow.
- Months 6-12: You can see the final results. In the meantime, you will probably need to trim your new eyebrow hairs.
Results and aftercare
To ensure good results and avoid any complications, your doctor will advise you to follow some simple rules.
You will be asked not to touch, get your eyebrows wet, drink alcohol for the first two days following the procedure. Alcohol may cause bleeding, as it thins the blood. Furthermore, if you use narcotic pain medications, you should avoid alcohol consumption while using the therapy. Additionally, you should not smoke for a minimum of two weeks after the surgery.
It is advised to avoid swimming in the pool for approximately two weeks. Furthermore, you should avoid direct exposure to sunlight on the eyebrow area for the first three to four weeks. You can wear a hat to prevent the direct exposure of eyebrows to the sun and wear sunscreen, too.