Many folks know about using scalp hair transplants to reduce or reverse baldness. But a lot of people still wonder, Are eyebrow transplants really a thing? Yes, they are! Eyebrow hair transplantation (also called eyebrow restoration) is a proven option for treating eyebrow loss and a good fit if you want permanent, natural-looking, low-maintenance brows and you have a sufficient budget.
What Benefits Does Eyebrow Transplant Surgery Offer?
There are many ways to address eyebrow hair loss. So why would someone choose eyebrow transplant surgery? It turns out that a few aspects of transplants set them apart. Eyebrow hair transplants are
- Virtually undetectable, discreet, and authentic. They’re chosen when a natural look is non-negotiable.
- Three-dimensional. They look 3-D because they are 3-D.
- Truly permanent. Living follicles are surgically transplanted to your eyebrow area from another area of your body genetically resistant to baldness, such as the back of the head or the nape of the neck. A successfully transplanted follicle should produce hair for as long a time as it would have in its original location.
- Low maintenance. There’s no need for costly professional touch-ups on a regular basis. Trimming your brows at home every few weeks is all that’s needed.
- Practical for keeping sweat and debris out of the eyes, as eyebrows are intended by nature to do.
- Ideal for men. Eyebrow transplant surgery is suitable for almost everyone, but it’s especially helpful for men because of the stigma they may experience for wearing any kind of makeup.
Other reasons people seek transplants are because of advantages transplants share with permanent cosmetics. Eyebrow transplants are often chosen by people who want to
- Have an active lifestyle. (There’s no smearing, dripping, or loss of adhesion due to sweat or water.)
- Overcome physical barriers to applying makeup, such as impaired eyesight or coordination.
- Have great eyebrows 24/7, with no need to put on makeup before meeting the world.
- Save time putting on a lot of conventional makeup every day.
- Avoid allergies to adhesives or conventional makeup.
So, there are many advantages eyebrow hair transplants share with permanent makeup, but transplants have the additional benefits of being natural, 3-D, truly permanent, low-maintenance, and especially well suited for men.
What Are the Drawbacks?
The perks of eyebrow restoration do have their trade-offs. These include:
- Cost. Eyebrow transplant surgery is the most expensive solution to eyebrow hair loss.
- Risk. Even though the risks of eyebrow restoration are extremely small, with any procedure that breaks the skin there are risks, such as infection, allergy, or an unsatisfactory result.
- Permanence. Permanence is an advantage if your new eyebrows make you happy, but if you’re less than satisfied with your results, it may be hard to change them.
A lot of people are glad they had eyebrow restoration, but it’s important to do thorough research and reflection about whether you want to go through with this procedure or try to work with the eyebrows you have.
Individual Patient Issues
We’re all different from one another, sometimes in ways that aren’t visible, like our genetic background and body chemistry. A thorough medical exam, including a detailed medical history, is needed before getting an eyebrow hair transplant.
A doctor should know exactly why you lost your eyebrows and about any skin and hair conditions you may have. A few conditions, such as diffused unpatterned alopecia, rule out eyebrow hair transplants.
More About Eyebrow Hair Transplants
Hair transplantation has been practiced for decades, and knowledge, techniques, and tools have become increasingly sophisticated. Eyebrow transplantation began in 1939 (Gupta et al., 2017) and has become more popular as people continue to get good outcomes and as stigma surrounding surgical enhancement decreases.
Today the gold standard technique is follicular unit extraction (FUE) in which hairs are harvested by their individual follicular units (see diagram), as opposed to the older method of harvesting hair in strips of skin. FUE means no sutures (making hair transplants minimally invasive) and less post-procedure downtime.
Interestingly, most follicular units in the scalp contain 2 or 3 hairs, not just one hair as we might expect. Some follicles may even contain 4 or 5 hairs. Less than 30% of follicular units have only one hair (Rudnicka, Olszewska, & Rakowska, 2012) and those are the ones that are ideal for transplanting into the brow area because eyebrow follicles naturally contain only one hair each.
Donor hairs are sought to match the natural shape, texture, and diameter of a person’s eyebrow hairs. These are different for different individuals. Typical donor sites are the lower back of the head, the area in front of the ears, or the nape of the neck.
What It’s Like to Have an Eyebrow Restoration Procedure
The usual way of blocking pain during an eyebrow hair transplant is with an injected local anesthetic. Some patients also get medication to help them relax.
In an FUE follicles are extracted one by one from the donor site. These hair grafts are typically stored in chilled saline solution for hydration. An effort is made to limit their time out of the body to less than an hour.
Hair grafts are implanted into puncture holes made by needles. The grafts are handled with care using forceps, so as not to damage the root. Doctors try to place thinner hairs at the edges of the eyebrows and coarser hairs toward the center to mimic the natural growth pattern of eyebrows. Doctors strive to match the growth and curl direction of the donor hair with the natural pattern of the eyebrow. Hairs are also inserted at a natural angle to the skin.
Eyebrow hair transplants take between 2 to 6 hours to complete, depending on the experience of the medical staff and on how many hairs need to be transplanted. Eyebrow hair restoration procedures usually involve 50 to 325 hairs per brow, determined by the degree of thinning present and the preference of the patient.
What Recovery Is Like
After the actual transplanting is finished, a good enhancement for better healing is platelet-rich plasma therapy in the donor and recipient areas. This therapy uses the patient’s own platelets to promote healing, stimulate development of blood vessels, and decrease the loss of growth-phase hairs. PRP therapy isn’t required, but it is thought to be beneficial after hair replacement surgery.
Post-operative treatment will vary among doctors, but may involve a dressing to the donor area and a treatment to the recipient area every half hour to 3 hours with a spray containing ATP (a molecule that provides energy) until follicles have their own blood supply in about 3 days. A patient will usually be prescribed antibiotics, pain medication, and oral steroids for 3 to 5 days after the procedure.
There’s often some degree of bruising and crusting. A patient can wear makeup around the eyes starting the day after surgery and in the eyebrow area itself as soon as crusting has passed.
Many newly transplanted eyebrow hairs are likely to fall out in response to the shock and interrupted blood supply during surgery, but this has no bearing on the final outcome of the transplant.
Most of the follicles survive the transplant, even if no hair is immediately visible. They will produce new hair within 3 to 4 months after surgery. Over the following 4 to 6 months, more hairs will start sprouting, improving density. If any surgical touch-up is necessary, it won’t be done before 9 months post-procedure in order to give all transplanted follicles a chance to produce hair.
Aesthetic Aspects of Eyebrow Transplant Surgery
The eyebrows have a prominent spot on the face and a key role in human communication and identification. Their appearance is of the utmost importance. The person doing the transplanting must be not only a competent physician but also a well-trained, artistic designer with exceptional fine motor coordination.
Aesthetic aspects of eyebrow restoration include differences between the eyebrow characteristics of men and women. These have been studied and measured so that doctors and aestheticians, in light of the patient’s desire and unique facial structure, can have a good idea of the most appropriate shape. This knowledge can also be helpful if the surgery is part of a gender reassignment process.
Tips for Getting a Good Result
Unlike the other ways to restore eyebrow hair, transplants are a medical procedure performed by a doctor. As such, transplants expose the patient to real but unlikely risks:
- Post-procedure complications such as infection, inflammation, bruising, bleeding, folliculitis, and scarring (all rare)
- A result that’s unsatisfactory to the patient due to the color, texture, curl, or growth direction of the transplanted hair
- Asymmetry of the two eyebrows
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize risk
- Research the procedure in depth
- Try to get a personal recommendation of a doctor from a former patient
- Research the backgrounds of prospective doctors and review their before/after photos. Find out how many procedures the doctor who would be doing your transplant does on a routine basis and has done over his or her career. Look for a doctor who specializes in hair transplants and performs many.
- Go to consultations with several of the best of these prescreened doctors
- Ask the doctor questions, and observe the doctor’s communication style. Communication is vital. There needs to be overlap between what you want and what a doctor can deliver. Trust your gut.
- Notice the office environment. Is it hygienic, well-run, and patient-centered?
- If surgery is done in the office, find out if it’s properly certified and staffed
- Consider meeting with a doctor’s former patients
A good result is highly dependent on the skill and experience of the person performing the eyebrow restoration. Finding a talented and capable doctor is key to success.
Eyebrow Transplant Cost
Eyebrow hair transplants aren’t cheap, and they’re not covered by insurance unless they’re reconstructive (to restore eyebrow(s) after a disfiguring accident, illness, or birth defect).
They cost between $4,000 and $8,000 in most U.S. cities, depending on how much hair needs to be replaced. In U.S. cities with a high cost of living, such as New York, eyebrow restoration ranges from $6,000 to $13,000 or more.
In Australia and Canada, fees are reportedly similar to most U.S. cities. in the U.K., costs are approximately £5,000.
Share Your Thoughts!
What are your thoughts about eyebrow hair transplants? Would you ever consider getting the procedure? Do you think the benefits are worth the risk and expense? Have you had the surgery or do you know someone who has? Please share your opinions and knowledge in the Comments section below!
“Eyebrow Transplant or Microblading – Which is Better?” by Limmer HTC Staff (https://limmerhtc.com/eyebrow-transplant-microblading-one-better/)
“I Had an Eyebrow Transplant Four Years Ago, and I’ll Never Touch Them Again,” by Rachel Nussbaum (https://www.glamour.com/story/eyebrow-transplant-cost-what-its-like?verso=true)
Gupta, J., Kumar, A., Chouhan, K., Ariganesh, C., & Nandal, V. (2017). The Science and Art of Eyebrow Transplantation by Follicular Unit Extraction. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, 10(2), 66-71.
Rudnicka, L., Olszewska, M., & Rakowska, A. (Eds.). (2012). Atlas of trichoscopy: dermoscopy in hair and scalp disease. Springer Science & Business Media.
Diagram of Follicular Unit Extraction: Haartransplantation Türkei [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons