This Procedure Can Bring Over-Plucked Brows Back to Life — But It’ll Cost You
Permanent fluffy arches are in your future.
The ‘90s and Y2K era did a number on eyebrows everywhere. Tempted by the trends of the time, you might have over-plucked your brows to create pencil-thin arches à la Kate Moss and Gwen Stefani. Now, you might be focused on getting them back… but that can be easier said than done. Sure, the right growth-boosting serums can help, but sometimes professional treatments and cosmetic procedures can come in handy. Enter the eyebrow transplant — yes, it’s a real thing.
Brow transplants can transform (not just cover up) sparse brows, especially when it feels like you’ve exhausted every other option on the market. Take it from Dr. Rae Lynne Kinler, a top transplant surgeon and Medical Director of Ziering Medical in Greenwich, CT, who explains that, “Eyebrows thin or disappear for a multitude of reasons, [such as] hormonal changes, illness, or the natural aging process, but the most common cause is over-plucking. An eyebrow transplant reframes the face, creating symmetry and balance to facial features. It brings drama to the eyes, enhancing their beauty and vitality.” And while it might sound like an extreme option to achieve fuller brows, getting all the facts about the procedure can help inform your decision and determine whether or not it’s the best option for you.
Ahead, learn all about eyebrow transplants, including the cost, recovery, and what goes down in the operating room.
What Is An Eyebrow Transplant?
In layman’s terms, an eyebrow transplant is similar to a hair transplant in that hair is harvested from a donor site and transferred to a new location. “An eyebrow transplant involves taking a hair follicle from the back of the scalp and transplanting the hair gently into the eyebrow,” explains board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Paul Nassif.
Both Dr. Nassif and Dr. Kinler emphasize the detail and consideration that goes into this procedure. As you can imagine, creating a natural-looking eyebrow is a complicated matter. “The transplant process is very particular, as the hair must be placed with the right angle and the right curve as the brows could end up looking unnatural,” Dr. Nassif explains.
Dr. Kinler adds that “It is generally a more complex and detailed procedure than transplanting the hair on the top of the head due to the many times that our native eyebrow changes direction across the full arch or shape of the brow. The importance of artistry and a highly skilled eye is necessary to ensure [correct] placement and pattern.”
Who Is A Good Candidate For An Eyebrow Transplant?
Dr. Nassif says, “Anyone can elect for an eyebrow transplant” if they are “looking for natural or fuller-looking brows — whether that is because they over-plucked them, they naturally have thin brows, or because they might not have any brow hair at all.” Of course, there are a few exceptions in which an eyebrow transplant might not be suitable for someone (but more on that in a minute).
If you are unhappy with the shape, size, density, volume, length, or symmetry of your brows, Dr. Kinler says that you might be a candidate for the procedure. This includes people who over-plucked, people who are in post-pregnancy or menopause, and people who are undergoing gender-affirming care.
On the flip side, people who aren’t suitable candidates are those that have alopecia areata or other autoimmune inflammatory conditions, bleeding disorders, or a history of trichotillomania or complications from previous cosmetic procedures. Regarding the latter, Dr. Kinler says that patients who had a previously failed eyebrow transplant may have underlying scarring that is now affecting the brows, and would therefore not be a candidate. The same goes for patients who have had multiple facelifts. “[These patients] should proceed with caution due to affected blood supply which may not allow the grafts to grow or may be at risk for poor healing,” Dr. Kinler says of patients who have had a facelift.
What Is The Brow Transplant Process Like?
Like any other procedure, an eyebrow transplant starts off with a consultation and evaluation. “First, we decide on the ideal shape using surgical markers, stencils, tools, and photos,” Dr. Kinler explains. “A patient may come in with their desired shape and thickness drawn in, and small tweaks may be made.”
After that, it’s time for the actual procedure, and there are two common techniques that the surgeon can use — the follicular unit technique (FUT) and the follicular unit extraction (FUE) according to Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, double board-certified facial plastic surgeon, and founder and lead facial plastic surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach. “In the FUT, a strip of hair is removed, typically from the back of the scalp, and then the hairs are separated for implantation.”
In the FUE technique, hair follicle units are removed from the scalp individually. With this technique, “there is little to no scarring but it usually takes longer to harvest the grafts,” Dr. DeRosa says.
From there, the surgeon will place the donor follicles into the transplant site. This is done with the utmost precision to ensure optimal results. “We follow the NeoGraft technique, where the doctor will pull out the hair units one by one from the back of the head and will make a small slit in the brows and then manually, with forceps, will place the hair follicle into the slit,” Dr. Nassif explains.
Dr. DeRosa says an eyebrow transplant typically requires 50 to 400 individually inserted grafts per brow (depending on the original state of the patient’s brows and desired result), and it’s done under local anesthesia. From start to finish, you can expect it to take anywhere from an hour to several hours. “The entire eyebrow transplant can be completed in one visit,” Dr. Nassif says.
Are Brow Transplant Results Immediate?
Even though an eyebrow transplant offers permanent results and can be completed in a few hours, it’s not exactly instant gratification. “A patient should understand that once the hair follicle is moved from the back of the head into the eyebrow, the hair on that follicle will fall out and a new one will grow in,” says Dr. Nassif. “Patients should expect to see results anywhere between six to nine months for full growth.”
Dr. Kinler adds that the hairs that fall out will be replaced by new, permanent hair growth within six to 12 weeks. “The entire new brow will be growing visibly at about the three-month mark,” she says. In other words, that’s when you’ll start to see a difference in your brows, but you can expect to wait until the six to nine month mark for full results.
Just be prepared for the initial fall-out when you’re going in for your transplant. Dr. Kinler says that the hairs will gradually fall out between seven to 21 days. That doesn’t mean the eyebrow transplant didn’t work — it’s actually the opposite. You just have to wait for the permanent growth to become visible.
It’s also worth noting that an eyebrow transplant is just that — a transplant —which means the hair will maintain its characteristics, color, and lifespan. “The new brow hairs will continue to grow like hair on the head,” Dr. Kinler says. “They will need to be trimmed and groomed regularly and they may also develop more of a frizz or curl pattern than other brow hairs have.”
What’s Recovery Like?
Dr. Kinler says the recovery period is relatively quick and pain-free, usually taking anywhere from 10 days to two weeks time. “There may be some preliminary swelling but it’s usually minimal for a few days,” she says. “You may feel tenderness or some soreness or pressure in the area over the next few days — this is the natural histamine response.”
While there may be some initial swelling and bruising (Dr. Kinler says the extent can vary but it does happen due to the area being very thin with lots of blood supply), most patients simply wear sunglasses when going outside. “Patients are encouraged to take arnica pills three days before the procedure and up to five days after, as well as icing and massaging the undereye area with arnica gel to help keep the swelling and bruising to a minimum,” Dr. Kinler says. “Most patients are fully recovered in ten to 14 days and can use under-eye makeup if necessary.”
There may also be some itching as the area can scab during the healing process. It’s critical to avoid picking the scabs to avoid dislodging the newly transplanted hair. “Typically, patients are advised to refrain from washing the area for five to seven days,” Dr. DeRosa says.
Dr. Kinler seconds this. “You must keep the area dry initially with the exception of a salve or serum you will be given to apply.” She recommends sleeping on your back and avoiding vigorous exercise for two to three weeks following the procedure. Other than that, you can resume normal activity.
What Are The Risks To A Brow Transplant?
“Just like any procedure, there are risks of an eyebrow transplant,” Dr. DeRosa says. “One of the most important ways to reduce this risk is to go to a physician who is well-trained in this specialized type of hair transplant.”
Some of the risks of an eyebrow transplant include scarring, bleeding, and incorrect placement of the hairs resulting in unnatural-looking or irregular hair growth patterns. “Be sure to let your doctor know about all of your medical conditions, allergies, and medications you’re taking, especially blood thinners, as these can increase the risk of complications,” she says.
Are The Results Permanent?
“As long as your hair continues to grow normally in the donor location, the results of the eyebrow transplant should be permanent,” Dr. DeRosa says. “Depending on the extent of eyebrow hair loss, you may need more than one procedure spaced six to 12 months apart.”
Dr. Kinler seconds this. “Patients that have sparse or no brows should anticipate at least a second surgery, as the first is for coverage, and the second is for added density. The grafts can only be placed so close together at one time before two holes become one. In eight to 12 months the second procedure can be performed if a patient desires density. For a patient who has existing brows, or is just filling the loss of the tail, one procedure [or usually is] enough.”
How Much Does A Brow Transplant Cost?
The cost of an eyebrow transplant depends on a lot of factors, but you can expect it to range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000+. “The wide range of pricing is due to the region of the country one lives in, the expertise of the doctor performing the transplant, and the number of hair follicles transplanted,” Dr. DeRosa explains.
It’s certainly a hefty cost, but an eyebrow transplant can permanently fix thin, sparse brows. That means no more brow serums, pencils, and pomades, and for many, that’s worth it.