Chrissy Teigen regularly dominates the internet zeitgeist – and particularly so when it comes to beauty. The latest trend we can thank the famous face for putting on our radar is eyebrow hair transplantation, after she recently shared her experience of the surgery late last year.
While in the UK the procedure remains niche, it is becoming increasingly popular, says Dr Asim Shahmalak – a globally respected hair transplant specialist who is one of the few surgeons in the UK qualified to carry out this delicate procedure.
For those interested in an eyebrow transformation, we spoke to Dr Shahmalak about what the surgery involves and how to know if it could work for you.
Who eyebrow transplant surgery is suitable for
Assuming you have the funds (the surgery costs around £5,000 with Dr Shahmalak at his clinics in Manchester and Harley Street, London) there are some other factors that may make you a suitable candidate for the procedure:
Those purely wanting a cosmetic change: “We usually do eyebrow hair transplantation on those who have previously over-plucked and now want wider, thicker eyebrows. Or those who have naturally sparse brow hairs and want a fuller look and better shape.”
Those who have suffered from trichotillomania in the past: “Trichotillomania is a compulsive disorder where people pull their own hairs out. We can work on these patients to replace lost brow hairs once they have stopped pulling their hair for at least a year, meaning they have recovered and are unlikely to pull out a new set of brows.”
Those who have experienced physical trauma to the brow area or surgical treatments causing hair loss: “I also work with those who have suffered injuries that result in scarring of the eyebrow area, including acid burn victims. In addition, surgical treatments can result in the removal of eyebrow follicles, including cancer treatment which can cause loss of eyebrow hair.”
A thorough consultation with a surgeon will help confirm if you’re suited to the surgery, or whether another treatment may be a better option such as microblading, a tattooing technique that adds pigment to the skin via hair-like strokes, which is usually performed by an aesthetician.
Deciding the right brow shape
As with any cosmetic brow treatment, achieving the perfect shape for you is imperative, and will likely be a collaborative decision.
“Patients often bring photographs,” Dr Shahmalak says, “but I always tell them, ‘We are looking for improvement, not for perfection’. If they have a clear idea of what they would like to achieve I ask my patients to draw their own eyebrows as they like them. If they appear unnatural, I suggest adjustments that will work with their face shape and structure.” It’s a joint journey, he adds, “we work in partnership”.
The surgery explained
Like hair transplant surgery, during an eyebrow transplant hair is taken from a donor site and transferred to the brow area.
“I take hair from the back of the scalp where the hair doesn’t naturally recede,” explains Dr Shahmalak “– picture that horseshoe area of hair at the back of the head which always remains even when people start to bald.” That way you (or others) won't notice the loss.
Under local anaesthetic – meaning patients are awake for the whole procedure – Dr Shahmalak uses a technique called Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). “We numb the eyebrow area and insert the new hairs one-by-one.” The key here, he explains, is the positioning of the incisions; “the angulation of the eyebrow transplant is one of the most important things”. Look in the mirror and you’ll notice that there are three or four ways that brow hairs naturally angle. Done wrong and the results can resemble a toilet brush.
Mercifully, he reveals that the procedure is relatively pain-free. “It requires two-to-three injections on the scalp and the brow, which will be uncomfortable for a couple of minutes. The procedure will then take between three-to-four hours in experienced hands.” Depending on the extent of eyebrow hair loss, more than one session may be required.
In general, Dr Shahmalak says that the surgery is very safe and has a high success rate, as good as 95-to-98 per cent – “unless there are any underlying skin diseases or issues, which can be examined at the time of consultation”.
What happens after the surgery
Dr Shahmalak explains that once the new brow hairs have been inserted, the area takes up to four days to heal, during which time you mustn’t get the area wet. “After that, the grafts will be completely embedded,” he says.
But note that the new brows aren’t visually there from the get-go. “Think of the surgery like someone having planted the bulb of a flower in autumn, which will then come out in spring.” So, once the area has healed, the hairs then shed after two-to-four weeks, before growing back in from six months onwards.
Those following Teigen’s journey will be familiar with this (“welcome, new brow hairs,” she captioned the video above). Meanwhile, her close friend, celebrity hairdresser Jen Atkin, vlogged about her brow transplant surgery on YouTube, which also details the process (watch below). “It takes one year for the full growth to take place,” Dr Shahmalak confirms. “Then, it lasts for a lifetime.”
Other need-to-know points
As with any surgical procedure, complications can include infections, though Dr Shahmalak is yet to see one after performing hundreds of these transplants. There’s also a possibility of cyst formations, which can happen when two hairs grow from one hole.
Complications aside, after an eyebrow hair transplant, it’s important to know that your brows are essentially manmade and will act differently to natural eyebrows. “As the hairs have come from the back of the scalp, they will grow faster,” explains the surgeon. Of course, Teigen has shared this experience: "Like weeds I tell ya!", she posted (see below).
Indeed, they may need to be trimmed on a weekly basis and regularly ‘styled’. “The character of the hair from the head is not the same as the face,” the surgeon reminds his patients, advising they have brow scissors and a spoolie to hand.
Given that this procedure is relatively new, and research such as controlled trials have not been done yet, it’s hard to tell whether the hair growth pattern will slow down with age, but Dr Shahmalak believes that to be the case. “After maybe 10-to-15 years, where they were once growing very long quite quickly, the growth pattern will slow down, but the thickness will remain.”
When considering eyebrow transplants – as with any planned surgical procedure – be sure to do your research beforehand and ensure that any practitioner treating you has done several of these surgeries, can provide before-and-after photos, and that you feel comfortable that they’ve understood what you are hoping to achieve.
Visit crownclinic.co.uk for more information on Dr Shahmalak.
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