The True Story Of Eyebrow Transplants

I remember when it all started: I was ten years old, sitting on my great-grandmother’s lap, eating strawberries covered in sugar. She looked at me with delight and said, “We have the exact same eyebrows!”

Hers were big, white, wiry, and out-of-control. I was mortified at the comparison. The next day, I asked my mom if she could take me to the salon to get them waxed. “Not a chance," she said. So, I had to take matters into my own hands: I found our family's only pair of tweezers (in a first-aid kit) and went to town. My eyebrows never grew back.

Fast-forward to when I was in college and working for the Lancôme beauty counter in Sarasota, Florida. We brought in professional makeup artists for many of our quarterly training sessions. At one event, a makeup artist singled out my brows as an example what not to do when creating a custom look — she referred to them as “Ronald McDonald” arches.

Her words stuck with me, but when I tried to grow my brows out, I had very little success. Instead, I became an expert at penciling them in. Once I graduated, though, I wanted a more permanent solution. By then, I felt completely naked without my penciled brows, which made life very difficult. I tried brow-growth serums, Rogaine, hair pills — anything I could think of. Nothing worked. I finally decided that getting a brow transplant was the solution for me. Read on to see what this process was really like.

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Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Wilkins.
For my brow transplant surgery, I went to Dr. Dauer in Los Angeles, who is a true artist. I was going to get around 650 grafts of hair, and it would cost $5,000.

There are two types of eyebrow transplants: FUT (Follicular Unit Transplant) and NeoGrafting. FUT is where they remove a four-inch-wide slice of scalp from the back of your head and then dissect all the hairs to graft in wherever you'd like. This method sounds terrifying and leaves a scar (granted, it's one that is only noticeable if you have a shaved head). NeoGrafting, on the other hand, involves using a machine to suck out the hairs from your scalp without leaving a scar. This sounded much better to me, but it has a lower success rate. So, after Dr. Dauer calmed my fears of “being scalped,” I decided to use the traditional FUT method.

I created a stencil for my ideal eyebrows, just like the kind you can buy at Sephora. When I arrived in L.A. at Dr. Dauer’s office, we discussed exactly what was going to happen during the procedure. Then, he let me draw on my own stencil, which he would use to complete the surgery. (You do have the option to let the doctor do this, but I am way too much of a control freak!)
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Wilkins.
We then went into the grafting room, where they removed a piece of my scalp. I was awake for this, but numbed so that I couldn't feel a thing. After the donor hair was taken, I had a few hours to kill while they dissected all the hairs. While I was waiting, I had a lot of fun talking to the technician. I found out that you can transplant hair anywhere — some people, for example, replace their pubic hair after having it all lasered off. (You could also transplant hair to give yourself Vulcan eyebrows, or even a tail. But I digress.)

The next step is grafting the hair in place, which also happened while I was awake. Once again, I couldn’t feel a thing. The next day, after waking up, my eyelids were completely swollen shut; I looked like a turtle. I had severe nausea, was unable to fully open my eyes, and I remained swollen and bruised for exactly seven days. If you plan on getting brow transplants, invest in a good, cold eye mask — you’re gonna need it.
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Wilkins.
After transplants, your eyebrows will completely scab over. You have to wait a full week before you can begin pulling out some of the loose scabs (when I tried doing this too early I pulled out a graft that began to bleed). Then, after about two weeks, all the transplanted hairs fall out; their purpose is basically to create "seeds" for new hair growth.

I had my grafts done in early August. By the end of October, I was starting to see new hairs sprout. Then, they started growing like weeds — by February, almost all of my new hairs were completely grown in.

When these new hairs arrived, they didn’t grow like normal eyebrow hair; they grew straight out. I tried every product I could think of to tame and train them and nothing worked. I finally tried using Oribe Rock Hard Gel. This product was amazing — the answer to my prayers. It completely kept my brows in place and only took around two months to fully train them.

Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Wilkins.
After the whole process was over I had about 90% regrowth. The hair grows fast, so I need to trim my brows every four days. Aside from that, my current brow routine consists of minor plucking, dyeing, and a very light fill-in using an angled brush with dark eyeshadow. I don’t mind still having to fill in my brows a bit, because it's so minimal.

I received a lot of criticism when I first told friends and family I was going to have eyebrow hair transplants. No one understood — because their brows were all fully intact. Now, with all said and done, the friends who once judged me say I look amazing. They've completely changed their minds about the whole thing.

I have never regretted my decision to undergo the surgery. For many people, weekly brow-trimming would be too much maintenance. But, anyone who painstakingly draws on their eyebrows every day can understand how 30 seconds of trimming every four days is worth it. And, eyebrow hair transplants aren’t just for the over-plucked: People who suffer from scars, naturally sparse hair growth, or misshapen brows can all benefit. The process sounds daunting, but it goes by faster than you can imagine — and I promise you will never look back. I haven't.
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