As mask-wearing continues to be the new normal during the time of COVID-19, there’s no denying that the eyes have now become the focal point of the face.
So it’s not surprising that interest in eye makeup and over-the-counter eyelash treatments has suddenly skyrocketed, particularly for products and services that guarantee lashes that stay fuller longer.
Lash lifts and eyelash extensions are more mainstream solutions you may have heard of.
Eyelash transplant surgery is another method used to improve the appearance of sparse lashes. Unlike lifts and extensions, this procedure offers more permanent results, if performed correctly by a board-certified surgeon.
While having transplant surgery may sound intimidating, experts assure us that it isn’t as scary as it sounds. The procedure simply involves transferring hair from one part of your body to your eyelash area.
To further explain how it works, we tapped two board-certified plastic surgeons and a board-certified ophthalmologist. They shared pros and cons, and what to consider before booking a consultation with a professional.
Read on to learn about all the ins and outs of eyelash transplant surgery.
“Eyelash transplant surgery involves moving hair from one part of the body (usually the back of the head) to the eyelash area (upper or lower eyelid),” explained board-certified plastic surgeon Gary Linkov, MD.
“This helps guarantee a fuller and longer lash appearance,” he said.
While many consider eyelash transplant surgery for cosmetic purposes, Linkov said that those who have either experienced trauma to the eye area (avulsions and burns) or complications from tattooing infections also may be interested in the procedure.
Similarly, those who have genetically short (or scanty) eyelashes may be good candidates for the surgery, according to board-certified cosmetic surgeon Dr. Riad Roomi, as well as individuals living with trichotillomania, a mental disorder characterized by picking lash hairs.
Unlike lash extensions, which require constant maintenance every 6 to 8 weeks, Linkov suggested that eyelash transplant surgery guarantees more permanent results because it’s technically a form of hair transplant surgery.
“Results are as permanent as the hairs on the back of the head, which are generally lifelong, unless a rare hair loss condition develops,” he said.
However, board-certified ophthalmologist and oculofacial plastic surgeon Rona Silkiss, MD, FACS, explained that post-surgery, lashes will need to be maintained regularly. This is because they can grow long and may require trimming.
“The lashes need continual care after surgery,” Silkiss told Healthline. “Remember, the transplanted lash hairs are actually scalp hairs, which means that they can grow long in length, and in various directions.”
|real hair||takes a while to see results|
|moderate success rate|
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|potential corneal irritation|
Long-lasting natural results
Since eyelash transplant surgery is a form of hair restoration surgery, there are advantages associated with the procedure. These include:
- It offers long-lasting results not seen in other eyelash solutions.
- Lashes are made with real hairs instead of synthetic ones.
However, as with any kind of surgery, Linkov warned that you should keep in mind some inherent risks. These include:
- poor aesthetic outcome
- corneal irritation
Silkiss suggested that cost is another consideration attached to eyelash transplant surgery. The procedure is on the expensive side, and it typically isn’t covered by insurance.
According to Cosmetic Town Journal, the average price of an eyelash transplant is between $2,500 and $6,000.
Results take time to achieve
Silkiss added that this surgery requires more downtime than other lash solutions, which can be unattractive to people who want instantaneous results.
“Eyelash transplant surgery entails more downtime than a lash extension treatment,” she told Healthline. “Also, with eyelash transplant surgery, it takes a period of time for the lashes to reach their full potential.”
Relatively healthy patients with no underlying medical conditioners are usually considered good candidates for eyelash transplant surgery. However, Silkiss said some individuals will want to talk to their doctor before exploring this procedure.
“Patients with autoimmune conditions that lead to the loss of lashes may not do well with surgery,” she explained. “Similarly, patients on blood thinners, or prone to infection, are also at greater risk for problems.”
To give you a better understanding of how eyelash transplant surgery works, Linkov explained that the procedure starts by measuring and trimming hair found on the back of your head.
These scalp hairs, he said, will be the ones used to create new eyelashes during the surgery.
Once enough hair is taken from your scalp, your eyelash area is prepped and numbed. Local anesthesia (lidocaine with epinephrine) is used to limit pain in your scalp and eyelash areas.
Then, the new eyelash hairs are inserted one by one.
Linkov advised wearing comfortable clothing for the procedure and bringing a family member (or friend) with you. The procedure takes between 2 and 4 hours.
After eyelash transplant surgery is complete, Linkov noted that it’s perfectly normal for you to experience swelling and bruising of the eyelid area for days to weeks.
However, he added, the back of your head (where lashes were taken from) typically recovers within days, without too much discomfort.
When it comes to your actual lashes, Linkov said people should expect the transplanted hairs to begin to fall out post-surgery. This prompts new hair shafts to grow over the course of 4 to 6 months.
“The transplanted hairs often will fall out with the crusts as soon as 5 to 8 days after the procedure,” he explained. “Most of the rest of the transplanted hairs will fall out over the next two weeks. The new hair shafts will begin to grow in the 4- to 6-month window and will continue to grow.”
Results from eyelash transplant surgery will become noticeable over time, so Linkov suggested that the results of the surgery are best judged after at least 12 months. It can take a longer duration of time for all the hairs to completely grow in.
Eyelash transplant surgery does promise fuller and longer-looking lashes over time.
However, Silkiss warned that the procedure has downsides. One is its cost, and another is that there’s no guarantee of a successful outcome.
Additionally, since this surgery uses scalp hairs, the lashes will still require maintenance, according to Silkiss.
“These lashes must be trimmed and curled monthly, and may lead to ocular irritation,” she warned. “They may even grow inward toward the eye, leading to irritation and potentially corneal scarring.”
Linkov said it’s important to remember that eyelash transplant surgery is on the pricey side, with the total cost typically starting around $3,000 and going up from there.
He said to keep in mind that most hair transplants are priced per graft, while the eyelash transplant is usually a flat fee — the graft count of an eyelash transplant may not be much compared to a hair transplant involving your scalp.
Other factors that can influence pricing include extreme attention to detail and the skill level of the surgeon performing the procedure.
Also, eyelash transplant surgery isn’t typically covered by insurance unless your hair loss is caused by a medical condition, such as cancer or trauma to your eyelid.
Since eyelash transplant surgery is a very delicate kind of surgery, Silkiss said that finding a board-certified eyelash transplant surgeon is crucial.
“This is delicate surgery (close to the eyes) that has a moderate success rate even with the most experienced of surgeons,” she explained. “Finding a board-certified ophthalmologist, dermatologist, or cosmetic surgeon with experience in lash transplantation is always recommended.”
And of course, even if you find a reputable professional who can administer this surgery, Linkov recommended taking some time to ask your surgeon questions during your consultation.
Doing so can give you a better understanding of how the surgery works and make sure that you and are your surgeon are on the same page when it comes to your desired results.
“Make sure that the eyelash transplant doctor you choose understands its intricacies, and how to create the most aesthetically pleasing results,” Linkov explained. “Be sure to ask how many grafts per side are being considered and about the preparation of the back of the head for hair removal.”
You can use this online site to begin your search for a board-certified surgeon.
While eyelash transplant surgery offers a much more permanent result, Silkiss suggested you can explore other lash-enhancing alternatives before actually booking a consultation.
These include lash lifts, lash extensions, mascara, or enhancers such as Latisse (a prescription drug). These options should be considered first — before the actual surgery is performed — since they’re much less invasive, she explained.
“I strongly urge people to try the cosmetic nonpermanent solutions first,” Silkiss added. “Eyelash transplantation is expensive and variable in its graft success rate.”
Eyelash transplant surgery may seem frightening at first. However, experts explain that this form of hair restoration surgery offers longer, natural, and more permanent lashes.
While permanency is one of the greatest benefits of the surgery, it’s important to keep in mind the downsides:
- It’s a costly procedure not usually covered by insurance.
- Lashes need to be maintained post-surgery.
- The surgery runs the risk of not being successful.
Despite these downsides, people who’ve experienced trauma to their eye area or those who are genetically predisposed to having sparse lashes are encouraged to explore this procedure.
Be sure to seek out a board-certified surgeon to ensure the surgery is performed safely.