Brow lifts are by no means the new kid on the cosmetic procedure block—people have been getting them for decades. But they're all the rage in Hollywood and social media right now; at last search, #browlift had over 577,000 posts (with some pretty impressive before and afters). What gives? New surgical techniques have made this something that increasingly more young folks are seeking out—a relatively minor surgical procedure that can yield a big impact when it comes to your overall look. Ahead, plastic surgeons Dr. Jon E. Mendelsohn and Dr. Catherine S. Chang break down everything you need to know about brow lifts.
Meet the Expert
What Is a Brow Lift?
Simply put, it's exactly what it sounds like: "A brow lift is a surgical procedure where the goal is to elevate drooping eyebrows to help rejuvenate the entire eye area," explains Mendelsohn. It's often also referred to as a forehead lift, though this is more applicable to older surgical techniques (more on those in a moment), and, according to Chang, also connotes an older demographic. "Nowadays, brow lifts are being performed on younger patients simply to accentuate the eye area," she says. In other words, while it definitely falls into the category of an anti-aging procedure, it can also be done simply to enhance your look.
Benefits of a Brow Lift
- Rejuvenates the upper face and eye area.
- Can restore the natural position of a brow that's dropping due to age, genetics, or trauma.
- In women, the eyebrow should sit right at or just above the orbital bone, says Mendelsohn. As we age and our skin loses collagen and elastin, it starts to sag, which can lead to a drooping of the brow, technically called a ptotic brow, he adds. A brow lift is simply a way to lift the brow back up to its rightful position. This subsequently opens up the entire eye area and may even smooth out any wrinkles above the brow a bit, resulting in an overall more youthful look. But, per Chang's point, many patients these days want a lifted brow simply for aesthetic reasons rather than to combat drooping. And while a brow lift can be a way to achieve a very taut, pulled-back look, it doesn't have to. Brow lifts can range from super subtle and natural to very dramatic, she points out.
Surgical Brow Lift vs. Botox Brow Lift
Going under the needle is another way to create a similar effect, no surgery involved, though the amount of brow elevation achieved will be much more minimal. According to Chang, targeted Botox injections can be a reasonable treatment option for those seeking just a little bit of a lift. The neurotoxin is injected into the tail of the brow where the muscle would usually pull it down, ultimately elevating it ever-so-slightly. Just keep in mind that the results will last for only a few months—three to four, max—after which you'll have to have repeat injections. (On that note, it's worth pointing out that while surgical brow lifts do have much longer-lasting results, they're not a permanent solution. The skin will continue to lose elasticity with age, and may end up sagging again.) Ultherapy is another non-surgical alternative, for those looking for a subtle brow lift.
How to Prepare for a Brow Lift
Speaking of Botox, Chang says it's a definitely not advised before a surgical brow lift. "Botox can cause changes in brow positioning, and I always want the brow in the most natural state possible in order to deliver a natural result," she explains. You'll also want to avoid taking any NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, for two weeks prior, as well as stop drinking for a week before in order to minimize the likelihood of bruising.
What to Expect During a Brow Lift
All things considered, it's a fairly quick procedure. A brow lift can be done under either local anesthesia or IV sedation and will take about an hour, says Mendelsohn. While there are many different techniques used, Chang says she usually performs a lateral brow lift, during which a small incision is created within the hair. A tunnel is created down to the brow, and the deep connective tissue that holds the brow in place is then lifted. Small stitches suspend the brow in the desired position and the incision is closed. Once it's healed, it's imperceptible, she explains. (This is a drastically different technique than the classic or coronal brow lift, which involves all of the forehead skin being pulled up via an incision that stretches from ear to ear across the entire forehead.)
According to Mendelsohn, the recovery is pretty easy, with the most common side effects being some mild pain, headache, possible nausea, and bruising around the surgical site, all of which should dissipate fairly quickly. Another potential side effect is some hair loss around the incision.
Plan on about a week's worth of recovery time total, though most patients are up and around within a day, says Mendelsohn. You'll have to sleep with your head slightly elevated for the first week, and come back a week after the surgery to have stitches removed, adds Chang. Heavy lifting is also off limits for about two weeks.
The Final Takeaway
Whether you're looking for way to make your eye area appear more youthful or simply wish you had higher brows for aesthetic reasons, a brow lift may be an option worth considering. It will deliver long-lasting (though not permanent) results, and is a quick procedure with minimal downtime. That being said, it's still surgery. If you'd prefer to not go under the knife, and/or are looking for slightly less dramatic results, a less-invasive, non-surgical Botox brow lift is a good alternative.
Satriyasa BK. Botulinum toxin (Botox) A for reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles: a literature review of clinical use and pharmacological aspect. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2019;12:223-228.