Considering Surgery to Lower Your Hairline? Read This First

Up close of a woman's forehead with her fingers in her hair

Byrdie / Angela Rober / Stocksy

If your eyes gravitate to the size of your forehead every single time you see yourself in a photo, you've probably already looked into some treatments that may help. And if you're well beyond the point of considering bangs as a treatment, you may have already looked into forehead reduction surgery.

Perhaps you've seen people documenting their healing process after surgery on TikTok, or even scoped out some before and after images on Instagram. However, it can be hard to find specific information online. This is especially true when it comes to the costs, requirements, and recovery times. That said, forehead reduction surgery can be a solid option for people of any age who find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time concerned with the size of their forehead.

Below, two esteemed board-certified plastic surgeons—David Shafer, MD, and Lesley Rabach, MD—break down everything there is to know about forehead reduction surgery, including ideal candidates and the surgery’s potential downsides. 

Meet the Expert

  • David Shafer, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and owner of the Shafer Clinic in New York City.
  • Lesley Rabach, MD, is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon in New York City.

What Is Forehead Reduction?

This is a full-on surgery, but while anesthesia is required, you’ll only be under for about one hour. Shafer explained exactly what goes on while you're under the knife. “A strip of skin will be excised (removed) along the anterior hairline at the top of the forehead,” explains Shafer. “The skin is then elevated off of the skull down to the level of the eyebrows. The skin flap is then pulled superiorly toward the anterior hairline and skin edges sewn in place.”

Basically, it's as simple as cutting off a strip of skin just below the hairline and pulling the skin up. This works to slightly raise the eyebrows and to ever-so-slightly pull the hairline downward, which leads to an overall reduction in the forehead’s size. This video definitely deserves a major trigger warning, but in addition to the before and after photos, Shafer demonstrates exactly what happens during the surgery.

The cost of the procedure depends on the city as well as the surgeon, however, with those factors in mind, Shafer says that these surgeries generally cost between $8,000 and $15,000. Rabach, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon in New York City, came in a bit higher and says the procedures start at around $20,000. The long and short of it is that they’re pretty pricey.

Benefits of Forehead Reduction Surgery

  • Reduction in height of the forehead
  • Tightening of skin and reduction of forehead wrinkles
  • Slight eyebrow lift
  • Slight upper eyelid lift

If you’ve been self-conscious about your forehead for years, there's no doubt that you will consider the results substantial. Rabach says that the ideal size of foreheads for women is 5.5 to 6.5 centimeters, and The Journal of Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine notes that a successful surgery can typically reduce the size of the forehead by an average of 1.6 centimeters. While that may look small on a measuring tape, it can truly transform the overall look of your face.

How to Prepare for Forehead Reduction Surgery

First things first: Make sure that you select a doctor who is board-certified. While you're at it, take advantage of social media by scoping out their Instagram page to see examples of their work. If you're not getting photos of this specific procedure from their social media, definitely feel free to reach out to the doctor's office directly. 

Now on to the prep. As with any surgical procedure, a forehead reduction surgery will require a consultation. Rabach specifies that the initial consultation involves looking at the patient’s medical history and going over preoperative and postoperative instructions. In the video below, Rabach shows how she evaluates a patient who is considering forehead reduction surgery. Not only does she take measurements of the person’s forehead, she checks their scalp laxity. This basically involves moving the scalp horizontally and vertically to see whether the skin will give enough for the surgery to be successful. 

Shafer explains that he also works to determine if the patient is more concerned about the size of their forehead, as opposed to loose skin or brow position. “Some patients come in and want a brow lift or forehead lift to pull up the excess skin on their upper eyelids,” says Shafer. “If this is the case, an upper eyelid blepharoplasty may actually be a better surgery.” He says that the same is true for people concerned about their brows, as a less invasive treatment like Ultherapy could potentially suffice.

What to Expect During a Forehead Reduction Procedure

Forehead reduction surgeries are performed under anesthesia and typically take between one and one and a half hours to fully complete. “An incision is made along the natural hairline, and the area of excess forehead is removed and the hair is moved forward to reduce the size of the forehead,” explains Rabach, echoing the description of Shafer. 

Rabach says that the patient is usually sent home soon after the surgery on the same day. She has them come back into the office the day after surgery for evaluation. “Stitches are removed after one week and patients can be up and about the day after the procedure,” says Rabach. From there, she has her patients come back for a follow-up at the one-month, two-month, and six-month marks. 

The results of the surgery are permanent, so patients need to strongly consider how much they want to make the change, as well as the potential side effects. 

Potential Side Effects

While she specifies that side effects are rare, Rabach does note that some people can experience numbness or hair loss in the area where the hairline was cut. She also mentions the general risks that are associated with anesthesia, which include bleeding, infection, and nausea. 

In regard to the immediate after-effects of the surgery, Shafer says patients should be aware that “there will be a visible incision for weeks or months, so a patient needs to know that they can't tie their hair back if they want to conceal the surgery while it is healing.” In general, if patients love to pull their hair back, Shafer says patients “really need to consider if they want this surgery.” He explains that this is due to the fact that there is no guarantee that the incision won’t be visible   

Aftercare

Shafer explains that in the first few days after the surgery, patients can apply ice packs to reduce the swelling and bruising. He also recommends that his patients sleep with their heads elevated, which will help keep any swelling to a minimum. “The first few weeks are for incision care​​—mainly keeping it clean and applying creams,” says Shafer. “In our office, we offer laser treatments to help improve the appearance of the incisions.”

You’ll also want to make sure to stay out of the sun so that your incision can heal quickly without damage or irritation. Other than that, Shafer says that “during the subsequent few months, there is not much care required.”

The Final Takeaway

Forehead reduction surgery is pricey and definitely has some accompanying risks. Perhaps the most worrisome part about it is that you won't truly know what you’re going to look like until the surgery is complete. That said, if you have been self-conscious about your forehead for quite some time and have very few hesitations when you consider the prospect of being able to fix it, this surgery may be for you.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Vila PM, Somani SN, Wafford QE, Sidle DM. Forehead reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of outcomesFacial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Medicine. Published online February 18, 2021.

Related Stories