What It Was Really Like to Get a Brow Lift from the Painful Recovery to My Final Result

As far as features go, eyebrows were never significant to me. Like other teenagers, I experimented with different hairstyles and fretted about my face, but never once did I think about my eyebrows. In the early aughts, I succumbed to the trends of the time and had them shaped to be pencil thin, like those of Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder, and Courtney Love, and my aesthetician always complimented their unusual length and deep-black color. But I was more preoccupied with the things I didn’t like about myself, like my nose and curly hair. As I grew into adulthood and eyebrow trends changed, I was fortunate to have no issues growing my eyebrows out. As thicker eyebrows became the reigning beauty standard, I began appreciating this feature I once dismissed as ordinary.

When I hit my mid-30s, the eyebrows and dark eyes I had learned to love began to change. My eyebrows had always been low, and this had never bothered me. But when I could no longer apply eyeshadow without smearing it, I had to give up using eye makeup entirely. I realized that my eyes had become more hooded over the years. I tried finding beauty hacks online to line hooded eyes but became increasingly frustrated by how much my eye shape had changed. Suddenly, my eyes no longer seemed to convey varying emotions because people routinely asked me if I was upset, angry, or sad. These changes made me feel self-conscious about my face because I often had to interact with customers at work. Over the years, I tried getting Botox injected underneath the brows, to elevate them temporarily, but I saw little to no improvement. I wasn’t a stranger to plastic surgery, but because I’d had both positive and negative experiences going under the knife, I was hesitant to go through the experience again.

Then I noticed a new beauty trend sweeping social media about two years ago. Supermodels Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner seemed to have dramatically angled eyebrows and almond eyes overnight, giving them an unconventional but beautiful look. It was the same look I achieved when I would pull back the skin of my forehead around my eyebrows with my fingers and stare at myself in the mirror. My eyes instantly appeared more prominent and attractive by manually lifting my eyebrows. After researching online, I decided to opt for a fox-eye thread lift. This procedure uses dissolvable PDO threads to lift sagging brows and was speculated to be the noninvasive procedure many celebrities had done to achieve this look. I was reassured that results would last at least 18 months, and since the threads were dissolvable, I would stimulate collagen production in my skin—a win-win. Unfortunately, the thread lift was excruciatingly painful and costly. Despite using thicker threads, there was no difference in the appearance of my eyebrows, and I walked away bruised and disappointed.

After that, I began cautiously looking into getting a endoscopic brow lift, to reposition the height of my eyebrows and create more lid space. I was referred to and went to see Dr. Allan E. Wulc, an oculoplastic surgeon in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, to find out what could be done about my droopy brows and sad eyes. After he took some photos, I explained the changes I had noticed in my eyes and Dr. Wulc compared the images he had just taken to photos I had brought in of myself in my 20s. Dr. Wulc said he saw slight changes to my eyebrow position due to aging. He felt I wouldn’t need additional procedures, like an upper blepharoplasty, to remove excess skin if my eyebrow was lifted. He said he did not perform lateral brow lifts, a procedure where only the outer portion of the eyebrow is raised, because he believes the fox-eye trend will not have longevity. We discussed my expectations, and I left my consultation confident that I had found the right surgeon.

On the day of surgery, I met with Dr. Wulc again to go over the details of what would happen that day, and he marked my face to see how far he would raise my eyebrows. I noticed that my right brow sat slightly lower than my lift, so I wanted him to correct this asymmetry in addition to raising both eyebrows. Afterward, the anesthesiologist came in, to give me a nerve block that was administered via the nose. This was an optional procedure that I’d decided to go through with because I’d read that the anesthetic would keep my forehead numb following surgery and keep incidence of migraine (which I’m prone to) down. Then I was put under anesthesia, and when I woke up, I was swollen, with a bandage around my forehead. It felt like someone had hit me over the head. The pain was managed with prescription medications, and I noticed that my forehead, eyes, and midface were extremely swollen and bruised. I spent most of the day icing my face and resting. Dr. Wulc called me that evening to see how I was doing and permitted me to wash my hair before I went to see him the following day.

My brow lift recovery

In the morning, I felt nauseated as the anesthetics began to wear off, and my scalp was throbbing where the six incisions in my hairline were. When I washed my hair, I was alarmed to see that clumps of hair around the incisions fell out. After checking in Dr. Wulc, he reassured me that my experience was normal and he was pleased with how much he was able to lift my eyebrows without giving me an overcorrected look. I was instructed to continue resting and icing for the next 10 days and told I could resume exercise after two weeks.

I spent those 10 days at home, waiting for my swelling and bruising to dissipate. Although I could leave the house after a week, I preferred staying inside until my swelling resolved. I took vitamins and applied arnica to my bruises, to ensure quick healing. Unfortunately, I was one of the unlucky patients who experienced shock hair loss, which was admittedly distressing (a 2018 systematic review found that endoscopic brow lifts had the highest alopecia rate of all browlift techniques, at 2.8%). Still, I was told this was likely temporary and that the bald areas (each approximately an inch in size) would eventually grow back in. In the meantime, I’ve worn my hair down, to cover the bare spots. The hardest thing about my recovery was not being able to color or blow-dry my hair for nearly two months while the incisions on my scalp healed. Instead, I religiously applied ointment to the scabs until they softened and eventually fell off. At my one-month follow-up, the staples that were placed in my forehead while the sutures healed were removed. I had a pulsed dye laser treatment to remove some residual bruising that was still present underneath the right eye.

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