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Hair transplants to replace missing eyebrows

January 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It can happen due to injury, illness or simply because of over-tweezing: Women with thinning eyebrows rely on makeup or tattooing to fill in what they've lost. But often it doesn't look natural. Now more women are exploring a new option to transform their brows: hair transplantation.

As a kid, 53-year-old Shari Verner of Long Beach was a fan of tweezers.

"Being a teenager and you do tweeze a lot. But I started noticing they didn't grow back," said Verner.

Verner is very self-conscious about her lack of eyebrows. She swims a lot, so makeup washes off, and tattooing them on didn't take.

Hair-transplant specialist Dr. Sean Behnam says it's a common story.

"The number-one reason is overplucking," said Behnam.

Other causes include face trauma, burns, even thyroid problems.

Transplanting hairs to the brow area is a fairly new procedure, but few doctors do it because it's such painstaking work.

"It takes time and it takes patience," said Behnam.

Forming the brow is an exact science.

Older methods require removing a strip of skin, then suturing or stapling the area, which creates a scar. Instead, Behnam removes 300 hairs from the back of the head one at a time.

"We individually punch out and remove every graft. And once we do it, the skin just heals," said Behnam.

On the brow bone, he creates tiny holes and slides in each graft individually.

A lot of thought goes into implanting each and every follicle. You may not realize this but your hair grows in different directions. So when it's placed on the brow it has to be placed so it's facing the proper angle.

"We want all the grafts to be at 20-degree angles and we want the hairs to be facing inward rather than outwards," said Behnam.

The entire procedure takes about eight hours and costs between $4,000 to $5,000.

The hairs will fall out but the roots will take hold and grow about an inch in three to four months.

"Everyone should have eyebrows. We're born with eyebrows. So if you don't have any and you're that self-conscious as I was, I would recommend this in a heartbeat," said Verner.

An interesting note: Hairs from your head will grow kind of wild on your eyebrows for the first year. But Behnam says after that, the newly implanted grafts will learn how to act like regular eyebrow hairs.

You can contact Dr. Sean Behnam at (310) 315-4989, Dermatology and Hair Restoration, 2825 Santa Monica Blvd.