Eyelash implants are a permanent way to extend and thicken eyelashes by surgically installing dozens of individual hair strands with the attached hair follicles into the rim of the upper eyelid. No artificial hair is used; instead, tiny hairs from elsewhere on the body, generally the nape and neck area, are transplanted. Leg hair might also be used. Before implantation, the hair must be sheared of outer layers such as the epidermis and dermis. Oils are also removed before each hair is individually grafted into the eyelid one strand at a time.
People with sparse eyelashes or cancer survivors whose eyelashes have fallen out through chemotherapy may opt for this procedure. Burn victims and alopecia sufferers also consider this treatment to replace lost eyelashes. Trichotillomaniacs, people who have the habit of plucking out eyelashes due to whim, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, have also been buyers of eyelash implants.
A licensed cosmetic surgeon must perform the procedure, which involves the use of scalpels to create incisions in the upper lid into which the new hair follicles are transplanted. This surgery typically takes between one and three hours to complete, depending on how many lashes are implanted. Implanting between 30 and 60 lashes is common. The patient is put under localized anesthesia to buffer pain. The eyes of the patient are protected from knives and other surgical instruments by eye covers.
The maintenance of eyelash implants is considered minimum. Mascara and eyeliner can be applied to or near the implants and removed with soap and water or makeup remover. Most purchasers of implants do not need to apply makeup, however, because the lashes become increasingly thicker and longer within four to seven months of surgery.
Eyelash implants can last for a lifetime without replacement. Once transplanted, the eyelash implants will continue to grow and may need to be occasionally trimmed to match the uniform look of the other lashes. Cosmetic surgeons are able to provide this trimming, although some transplant owners elect to do it themselves. The aesthetic effect of the transplant procedure is generally considered realistic, mimicking the look and curvature of natural lashes.
Costs vary. In many countries, however, the cost of eyelash transplants is between $3,000 and $6,000 US Dollars (USD). The surgery was pioneered in America, but has been practiced in Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Insurance companies generally will not cover this procedure, which is not typically viewed as a medical necessity. Temporary side effects include swelling, redness, itching, and minor post-operative pain.