Why I had a £6,000 eyebrow transplant: it's made me feel like a teenager again

Why I had a £6,000 eyebrow transplant: It was six hours of agony, but it's made me feel like a teenager again, writes LIZ JONES

By Liz Jones For The Daily Mail





There’s always a moment, mid non-essential surgery, when you think, ‘Oh dear God! What have I done?’

Collagen in my lips before a big date, only to be told, ‘Don’t kiss for a month.’ Breast reduction aged 29, and only as I woke being told, ‘The nipples, which have been relocated, might go black and die. You will never be able to feel any sensation, or breastfeed.’

Half facelift? ‘Do not sit in the sun, ever. You will have to wear a face sling for two weeks.’

Veneers? The moment you realise that your perfectly healthy front teeth have been ground down to tiny grey stumps.

Making his mark: Dr Greg Vida draws on Liz Jones’s face with a felt-tip pen to give an idea how the new eyebrows will look

The ‘dear God’ moment during the six-hour procedure to give me a new pair of Cara Delevingne eyebrows came when I was on my stomach, face wedged through a hole on the operating table.

The surgeon was about to harvest donor hairs to insert in my brows from the back of my head. I’d previously thought this would involve plucking a few strands from my nape.

Not a bit of it. I hear clippers. I start screaming. ‘What are you doing?!’

The surgeon, Dr Greg Vida, one of the top four hair transplant specialists in the world, but at this moment, to my mind, not to be trusted at all, replied calmly: ‘I’m going to shave two discs on each side of the back of your head.’


‘Discs? Shave? How big?’ It was too late. I felt blades on my scalp, and saw hair fall to the floor. ‘I can’t be bald!’ I yelled.

At this point, the photographer documenting the surgery rather unhelpfully placed his camera below my face, so that I could see images of my scalp. I nearly fainted: two round, pale circles of Kojak-worthy baldness. ‘I came here to have one less problem, not another one!’

Why was I at the Harley Street Hair Clinic in Wimpole Street, Central London, putting myself through this? Well, to be honest, I’m easily swayed by perfect images on Instagram.

I have struggled with very thin, sparse brows since I overplucked them in the 1970s: it was the fashion to have two etiolated arcs, à la the model in the Biba adverts, shot by Sarah Moon.

The UK-based writer Liz (pictured) says that she is happy with her new brows and say that they have erased mistakes she made whilst a teenager when she plucked them into a thin line

Problem is, when fashion changed — models like Yasmin Le Bon and Talisa Soto emerged, with their dark, hirsute brows — mine stayed resolutely invisible. From the 1980s onwards I would pencil them in, worried I resembled too often, when in a hurry, Bette Davis in What Ever ­Happened To Baby Jane?.

I’ve spent my life in a battle with hair: too much on my body — the war waged with electrolysis, waxing, threading, even lasers — but, sadly, not enough in my brows and lashes. Come the early 1990s, I welcomed a new, innovative technique: semi-permanent make-up (SPMU). This is like a tattoo. My first session was at Harrods, and cost more than £500: back then, a huge sum. There is scabbing at first, which soon falls away. Problem is, after a few months, SPMU fades to an unbecoming purple. And has to be done again.

I felt blades on my scalp and saw hair fall to the floor

A newer option is micro-blading. While SPMU uses a machine that deposits pigment into the skin, micro-blading uses a blade, which is dragged into the skin, making a wound. SPMU can be used on lips, nipples for reconstruction after surgery, or as a liner on lids, while microblading tends to be confined to brows.

Big brows these days are a multi-million-pound industry, given that every receptionist in the land, every waitress, every schoolgirl, even, seems to have perfectly etched brows, spurred on no doubt by Towie and Instagram. In 2016 the UK brow market was valued at £20million, a huge rise from £6.5million in 2011 — and it has surely grown since. Fortunes have been built on them; take the beauty brand Anastasia Beverly Hills, whose cult brow products saw its value soar to an estimated £2.3billion ($3billion) in 2018.

Eyebrows are officially a Thing, a fashion statement as obvious as an It bag.

But no matter what you do, you come back to the problem of maintenance. Even micro-blading needs expensive topping up. It won’t last for ever.

She said that during the procedure she felt like she was being attacked by a persistent piranha and wished she had taken the offer of Valium

And then I hear about the possibility of a brow transplant. I follow the 36-year-old model Chrissy Teigen: I know, I’m a very sad 63-year-old.

She’s openly fond of cosmetic procedures, having had armpit liposuction(!), and in November last year posted a photo of her just-moments before transplanted fluffy brows, saying she had the procedure as she wanted to look more natural. ‘I never wear make-up if I can avoid it,’ she said. She looks incredible. Like Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon — another brow icon — only better.

I want to look more natural. I want to get out of the shower and be ready to face the day, not spend hours scribbling on my face, worrying about rain/ being smudged/Barbara Cartland analogies.

And so I go along to the Harley Street Hair Clinic for a consultation. The clinical director, Nadeem Khan, shows me before and after photos.

There are many famous supermodels: I’ve always wondered how models suddenly grow or discard body parts in order to be current, and now I know! They go under the scalpel!

It’s like being attacked by a persistent piranha

There are also photos of women who have lost brows post-menopause, after chemo or even giving birth.

I can see a defined brow immediately frames the face, makes the recipient look younger, less of a nondescript blur. Nadeem is disapproving of SPMU and microblading: ‘The effect is two-dimensional. The brow will never reflect light, or move.’

He tells me that, while most of his clients are men who are going bald, the clinic also performs seven to eight eyebrow transplants a month. It’s a relatively unknown procedure, probably because women tend to suffer hair loss in silence.

His most famous brow recipient so far has been a household name TV and radio presenter — who for reasons of privacy, I can’t name. Do they do lash transplants as well? He tells me he wouldn’t advise it because the lid is too close to the eye.

Why I had a £6,000 eyebrow transplant: it's made me feel like a teenager again

Don’t move: Liz lies back as surgeon Dr Vida inserts hair from the back of her head. After which she could see instantly that her eyebrows looked thicker and fuller

I then meet the aforementioned surgeon, who draws on my face with a felt-tip pen to show me how my brows will look. We discuss shape, density. I love them already: like two extra furry pets.

I’m told I will need to the transplanted hairs to grow in the desired direction: just gentle strokes with my fingertips.

As it’s ‘head’ hair, it will continue to grow long: I will have to trim it until the day I die. But I don’t care. That’s a small price to pay for no longer having a Ziggy Stardust zigzag, having been face down for a massage.

The actual price? It depends on how many hairs are transplanted, and how bushy you want your brows. Mine cost £6,000, including pre- and post-operative care.

Beneath the trauma my brows are fuller and thicker

Two weeks later, the big day dawns. As I wait in reception, I stare at the framed football shirt on the wall, signed by Wayne Rooney: his hair transplant was done here.

I’m led into the operating theatre, and turn down an offer of Valium: big mistake.

First, my forehead is injected in six sites around each brow with local anaesthetic: as the skull is bony, this is super painful. Then, I lie back, and the surgeon makes microscopic incisions in each brow: 185 tiny cuts in each arch. There is blood. I feel I’m being attacked by a persistent piranha.

There is a lot of saline, keeping everything clean, and at times I feel as though I’m being waterboarded. My nose is numb, so it’s hard to breathe. Finally, after the 370th incision, the surgeon stops, and surveys his handiwork.

Nearly 400 hairs were taken from the back of Liz's head for the transplant. She was told that a man having a transplant for a receding hairline will have more than 1,000 hairs extracted

‘Is the worst over?’


It turns out it isn’t the worst. Not even close.

That is when he unleashes the clippers, and I’m beyond the point of no return. The harvesting of my hair while I’m prone takes about an hour. Only when it’s over do I learn that, even though I have two large, bald discs, the surgeon only extracted 5 per-cent of the hair roots from those areas: the rest will grow back so there’s no obvious bald patch.

I can’t believe he took nearly 400 hairs from the back of my head, but he tells me: ‘A man having a transplant for a receding hairline will have more than 1,000 hairs extracted.’ For once, it turns out men suffer more than we do when it comes to vanity. William or Harry would have to undergo this ignominy for two or three days in order to reinstate a full head of hair.

My harvested roots now lie in a Petri dish and, after a short break, we move on to the insertion of each plug. I feel like I’m watching Monty Don on Gardeners’ World, lovingly inserting seedlings into compost. How will they stay in? ‘The skin contracts around the root.’

She left the clinic with a 'goody bag of drugs' including antibiotics, painkillers, cortisone to reduce swelling and one to protect her stomach from the effects of the others, and bottles of saline to spray on her brows

After nearly six hours, I can sit up. I feel woozy, numb. I tell the surgeon I’m sorry for being a baby, but he says to think nothing of it. I’m given a mirror; I’m scared. The moment of truth.

I look. I can see, under the blood, and the strange white blobs — just my skin before it contracts — that I have stubble. Tiny black hairs. I don’t resemble Chrissy Teigen, but beneath the trauma my brows are fuller and thicker. I’d dyed my hair the previous day for the ‘before’ photos, and silently wonder if the brows will grow up grey. But no matter. I can have them tinted once all is healed.

I leave with a goody bag of drugs — antibiotics, painkillers, cortisone to reduce swelling, and one to protect my stomach from the effects of all the others — and bottles of saline to spray my brows every half an hour: it’s exactly like gardening. I’m not to touch my face, and only on day five can I wash my brows gently with baby shampoo. I mustn’t wash my hair, sleep on my front, go in the sun or touch my dogs for a week.

‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘That’s just not possible. I get a pointy nose in the face at all hours of day and night.’

I’m told at least to try to keep my hands and pillow clean. No salt in my diet, and I mustn’t do any upside-down yoga (unlikely), or make wild expressions: I’ve had Botox, so that’s a given. The big ask is that I wear no make-up whatsoever for a month. The tiny hairs will fall out after two weeks owing to thermal shock — they’re shocked! — but will then grow normally, usually from three months.

And so, several weeks later, am I model Kaia Gerber or Groucho Marx?

Well, I think my brows are stunning. Not as straight as Cara Delevingne’s, as the surgeon will only give you brows that suit your face. But it’s such a relief not to have to draw them in every morning. I feel more willing to look people in the eye, and have lunch with someone outside in daylight, no longer worried they’re looking at my badly drawn brows. I’ve had the hair tinted, a beauty procedure I have regularly that will last longer now there’s plenty of hair to tint; before, the therapist was inking skin. It was one day of trauma, a month of being careful, but now I feel strangely liberated.

Liz says that she cannot stop stroking her new brows and feel that they are like a 'time machine' erasing a mistake she 'made in the name of fashion'

Should women be spending money on these sorts of procedures? For me, my new brows are like a time machine, taking me back to my teenage years, when I didn’t give them a second thought. My new brows erase a mistake I made in the name of fashion.

Oh, that I could turn back the clock in other areas, and have virgin hair that never saw dye. My old wonky, chipped front teeth back. My normal nipples, which even after 30 years still bear needle scars around them, as though they’ve been darned.

But, for now, my new brows are a good start. I’ve always recoiled from men touching my face, stroking my hair, in case they accidentally smudge my make-up and erase my features.

Now, I’m touchable! I can’t stop stroking them. A slick of Vaseline, and I’m good to go. Who would ever have thought I could say that?

Share what you think

View all

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

View all

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

By posting your comment you agree to our house rules.


Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?

Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.

NoYes Close

Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?

Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual

We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.

You can choose on each post whether you would like it to be posted to Facebook. Your details from Facebook will be used to provide you with tailored content, marketing and ads in line with our Privacy Policy.

Advertisement AdvertisementAdvertisement NEW ARTICLESHomeTopShareSitemapArchiveVideo ArchiveTopics IndexMobile AppsScreensaverRSSText-based siteReader PrintsOur PapersTop of pageDaily MailMail onSundayThis is MoneyMetroJobsiteMail TravelZoopla.co.ukPrime Location

Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd

Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

dmg mediaContact usHow to complainLeadership TeamAdvertise with usContributorsTermsDo not sell my infoAbout MailOnlinePrivacy policy & cookiesAdvertisementAdvertisement