Caroline Medcalf last year became the first patient in the UK to undergo a pioneering eyelash transplant. For some ten years she had worn false eyelashes every day to give her the glamorous look she craved. Sadly, her addiction caused damage to her natural lashes to the extent that she had hardly any left. She then suffered weeping eyes as a result.
The procedure was pioneered in America and brought to the UK by surgeon Asim Shahmalak, hair loss expert on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. In Miss Medcalf’s case, she spent £4,000 having 70 eyelashes transplanted into her eyelids in a three-hour operation. Surgery involved a strip of hair being taken from the back of her scalp and the individual hair follicles being removed. The surgeon then threaded each hair into the skin at the bottom of her eyelids using a special needle.
Dr Shahmalak commented: “Lots of women permanently damage their eyelashes by overusing false ones. The glue can block the hair follicle and they can end up losing their natural lash.” He suggests that the problem has been made worse by the boom in the use of false lashes in recent years, particularly amongst celebrities.
In addition to patients opting for cosmetic surgery, he treats women needing eyelash transplants who have suffered from trichotillomania – a psychological condition which sees them rip out their eyelashes.
The transplant procedure is now becoming more popular in the UK. The new lashes are reported to take at least six months to look their best, but should then last a lifetime. Says Alison Johnson, senior associate in Penningtons Manches’ cosmetic surgery team: “This is a good news story – Miss Medcalf feels that the eyelash transplant has ‘transformed her life’, which is great to hear. Eyelash transplants should be a relatively straightforward surgical procedure, when done correctly in experienced hands, but maintenance of the eyelashes is needed afterwards, as the hair continues to grow at the same rate as on other parts of the body. Since all cosmetic surgery carries some risk, we always encourage anyone considering any form of it only to do so fully-informed.”