Would You Treat Yourself to a Smaller Forehead?

It’s not as sci-fi as it sounds.

forehead reduction surgery

For as long as I can remember, nothing could quell my curiosity regarding whether or not my forehead was disproportionate with the rest of my head. My Somali background means that I’m more likely to have a bigger surface area north of my eyebrows (it’s just our thing, I suppose—thanks, genetics!) but even with the comfort of knowing that I come from a family of five-heads, I couldn’t help but wonder if mine was excessively large. Like, I know that I have a big forehead, but is it too big?

Until recently, the only suitable solution that I knew of was bangs. But since the first wave of the pandemic last year, I’ve been abreast to forehead reduction chatter for the first time. I didn’t know that this was an option—a surgery can simply pull your hairline forward? It sounded so sci-fi. In the past year, two separate family members have let me know that they’re seriously considering the procedure and it’s now all over my TikTok feed. Last spring when North Carolina-based model Camilla Coleman Brooks vlogged her entire recovery on the platform, the surgery landed in the news, too. It’s not a new procedure, but it’s definitely having a moment right now.


Reply to @gianna_2323 Before and after photos. Lmk what you think! #foreheadreduction #beforeandafter #plasticsurgery

Toronto cosmetic surgeon Dr. Ashlin Alexander says that, like other cosmetic procedures experiencing a boom, it’s likely a consequence of looking at ourselves more than usual over the past year-and-a-half in virtual meetings. “I think a big part of it is that we are seeing ourselves on our screens a lot more often and those cameras are not the most flattering, necessarily,” he explained via Zoom. “So we become a lot more critical of what we see on the screen. I spend a lot of time in my consults talking about that, saying that it’s not realistic.”

But it could also be because of how much we put our hairlines through on a day-to-day. Years of slicked back buns, long, tight box braids, daily flat ironing, and lacefront applications aren’t conducive to full, luscious, Teresa Giudice-style hairlines. To get to the bottom of my hairline Q’s, I asked Dr. Alexander and N.Y.C. surgeon Dr. David Shafer all about the great forehead debate.

What is a forehead reduction?

During a forehead reduction, a doctor will make an incision on the forehead, remove the skin, pull the scalp forward and stitch the two ends together. “It’s kind of like hemming pants,” Dr. Alexander explains. “You’re just bringing that scalp tissue forward.”

A transplant, on the other hand, is like planting a garden. “You leave the forehead skin alone, and we take hairs from the back and plant them into the front just like a flower garden,” he says, Both procedures have a similar recovery time, with stitches off 7-10 days post-op.

Dr. Shafer says that the incision is made on a bevel so make sure that hair grows through the cut and looks as natural as possible. “That way, when it’s healing, the hair follicles from below can grow through the incision to help camouflage it,” he explains.

Who's a good candidate for the procedure?

If age or overstyling are causing front-to-back thinning, a reduction might be key to bringing your hairline back to fighting shape. “We see a number of patients who have traction alopecia, which is hair loss because of prolonged and excessive tension on the hair,” Dr. Alexander says. “Over time it causes the hair to lose its blood supply, fall out, and not grow back. It’s typically either from braids or turbans or things like that.”

When it comes down to sizing, both doctors agreed that there isn’t a magic number that separates an average forehead from a spacious one. Instead, it’s relative to the proportions on the rest of your face. Dr. Shafer said that during consultations, they consider the face in thirds: forehead to brows, brows to the tip of your nose, and the tip of your nose to your chin. Ideally, the distance between each of these spaces should be equal. Mapping out a flattering forehead size comes down to that. “Maintaining that balance is more important than an absolute number,” Shafer explains.

How much of a difference can the procedure make?

When you’re lowering your forehead, your expectations shouldn’t be unrealistically high. “Sometimes we have people who want a four, five, or six-centimeter advancement and sometimes it’s not possible with standard techniques,” Dr. Alexander says. “Sometimes people want an excessively low hairline and we have to explain why that wouldn’t look good.” He adds that in most cases, that probably isn’t even necessary. The typical reduction range would be anywhere from 1.5-3 centimeters, depending on the patient, according to Dr. Alexander.

Are there non-invasive options to consider?

If you’re still not ready to go under the knife, there are still products that you can incorporate into your hair care routine to restore your hairline and keep your forehead from extending. Dr. Alexander typically recommends Rogaine to his patients post-op, but it does help to stimulate hair growth and slow down hair loss beforehand, too.

Otherwise, PRP is a viable option as well. “It’s platelet-rich plasma, where we take your own blood, spin it down, and take the top layer that’s full of stem cells and platelets and inject that back into the scalp.” Circling back to the gardening analogy, he says that it acts like fertilizer for the scalp.

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