- Botox can accomplish many things, but it’s not a perfect substitute to surgery.
- Although Botox may lift the brow, it will not tighten the skin.
- Recovery time may be longer, but a surgical brow lift produces more dramatic results.
You knew this sort of thing happened to everyone, but somehow you didn’t expect it to happen to you. Yet now, when you look in the mirror, you see faint lines on your forehead that won’t go away when you unfurrow your brow. You see small wrinkles that trace the worry lines of your face and seem to give you a look of perpetual consternation.
If these indelible signs of aging concern you, then you’re probably thinking about cosmetic surgery. However, the “surgery” part of cosmetic surgery is giving you some pause. You find yourself wondering how badly you want that more youthful look. How far are willing to go? How much time and money are you willing to sacrifice?
These are important questions, and you’re not the only one asking them. Facial plastic surgeons have been researching and developing new ways to achieve the same results. Now, surgical lifts, most notably that brow lift you’ve been pondering, can be replicated, or partially replicated, through nonsurgical means.
Introducing the Brow Lift
Even if you generally shy away from surgery, you should still give some consideration to this option. First of all, you might be surprised at how safe and effective brow lift surgery can be. Second of all, it’s important to understand brow lift surgery in order to appreciate the strengths and limitations of the Botox alternative.
Brow lifts are surgical in nature. In other words, they involve an incision. The size and location of the incision is dictated by the type of brow lift you get. When you consult with a plastic surgeon about your brow lift, the two of you will work together to figure out which incision type is best.
- Coronal – considered the “classic” brow lift. Also known as a forehead lift, this surgery works essentially the same way as a facelift, except it targets the brow instead of the neck, cheeks, and sides of the face. It tightens the skin of the brow, reducing wrinkles and the appearance of fine lines. It’s also effective when correcting sagging brows, meaning when the brow droops over the eyes like a hood. One long incision is made either just behind or just in front of the hairline, depending upon how low the hairline is, from one ear to the other. The skin of the forehead is then pulled tight. During this process, the surgeon also lifts the skin to remove fat and make adjustments to the muscles.
- Endoscopic – This very common alternative to the classic brow lift involves several small incisions made in roughly the same area as the more traditional lift. The surgeon then inserts a small camera device called an endoscope under the skin to help guide the necessary changes to skin, fat and muscles.
Chances are your brow lift will be one of the above options. However, there are less common methods for achieving similar results, including the temporal brow lift, which focuses on a small section of the brow on the outside of the eyes, the trichophytic brow lift, which involves a similar incision to the coronal brow lift but significantly smaller, and a browpexy, which involves an incision through the upper lid crease and focuses only on repositioning the brow into a higher position without any removal of skin.
During the actual brow lift procedure, you will receive general anesthesia. The procedure lasts roughly thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the type of lift you get. At the end, the incisions will be sutured closed and you will be given pain killers and postoperative instructions.
Brow lift recovery is extensive. It could take up to two weeks for the initial wound to heal and up to an additional six weeks for swelling and fluid accumulation to go away. During this time, you may experience bleeding, bruising, and some scarring.
Finally, there are risks and complications associated with any surgical procedure. Infection and excessive scarring are standard concerns. However, brow lifts could also result in facial asymmetry, nerve damage, loss of hair around the incision points, and more. Still, these side effects are rare. A properly performed brow lift should leave you feeling satisfied, with results lasting anywhere from 5-10 years.
Botox and the Skin
Now that you have a thorough understanding of how your standard brow lift works, it’s time to talk alternatives, namely Botox (botulinum toxin). Before we discuss how this popular treatment can benefit the brow area, let’s take a moment to understand what Botox is and how it affects your skin.
If you’re feeling squeamish about surgery, then you’re probably a little nervous about Botox as well. After all, the popular injectable treatment is distilled from Clostridium botulinum, the same bacterium that causes botulism when ingested. But don’t let this deter you. Botox injections are perfectly safe, and it’s hardly the first time science has turned to unusual sources for beneficial treatments.
Traditionally, Botox has been injected into various parts of the face as a means of reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Already, you can probably see how this injectable might overlap with a brow lift. However, Botox accomplishes its goal in a very different way.
Botox essentially causes a minor form of paralysis by preventing certain muscles from contracting. These muscles become less stiff and the overlying skin smooths out. Of course, this could reduce some facial movement, but Botox shouldn’t leave you looking droopy or expressionless when administered correctly.
A Botox treatment is typically very quick. After all, there is no anesthesia or surgical incision to deal with. The treatment itself only takes about ten minutes. Recovery is also quick, earning Botox a place as one of many “lunchtime” procedures. While it may take up to a week to see the full effects, that time is spent with minimal swelling and bruising.
Of course, Botox too has its side effects and complications. Minor side effects could include headache, nausea, and the aforementioned bruising and swelling. More serious side effects could include drooping facial muscles, vision problems, and trouble breathing or swallowing. Botox can even result in infection, although this is far less likely than with a surgical procedure.
» If you’d like to learn more about surgical brow lifts, read what our doctors have to say about them on our forums.
The Botox Brow Lift
What makes the Botox brow lift different from just getting Botox injections? A Botox brow lift targets areas of the face in such a way as to simulate the overall effect of a brow lift.
Botox is used to relax certain muscles around the eyes. These muscles, which are responsible for raising and lowering the eyebrows, often pull the brow downward. When they are weakened, so too is this pulling effect on the brow. Basically, instead of manually raising the brow, as with a brow lift, Botox simply counters those muscles that work to keep it down.
While Botox is hard at work simulating a brow lift, it’s usual wrinkle fighting effects are still at play. The relaxed muscles lead to a smoother looking forehead. It’s important to note here that Botox is not effective at removing larger wrinkles that occur due to aging. Rather, the Botox brow lift focuses on light fine lines in the skin, like crows feet, and those deeper worry lines that accompany your frown.
As with any other Botox treatment, a Botox brow lift takes nearly no time at all and the recovery is relatively quick. Results from a Botox brow lift last anywhere from 3 to 6 months, depending on how quickly you metabolize the Botox. After that, it’s back to your cosmetic surgeon for another round.
Which Should You Choose?
There’s no set in stone right answer to this question. Whether you opt for Botox or a surgical brow lift will depend on a variety of factors, including your physical and financial limitations, as well as the level of results you expect. While we can’t tell you which is right for you, we’ve highlighted the major pros and cons for each procedure.
Surgical Brow Lift Pros
- Results are more dramatic and address deeper forehead wrinkles caused by aging.
- Results last for years, sometimes over a decade.
Surgical Brow Lift Cons
- Surgery comes with increased risks and complications
- The procedure can take close to an hour to perform.
- Recovery takes weeks and can be painful.
- This procedure is more expensive than the other options, averaging $3,403 in the United States.
Botox Brow Lift Pros
- The procedure is extremely quick, approximately 10 minutes depending on the number of injections.
- Recovery is easy and fast, with little to no pain.
- This procedure is less expensive than other options, costing up to $800.
Botox Brow Lift Cons
- Results only last a matter of months, requiring repeat maintenance procedures.
- Only tackles fine lines and frown lines.
- Side effects and complications are typically less severe than with a brow lift but they can be significant, such as brow ptosis (drooping).
At the end of the day, which procedure is right for you comes down to how much you’re willing to sacrifice. Surgical brow lifts cost more by way of risk and recovery, but the results are far more dramatic and longer lasting.
Botox is a safer route, but it won’t gain you as much. What’s more, the money you save with a less expensive procedure has much less impact when you add in the fact that you’ll need to go back for repeat treatments..
If you’re looking for a quick, subtle fix, Botox is probably right for you. It will give you a more youthful appearance and delay the need for a surgical brow lift. However, Botox isn’t sufficient as a substitute for a brow lift. If you’re yearning for a more intense change, then you know where you need to turn.
» If you’re not sure whether a brow lift is better than Botox for you, use our virtual consultation tool to speak with a cosmetic doctor about your facial rejuvenation options.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons. How long do the results of an endoscopic brow lift last? (n.d.). surgery.org/consumers/ask-a-surgeon/forehead-lift/156579
- Boughton, B. (2010, September). The Nonsurgical Brow-Lift: Pleasing Patients and Diversifying Practices. aao.org/eyenet/article/nonsurgical-brow-lift-pleasing-patients-diversify
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Brow lift cost. (n.d.). plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/brow-lift/cost