Blepharoplasty Is Seeing An Uptake In New Zealand. Here’s What You Need To Know About The Eye-Opening Procedure

By Lucy Slight
Blepharoplasty is booming; it's the UK’s most searched-for plastic surgery procedure, and according to a reconstructive surgeon here in New Zealand, it’s surging in popularity here too. Photo / Getty Images

Blepharoplasty, also known as eyelid surgery, is the UK’s most searched-for plastic surgery procedure in 2024 and, according to a reconstructive surgeon here in New Zealand, it’s a treatment that is surging in popularity here too. But what exactly is involved in the surgery, asks Viva contributor Lucy Slight, and why are so many people seeking it out? It turns out, all those Zoom meetings could be to blame…

“I had my eyes done. Can you tell? I think it’s important to look awake.” Although many celebrities are rumoured to have had eyelid surgery, George Clooney is one of the few who has openly admitted to it, making this statement during a 2007 Oprah Winfrey interview with Julia Roberts.

But eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty as it is officially known, is not just a procedure for Hollywood’s elite. In fact, so far in 2024, the surgery has been found to be the most sought-after cosmetic procedure in the UK, with a study conducted by documenting 253,000 online searches.

“Over recent years, I have seen a steady increase in patients seeking treatment for eyelid and eyebrow rejuvenation,” says Dr Kathleeya Stang-Veldhouse, who is an Auckland ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgeon at a boutique cosmetic clinic in Epsom, Clinic 42.

“While celebrities and social media have brought about some fads like the ‘foxy brow lift,’ I have also noticed a palpable uptick in interest in eyelid and eyebrow surgery from younger generations after the Covid lockdowns. The work-from-home scenario and shift to online meetings meant that many of us were spending considerably more time looking at our own faces on the screen, confronted by our own signs of ageing.”

Excess skin in the eyelids, known as dermatochalasis, is the main factor causing people to seek blepharoplasty. Changes in the skin and soft tissue elasticity can be responsible for the condition, but Stang-Veldhouse says the eyebrows have a part to play too. As we age, bony volume loss and the descent of fat pads, along with drooping brows, can contribute to a hooded appearance of the eyes.

Why are people turning to eyelid surgery?

“Patients often come into the clinic telling me, ‘I’m tired of looking tired.’ Others say that their eyes appear ‘sleepy’ all the time, no matter how well-rested they may be,” says Stang-Veldhouse.

“Some people notice the appearance of folds of skin in the outer corners of their eyes, describe a heavy sensation in their upper lids, or start to have difficulty applying eye makeup because of the redundant skin,” explains Stang-Veldhouse, who says sometimes the skin can rest on or push over the eyelashes to the point of blocking peripheral vision.

A blepharoplasty can achieve a noticeable reduction in excess skin, which can lead to a fresher, more rejuvenated appearance.

“If there is significant hooding of the eyelids, surgery can help to allow more light into the eyes and even improve peripheral vision.”

George Clooney rose to fame with his role in medical drama ER, and he's been candid about his experience with surgery, telling Oprah recently that he had blepheroplasty. Photo / AP
George Clooney rose to fame with his role in medical drama ER, and he's been candid about his experience with surgery, telling Oprah recently that he had blepheroplasty. Photo / AP

What does a blepharoplasty procedure involve?

While excess eyelid skin tends to be the common physical contributor to heavy-looking eyes, the surgery itself can also involve the removal of muscle and sometimes fat in the eye area. In the upper eyelid, the surgery is performed either through a natural lid crease incision, or through one designed by the surgeon based on a patient’s desired outcome.

Where patients are concerned with the appearance of bags under the eyes, which Stang-Veldhouse says in most cases is caused by prolapsed fat, there can also be excess skin in the lower lids. Where the lower lids are concerned, the procedure involves removing or redraping fat and sometimes the removal of excess skin.

In some cases, patients may require an eyebrow ptosis repair, a procedure used to lift the position of the brows.

“It can be performed through hairline incisions, just above the brow for removal of excess skin and muscle (called a direct brow lift), or through an eyelid crease incision (called an indirect brow lift) in order to create an improved brow position and contour. The indirect brow lift can be coupled with an upper lid blepharoplasty to give long-lasting results,” explains Stang-Veldhouse.

Each of these surgeries can be performed in an outpatient setting and costs can vary significantly depending on each person’s individual needs and concerns.

In New Zealand, Southern Cross will reimburse the cost of blepharoplasty and ptosis surgery if certain criteria are met. These include a clinically validated objective visual field assessment demonstrating visual field loss and the presence of upper eyelid skin hanging over or resting on the upper lid lashes.

What are the risks associated with blepharoplasty?

The main risks involved with blepharoplasty and brow lifts include bleeding and infection, over- or under-correction, scarring and dry eye symptoms. Stang-Veldhouse stresses the importance of seeking care from an experienced surgeon who understands the delicate anatomy and function of the periocular region.

“Other concerns may be about changing the overall shape and contour of the eyes. This is why it is also crucial to have an in-depth and frank discussion with your surgeon about your overall aesthetic goals,” she adds.

Following the procedure, patients can expect bruising and swelling for up to two weeks and an antibiotic ointment is often prescribed as the wounds and eyes are not covered.

Non-surgical options for lifting the eyelids

Surgery such as this can be cost-prohibitive, but money aside, going down this route is not for everyone. These days, there are some non-invasive options to consider if you’d like to achieve a lifted look without going under the knife.

Disposable eyelid tape strips are a temporary option which can help lift excess eyelid skin for a few hours. The Warehouse stocks the Glowish Invisible Fiber Double Eyelid Lip Strips at $7 for 600 strips.

For something more semi-permanent, botox and other botulinum toxin injections can be administered to target and relax the muscles that depress the eyebrows, which Stang-Veldhouse says can cause a slight lift in the brows and a mild improvement to low-hanging eyelid skin.

“Botulinum toxin injections to crows’ feet can sometimes also help to open up the outer corner of the eyes,” she says.

As with all appearance medicine procedures, be sure to do your research and visit a reputable clinic that offers an in-depth, no-obligation consultation appointment before you commit to any treatments. Asking to see before and after photos of procedures done by your cosmetic doctor can provide further reassurance.

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