What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant is a procedure in which a plastic or dermatological surgeon moves hair to a bald area of the head. The surgeon usually moves hair from the back or side of the head to the front or top of the head.
Hair transplants typically occur in a medical office under local anesthesia.
Pattern baldness is responsible for the majority of hair loss. This comes down to genetics. The remaining cases are due to a variety of factors, including:
Who might benefit from a hair transplant?
men with ir transplant can improve your appearance and self-confidence. Good candidates for a hair transplant include:
men with male pattern baldness
women with thinning hair
anyone who has lost some hair from a burn or scalp injury
Hair replacement isn’t a good option for:
women with a widespread pattern of hair loss throughout the scalp
people who don’t have enough “donor” hair sites from which to remove hair for transplant
people who form keloid scars (thick, fibrous scars) after injury or surgery
people whose hair loss is due to medication such as chemotherapy
What happens during a hair transplant?
After thoroughly cleaning your scalp, a surgeon uses a small needle to numb an area of your head with local anesthesia.
Two main techniques are used to obtain follicles for transplantation: FUT and FUE.
In follicular unit transplantation (FUT):
The surgeon will use a scalpel to cut out a strip of scalp skin from the back of the head. The incision is typically several inches long.
This is then closed with stitches.
The surgeon next separates the removed portion of scalp into small sections using a magnifying lens and sharp surgical knife. When implanted, these sections will help achieve natural-looking hair growth.
In follicular unit extraction (FUE) the hair follicles are cut out directly from the back of the head through hundreds to thousands of tiny punch incisions.
The surgeon makes tiny holes with a blade or needle in the area of your scalp that’s receiving the hair transplant. They gently place hairs in these holes.
During one treatment session, a surgeon may transplant hundreds or even thousands of hairs.
After the graft, gauze, or bandages will cover your scalp for a few days.
A hair transplant session can take four hours or more. Your stitches will be removed about 10 days after surgery.
You may require up to three or four sessions to achieve the full head of hair you desire. Sessions occur several months apart to allow each transplant to fully heal.
What happens after a hair transplant?
Your scalp may be sore, and you may need to take medications following hair transplant surgery, such as:
antibiotics to reduce your risk of infection
anti-inflammatory medications to keep swelling down
Most people can return to work several days after surgery.
It’s normal for the transplanted hair to fall out two to three weeks after the procedure. This makes way for new hair growth. Most people will see some amount of new hair growth 8 to 12 months after surgery.
Many doctors prescribe minoxidil (Rogaine) or the hair growth medication finasteride (Propecia) to improve hair regrowth. These medications also help slow or stop future hair loss.
What are the complications associated with a hair transplant?
Side effects from a hair transplant are usually minor and clear up within a few weeks.
They can include:
swelling of the scalp
bruising around the eyes
a crust that forms on the areas of the scalp where hair was removed or implanted
numbness or lack of sensation on the treated areas of the scalp
inflammation or infection of the hair follicles, which is known as folliculitis
shock loss, or sudden but typically temporary loss of the transplanted hair
unnatural-looking tufts of hair
What is the long-term outlook?
Typically, people who’ve had a hair transplant will continue to grow hair in the transplanted areas of the scalp.
The new hair may appear more or less dense depending on:
scalp laxity, or how loose your scalp skin is
density of follicles in the transplanted zone
hair caliber or quality
If you don’t take medication (such as minoxidil or finasteride) or undergo a low level of laser therapy, you may continue to experience hair loss in nontreated areas of your scalp.
Hair transplants aim to restore hair growth to areas of the scalp with limited or absent growth. They are effective treatments for many types of hair loss, but they cannot stop future hair loss. For lasting results, people may need follow-up transplants.
Hair loss and thinning hair are a normal part of aging, but they can also occur due to a medical condition or trauma to the scalp. Some people who experience hair loss may choose to have a hair transplant for cosmetic or reconstructive reasons.
In this article, we look at the success rates of different types of hair transplant, as well as how long they last and their possible side effects.
Types of hair transplant
During a hair transplant, a surgeon removes follicles from a dense area of hair, such as the back of the head, which they will refer to as the donor area. They then implant the follicles into tiny slits on the affected area of the scalp.
There are two main types of hair transplant:
Follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS). The surgeon will remove a strip of skin from the donor area and close the incision with stitches. They will then use a microscope to separate the donor skin into tiny follicular units that contain one or several hair follicles and insert these units into the desired area.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE). The surgeon will use a tiny punch tool to remove follicles from the donor area. Although this procedure will still lead to some scarring, it may be less noticeable, and the person will not usually require stitches.
Both techniques are effective, but they can achieve different results in some cases. The authors of a 2019 article state that FUE requires more skill and takes longer than FUSS, but they note that FUE can produce great results if the surgeon has plenty of experience in the technique.
In most cases, surgeons use the side or back of the head as the donor area. However, taking skin from the chin, back, or chest can also prove effective. Using body hair may be helpful for people who do not have thick hair on the back or sides of their head.
Some researchTrusted Source suggests that taking body or beard hair is more time consuming and requires more skill than using scalp hair. However, another studyTrusted Source reports that the body and beard can be an “excellent source” of donor hair for hair transplants.
Each procedure takes several hours, depending on how many follicles the surgeon implants, and both involve a local anaesthetic. Usually, a person will be able to go home on the day of the treatment.
Hair transplants are effective procedures for restoring hair growth following many causes of hair loss. The success rate of hair transplant surgery depends on many factors, including the skill and experience of the surgeon and the thickness of the person’s donor hair.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), hair transplantation can provide a modest change in hair fullness. For dramatic changes, people may wish to opt for skin flap surgery, tissue expansion, or scalp reduction techniques.
There are no large studies that list specific hair transplant success rates. However, several smaller studies and articles provide some information about the effectiveness of these procedures.
One studyTrusted Source found that the majority of people who underwent FUE using body or beard hair combined with scalp hair were satisfied with the results at an average follow-up of 2.9 years. Among 79 participants, the mean overall score of satisfaction was 8.3 out of 10.
The findings of another studyTrusted Source suggest that using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy with FUE increases the success of FUE hair transplants. All of the participants in the PRP group had more than 75% hair regrowth after 6 months. They had more rapid improvements in hair density and skin recovery than those in the non-PRP group.
Do hair transplants last?
In most cases, a person will have thicker-looking hair after a successful hair transplant. However, they may continue to experience hair thinning and loss after the procedure, which can give the hair an unnatural or patchy appearance. For longer lasting results, people may require follow-up transplants.
According to the ASPS, there is a chance that some of the transplanted hair follicles will not “take.” These follicles die, and no new hair grows in their place.
The ASPS also warn people to expect that they may need a “touch-up” procedure. This procedure can help by filling in any areas that are not thick enough or blending the follicles for the most natural look.
For the best results, a person should follow their surgeon’s postprocedure instructions. Doing this will increase their chances of a successful hair transplant. A person may need to avoid strenuous activity and exercise for several weeks. They may also need to wait a few days before washing their hair.
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The ASPS say that hair transplants are generally safe when a qualified, experienced surgeon performs them. However, even with successful hair transplants, some side effects can happen.
Infection or bleeding
Hair transplants involve making cuts or incisions in the skin. A surgeon makes an incision to remove the donor follicles, and they make tiny incisions on the scalp in which to place the follicles. With any incision, there is a risk of infection or excessive bleeding.
There is also a risk of scarring on both the donor area and the area of the transplant. A person should speak with their surgeon about these risks before they decide to have the procedure.
The FUSS method usually leaves a long, linear scar where the surgeon removed a strip of the scalp. This scar may become camouflaged as new hair grows in around it. It may, however, be visible if it becomes widened during healing, the surrounding hair is thin, or the person wears it short in style.
The FUE method may also leave some scars in the area where the surgeon removed the follicles with the punch tool. However, these scars may not be as large as the scar from FUSS.
In some cases, a person may have raised bumps around the transplanted hair. As the hair grows back, it may hide these bumps.
Pain and swelling
Some people may experience pain as their skin heals after the procedure. Their surgeon may provide them with pain relievers to help with this. They may also have some swelling in the head and face as the skin heals.
Hair transplant surgery may be a good option for people who have hair thinning and hair loss. It may not be a permanent solution to thinning hair, but for many people, it can help restore hair fullness and self-confidence.