If you’re losing hair, there are many procedures available to restore your luscious locks. One way to fix those bald areas is to undergo hair transplantation. Learn more about this hair loss procedure below.
What Is Hair Transplantation?
About 35 million men and 21 million women suffer from hair loss, and as you get older, the chances of hair loss only increases.
Hair transplantation—also called surgical hair replacement—is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that aims to restore hair in an area (usually the head) that’s balding, thinning, or lost hair due to injury.
The transplantation specialist does this by taking hair follicles from one area of the body (called the donor site) and grafting it to an area of your body that is balding (the recipient site). Hair then grows naturally in the new location.
Hair transplantation is most commonly used for pattern baldness—particularly for males, as they experience balding areas of the scalp more often than women (even though 20% of Dr. Feinberg’s transplant patients are women!).
However, people may undergo a hair transplantation procedure for a number of reasons, restoring hair follicles to the following areas:
- Beard hair
- Chest hair
- Anywhere hair is supposed to grow!
Donor sites are generally areas of the scalp with thicker hair—usually at the back of the head, where the hair is genetically resistant to balding. Additionally, the nape of the neck and the area above the ears may also serve as donor sites.
Do Hair Transplants Work?
Yes, hair transplant surgery works. Hair restoration surgeons tend to be more successful in restoring your hair than hair restoration products you can get over the counter.
However, there are a couple caveats.
For one, hair in the donor site takes a few weeks to grow back. Additionally, the hair at the recipient site is still hair, which can thin in the future.
Also, hair transplant surgery isn’t for everyone. Here are some instances where it might not be effective:
- Hair loss due to chemotherapy
- Widespread hair loss—not localized to a small part of the head.
How Do Hair Transplants Work?
As mentioned, a hair transplant is simply the process of injecting you with a local anesthesia and moving hairs from an area that has hair to an area that doesn’t.
There are two procedures the surgeon may perform one of two methods:
Both processes can take several hours, but have some key differences.
The 2 Kinds of Hair Transplant Procedures
Follicular Unit Transplantation
Follicular unit transplantation involves removing a 6-10 inch-long strip of your scalp from the donor area with a scalpel. The surgeon will then close the site with stitches.
From there, the surgical team will begin splitting the strip up into many smaller hair follicles so that each contains just a few hairs—some may even only have one!
After that, the grafting process begins. Your surgeon creates tiny holes in your scalp for the hairs and places the removed hair follicles into them. Once finished, they’ll cover the area with gauze or bandages and provide you with aftercare instructions and a follow-up appointment.
Follicular Unit Excision
Follicular unit excision (formally extraction) doesn’t involve removing a piece of your scalp. Instead, the surgeon extracts individual follicles from your head one at a time.
First, the surgeon shaves the donor site of your head. They’ll then begin extracting the follicles to be donated to the recipient site.
Next, the surgeon will make tiny holes in the recipient site, just like in FUT. They’ll then insert the follicles and cover the area with bandages or gauze.
Now, this method historically has had some disadvantages. For one, the surgeon may accidentally cut some of the follicular units during the procedure—since they can’t directly see it—reducing the number of follicles available to transplants. On top of that, since the surgeon can’t easily see the follicle, they may not get the bottom portion of it. This causes the transplanted hair to not survive.
During FUE, the surgeon extracts hairs from a much broader area of the head compared to FUT since no strips of scalp are removed. This is because the surgeon can only extract about 20% of hairs in a given area (compared to 100% for FUT).
Fortunately, advancements in robotic FUE transplantation technology have allowed surgeons to produce much better results through an FUE procedure. HairMD proudly uses ARTAS Robotic FUE, which has enabled us to produce the best possible FUE results for several years.
As mentioned, both FUT and FUE often take several hours.
When the surgeon finishes the procedure, they’ll remove the bandages covering the areas affected by the surgery. There is likely to be swelling, so your surgeon may prescribe cortisone to reduce it.
Both the donor and recipient sites may be sore or tender for several days following the procedure. Your surgeon may prescribe several medications to reduce pain and swelling, protect against infection, and encourage healthy hair growth (such as finasteride or minoxidil).
To ensure your scalp and hair stay healthy afterward, ask your surgeon about any recovery advice they may have. You should be able to shampoo the day after your surgery, making this conversation critical to your hair restoration journey!
In general, hair transplants fall between $8,000 and $15,000 depending on a number of factors:
- Number of surgeons in your area
- The surgeon’s experience
- The procedure type (FUT or FUE)
- The extent of the procedure
Does Hair Transplantation Have Side Effects?
Do be aware that hair transplantation has some side effects.
One of the main side effects is swelling of the forehead for 2 to 3 days following the surgery.
There are also a few other side effects you may experience:
- Bleeding (uncommon)
- Hair follicle inflammation—called folliculitis (uncommon)
- Scalp pain and itching (mild)
- Infection (rare)
- Numbness in the donor area (short-term)
Keep in mind that any medications your surgeon prescribes you can also have side effects. Talk more with them if you have any questions.
Lastly, you might notice some hairs falling out after the procedure. This is all part of the process. A few hairs will fall out, while those that stay in may not look the same as the hairs around them for a while. You should expect results in the months following the procedure.
Considering Hair Transplantation?
While hair transplantation cannot guarantee success, it is your best bet toward restoring your beautiful, natural hair. If you’re experiencing untimely pattern baldness or other forms of hair loss, now may be the time to book a consultation with our team.