Perhaps you’ve tried all possible hair regrowth remedies, both natural and chemical. Or maybe your physician diagnosed you with an irreversible hair loss condition destined to make hair fall an inevitable part of your life. Either way, one procedure seems to be your hair’s last card. Cue in hair transplantation procedures.
Here’s a quick primer on what hair transplant is all about. Know how it is typically done, what to expect, and how you become a candidate for it.
What A Hair Transplant Procedure Is
Hair transplant is a surgical procedure wherein a bald or thinning hair area on the head is filled with hair coming from other parts of your body. It’s done inside a medical facility by trained physicians. Hair transplant is minimally invasive, but it still requires a bit of numbing on the affected area under local anesthesia.
You’ll typically be assessed for parts of your body with more hair to spare; usually, these become the “donor sites”. Hair follicles are taken from these sites and are surgically transferred to the “recipient site” or the balding part of your head.
Who Needs Hair Transplants?
Hair transplants are often recommended for people suffering from the following conditions:
- Androgenetic Alopecia (Male Pattern Baldness)
- People suffering from scalp burn injuries
- Women with exceptionally thinning hair
- People with naturally high hairlines (not necessarily due to any hair loss condition)
Note that your physician needs to assess your individual condition first before recommending a hair transplant procedure for you. Experiencing the above-mentioned conditions does not automatically qualify you for hair transplant surgery.
Types of Hair Transplant Surgery
There are two main types of hair transplantation techniques, namely:
1. Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS)
This is a hair restoration procedure wherein hair grafts are harvested from the back of the scalp. The procedure is also known as Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT).
Here’s how your physician will take hair using FUSS/FUT:
- The donor zone will be cleansed and anesthetized.
- A 6-to-10-inch strip of skin on your scalp will be cut and taken from the occipital area (back of the head) and above the ears on both sides. Sometimes, this scalp strip can be extended into the areas of your temples.
- The donor zone where the scalp strip was taken is sewn closed.
- Technicians working with the physician will then divide the scalp strip into thousands of tiny grafts. These grafts are follicular units containing either individual or a few hairs.
- The separated follicular unit grafts are then chilled as the recipient sites are created on your head. They will be taken out and placed on your head once your recipient zones are ready.
FUSS/FUT is a bit invasive and leaves a wound from the scalp strip removed from your head. But this area is typically covered by hair and heals spontaneously with minimal to no complications at all.
2. Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
This method entails removing individual hair follicles from your scalp. It doesn’t require removing an entire strip of skin from your donor zone. Here’s how it’s done:
- The donor zone (usually the back of the scalp) will be shaved, cleansed, and anesthetized.
- Hair follicles will then be extracted using a device called Follicular Unit Extraction Punches. There are two ways to do this:
- 1. Sharp Punch Dissection – Punch penetrates the skin quickly and in limited depth.
- 2. Blunt Punch Dissection – This is done using a dull tip for deeper levels of hair follicle dissection.
- Extracted hair follicles are then used to cover recipient zones.
FUE is less invasive than FUSS/FUT but is manually done at most by your hair transplant surgeon. New technologies now assist surgeons in harvesting and transplanting the hair follicles, automating parts of the FUE procedure. This leads to a quicker and more efficient procedure than FUSS.
It’ll be up to your physician to decide which among these two procedures would best be done for your individualized hair loss case.
How Is Hair Transplant Surgery Done?
You and your doctor will select a transplantation technique and it will be done as explained in the previous section. But the rest of the procedure typically goes this way:
- The physician cleanses the scalp and injects local anesthesia to numb your head, most especially in the back area.
- Your physician then performs either FUSS or FUE procedures as explained previously. The hair follicle grafts are harvested from your donor sites and set aside for a while.
- The recipient site is then shampooed and numbed with local anesthesia.
- Your surgeon will use a needle or a scalpel to create tiny slits and holes throughout your hair recipient zone.
- The grafts are then taken out and carefully planted on each slit or hole made.
- Once all grafts are planted, the entire surgical area will be covered in gauze or bandage.
Hair transplant surgery could take 4-8 hours, depending on the severity of your baldness/thinning and on how many grafts that need to be planted on your head. Sometimes, surgeons may opt to do the procedure slowly over several days, especially if your needs require a thick head of hair with several thousands of grafts to be planted.
Recovering from Hair Transplant Procedure
You don’t need to be confined or admitted after the procedure. You can go straight home after your hair transplant surgery.
Bandages will cover your head in a day or two, after which you need to come back to your surgeon to have them removed. Swelling on the head may happen after your physician removes your bandages. When this happens, he can give a steroid injection (triamcinolone) to ease down the swelling.
Other possible discomforts you may temporarily experience include:
- Scalp tenderness
Your physician will manage these symptoms by giving you the following medications:
- Mild pain medications such as ibuprofen
- Oral anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids
- Antibiotics (to decrease the risks of infections)
He can also prescribe you hair regrowth medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) or finasteride (Propecia). These medications will help stimulate the transplanted follicles so that hair will regrow from them.
Home Care Tips After Hair Transplant Surgery
Apart from taking the medications prescribed by your physician, you need to take care of your freshly-transplanted hair religiously. Here are some aftercare tips for when you go home after getting a hair transplant:
- Do not wash your hair a few days after the surgery. It’s best to ask your physician’s advice regarding when to resume washing your hair.
- Use mild shampoos only when you start washing your hair once again, especially in the first few weeks preceding the surgery.
- Avoid pressing down brushes or combs over the transplanted grafts for at least 3-4 weeks.
- Stop wearing pullover jackets/shirts and hats to avoid pressure on the head and to avoid you accidentally pulling on the grafts. Ask your physician when to resume wearing these clothing pieces.
- Temporarily stop your workouts and exercises around one week after the transplant.
Expect to see some hairs falling out even after the hair transplant. This is entirely normal. Remember that the transplanted hair may not readily match the existing hair on and around your recipient zones. Give your hair ample time to adjust and try not to stress about this for now.
Your doctor will tell you when to resume normal activities and when to return to work. But this typically takes only 2-3 days after the hair transplant.
Possible Side Effects
The procedure almost ultimately causes scarring. This is common and unfortunately, is an unavoidable feat during hair transplant surgery. The scars are typically hidden by growing hair though, so it’s mostly unnoticeable as time goes by.
Other potential side effects of hair transplant are the following:
- Folliculitis (hair follicle inflammation)
- Scalp itching, swelling, or pain
- Crusting and/or pus drainage on surgical sites
- Visible hair areas that do not look matched to the surrounding hair
- Hair balding/thinning that continues despite the procedure
It is crucial to find a hair transplant physician/surgeon who is highly experienced for the procedure to succeed with minimal to no side effects. Do your research first before attempting to approach a hair transplant surgeon.
Choose a licensed and certified physician, read reviews about your potential doctors, and if possible, ask to see a portfolio or a record of their successful hair transplant cases.
Do Hair Transplants Really Work?
Hair transplants work well most of the time. 10-80 percent of hairs that are transplanted have the potential to grow back fully within 3-4 months. However, if you have dormant hair follicles that no longer work to grow hair, a hair transplant may be less effective. One way to address this is by utilizing PRP therapy to help trigger natural hair regrowth in transplanted hairs.
Hair transplant surgery could be a viable solution if you’ve tried several remedies for hair fall and balding but to no avail. You’ll need the guidance and advice of a licensed, certified, and highly-skilled hair transplant surgeon before undergoing this procedure. The procedure isn’t for everyone, though, and mostly it’s the ones with receding hairlines, thinning hair, androgenetic alopecia, or severe burn injuries that seek the procedure to restore their tresses.
FUSS and FUE are two possible ways to get hair grafts from your own head’s donor zones. Your physician will know which one to use to address your specific needs.
Hair transplants come with possible discomfort that medications and home interventions can help ease up. Be on the lookout for possible side effects to be on the safe side.
To conclude, hair transplant surgery can help turn your life around when done properly. It may just be the answer to hair loss that you’ve been looking for! We hope our quick guide enlightened you about the procedure, especially if you’re considering to have it done at any point in your life.
Have you ever tried hair transplant surgery? How did it go? Let us know your stories by dropping your thoughts in the comments section.