What is a hair transplant?
Hair transplant surgery takes viable hair strands from different areas on your body, typically the back or sides of your head, but potentially also your facial hair, back, or chest and then repurposes them to spots where you're experiencing hair loss.
Healthy hair follicles are relocated in the form of "grafts", each containing 1 to 3 hairs.
While in the past, hair transplants were predominantly performed on the scalp, they're increasingly being carried out on beards, eyebrows, and even eyelashes; a growing trend in hair restoration.
As stated by healthdriect.gov.au, hair loss is a very common phenomenon, affecting 1 in every 2 men and women as they age. Shedding around 100 hair strands daily is standard, but the emergence of bald patches, thin parting, and a receding hairline may hint at a more substantial problem that necessitates a hair transplant.
For the majority, hair loss is a hereditary issue. Androgenetic alopecia, also referred to as male or female pattern baldness, generally shows up in men as a receding hairline or thinning at the crown, whereas women often notice hairline recession near the temples and a growing part.
Some individuals may also suffer from an autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata, causing patchy hair loss across the body.
If your hair thinning hasn't advanced significantly, and any associated health issues can be effectively managed, a hair transplant generally holds the potential to reclaim most of your lost hair; boosting your self-esteem and confidence.
What are the pros & cons of hair transplant surgery?
- With a well-executed hair restoration surgery, your new hair is set to keep growing permanently for the rest of your life.
- The process of surgical hair replacement is typically conducted under local anesthesia coupled with IV sedation, this means you stay conscious but in a relaxed and drowsy state, experiencing only minor discomfort during the procedure.
- The outcomes of a hair transplant can look impressively natural when expertly handled.
- The majority of patients do not require post-procedure pain medication, particularly with the FUE (Follicular Unit Excision) method.
- Almost all patients deem this procedure as worth the money, attributing a noticeable improvement in their self-confidence.
- Hair transplants can also revive thinning eyebrows, beards, and other areas.
- Hair transplants come with a high price tag and are not typically covered by Medicare or private health insurance.
- Hair transplant surgery does not stop hair loss in the future. There may be a need for additional procedures if preventive hair replacement therapy is not undertaken or proves ineffective.
- If the surgery doesn't go as planned, the results can appear unnatural or simply disappointing due to poor design and technique. A number of patients who thought the procedure was not worth the money complain about their hair implants looking clumpy and scant.
- A poorly executed hair transplant can harm the adjacent hair follicles, leading to increased hair loss.
- There is no guarantee that grafted hair will grow, so it is not always possible to regain a full head of hair.
- While the scar from a hair transplant can typically be concealed in the surrounding hair, there's a risk of having visible scars, especially if you prefer a short haircut.
- Hair transplant surgery can last up to 8 hours. It is not a quick procedure. The aim is to maximize hair regrowth by carefully handling each follicle.
- Due to the length of the procedure, some patients have reported that their anesthesia will begin to dissipate, requiring an additional dosage to numb the discomfort.
How much does a hair transplant cost?
Average Cost: $13,400
Range: $3,500 - $27,000
The cost of a hair transplant can vary, contingent on elements such as the expertise of the surgeon, their geographical location, the number of hair grafts required, the equipment utilized, and the duration of the procedure.
Many practices will offer Buy Now Pay Later payment options like Afterpay to help you finance your procedure.
Who is a good candidate for a hair transplant?
Ideal candidates for hair transplants are typically in their late 20s or beyond. It can be challenging to anticipate future hair loss in individuals in their early 20s, also younger patients often hold unrealistic expectations. Most older individuals already exhibit signs of androgenetic alopecia, making it simpler for hair transplant surgeons to forecast future hair loss and design a natural-looking hairline.
To attain the best outcomes from a hair transplant, it's crucial to have a sufficient quantity of healthy donor hair for the surgeon to extract. If you're experiencing scalp-wide thinning or already have significant hair loss, your donor hair may not be healthy enough for a successful transplant.
According to a survey of hair restoration surgeons, approximately 87% of hair transplant surgeries are carried out on men. However, women can also be excellent candidates, enjoying high hair transplant success rates, even with longer hair.
Melon Hint: If a receding hairline is your main worry, you might be a suitable candidate for forehead reduction surgery, a procedure aimed at lowering the hairline.
What happens during a hair transplant?
Prior to a hair transplant, patients are usually sedated to ensure they're conscious yet relaxed, and the scalp areas set for treatment are numbed using local anesthesia. Patients describe the process as "slightly uncomfortable yet tolerable."
There are two main techniques for hair restoration.
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), also known as the strip method.
- In this approach, a hair transplant surgeon uses a scalpel to cut and remove a strip of skin with healthy hair from the back or sides of your scalp.
- Once the incision is sealed, it leaves behind a hair transplant scar, which is typically a thin line obscured by hair.
- This method generates a large number of viable grafts, which are then extracted and relocated to the recipient area.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), also referred to as follicular unit excision.
- In this procedure, the surgeon extracts individual hair follicles from various areas, such as the scalp, beard, back, or chest, for relocation to the scalp.
- The FUE hair transplant is a more popular technique and since hair grafts are moved one by one, there's no linear scarring. It's a great choice for patients requiring a large quantity of grafts or those who've previously undergone a transplant that left a scalp scar.
In both methods, once the donor grafts are secured, the surgeon creates minute holes in the thinning or bald sections using a blade or needle, before implanting the grafts, which are small clusters of 1 to 3 hairs.
The aesthetic outcome entirely depends on how the surgeon crafts the recipient sites, their angle, pattern, disbursement and positioning of the grafts.
If you are considering an FUE hair transplant, bear in mind that the surgeon will generally shave the donor area prior to extracting the hair. There is also a "no-shave" FUE option, a more intricate and time-consuming process that enables the surgeon to extract all grafts without the need to shave the donor area.
It is worth noting that an FUE transplant is not completely scarless; tiny specks will mark the extraction sites. However, once your hair regrows, these dots should become unnoticeable, even if you prefer short hair.
Who can perform a hair transplant?
Approximately 80% of all hair transplant procedures today employ the FUE method. You will frequently find these therapies performed by technicians instead of doctors, particularly at hair transplant clinics that use proprietary equipment.
Some clinics utilize the robotic hair transplantation machine, Artas, to harvest grafts and even to prepare recipient areas before implantation.
Others employ NeoGraft, a machine capable of extracting FUE grafts. NeoGraft is often promoted to surgeons as a method to delegate the procedure to assistants who receive training from the manufacturer and are then contracted for the day.
The best hair transplant outcomes are produced by licensed doctors with extensive experience in hair restoration surgery. You want to ensure a doctor is carrying out the procedure. This is essential for a few reasons:
- A hair transplant is surgery; thus, improper execution can jeopardize patient safety.
- Technicians may lack aesthetic expertise, leading to less focus on the design and pattern of the implanted hairs.
- Often without formal medical training, technicians might incorrectly diagnose a hair disorder that is symptomatic of an underlying disease.
During your consultations with potential hair transplant surgeons, insist on seeing many before & after pictures. Ensure these are images of the doctor's patients and not from the device manufacturer. You are aiming to find outcomes that look natural and convincing, complete with a well-contoured hairline.
How long does it take to recover from a hair transplant?
Recovery from a hair transplant is typically straightforward, particularly in the donor area.
You might encounter slight scalp sensitivity and swelling, along with some scabbing and crusting for around a week in the area where the hairs were planted. If the follicular unit extraction method was utilized, the donor area on the head should be fully healed and inconspicuous within a span of 7 to 10 days.
For the initial 5 days, it's best to be as delicate as possible when washing your hair. Utilize a gentle shampoo and avoid scrubbing harshly to avoid displacing a graft. After this period, it's safe to return to your regular hair-washing routine.
You can resume physical exercise between 5 to 7 days post-transplant.
When can you start seeing results after a hair transplant?
Don't worry if the hair grafts shed 2 to 3 weeks following the procedure. It's a normal part of the process and the new hair will regrow. Expect the emergence of new hair strands 3 to 4 months post-transplant, which will continue to grow for the rest of your life.
Around the 6 to 10-month mark after the operation, results start to show as the new hair fills out.
Following 10 to 12 months, you will observe 90% of your renewed hair growth.
How long do hair transplant results last?
A hair transplant should last a lifetime.
Still, thinning can occur in other different areas. To help preserve your new hair density, your doctor may suggest additional hair loss therapies, such as medications like minoxidil (Rogaine) or finasteride (Propecia).
Recently, the prescription of both topical finasteride and minoxidil has demonstrated remarkable success. These appear to perform efficiently without the unwanted sex drive side effects.
Is hair transplant surgery safe, what are the risks & side effects?
When performed by an experienced surgeon with a strong track record of successful hair transplants, this operation has minimal risks.
Minor side effects from hair transplant such as bleeding, itching, swelling, and scabbing where the hair was extracted or implanted typically resolve within several weeks.
Patients may experience an infection or inflammation known as folliculitis. It's important to discuss with your surgeon the appropriate methods to delicately cleanse the scalp and prevent this.
Although rare, "shock loss" of the pre-existing hair immediately following the transplant can occur. While usually temporary, an improperly performed transplant can harm the neighbouring hair follicles, resulting in patchy and tufted hair that can only be fixed with another operation.
Lastly, some scarring may be visible, particularly if you prefer a short hairstyle.
What are some alternatives to a hair transplant?
There are multiple non-surgical approaches to treating hair loss, but none can promise the same long-lasting results as a surgical hair transplantation procedure.
If you are not keen on an operation, and the significant costs that come with it, discover the best alternatives to regrow thinning hair.
Sources & Studies
Avram, MR & Watkins, SA 2014, ‘Robotic Follicular Unit Extraction in Hair Transplantation’, Dermatologic Surgery, vol. 40, no. 12, pp. 1319–1327, viewed 6 July 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/dermatologicsurgery/Abstract/2014/12000/Robotic_Follicular_Unit_Extraction_in_Hair.6.aspx>.
Chen, J, Qu, Q, Cao, D, Hu, Z, Wang, J, Liu, B, Chen, R, Hu, Z & Miao, Y 2022, ‘Natural Reconstruction: A Comprehensive Standardized Operating Procedure for Restoring Eyebrow Loss Due to Scarring’, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, vol. 150, no. 4, pp. 877–886, viewed 6 July 2023, <https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Fulltext/2022/10000/Natural_Reconstruction__A_Comprehensive.30.aspx>.
Department of Health & Human Services 2020, Patterned hair loss, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, viewed 6 July 2023, <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/patterned-hair-loss>.
International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery 2022, International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery: 2022 Practice Census Results, April, viewed 6 July 2023, <https://ishrs.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Report-2022-ISHRS-Practice-Census_04-19-22-FINAL.pdf>.
Memon, R & Avram, MR 2022, ‘The pros and cons of follicular unit extraction (FUE) versus elliptical donor harvesting (FUT)’, Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, vol. 24, no. 6-8, pp. 63–65, viewed 6 July 2023, <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14764172.2022.2088795>.
Zarei, M, Wikramanayake, TC, Falto-Aizpurua, L, Schachner, LA & Jimenez, JJ 2015, ‘Low level laser therapy and hair regrowth: an evidence-based review’, Lasers in Medical Science, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 363–371, viewed 6 July 2023, <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10103-015-1818-2>.