Many people wonder if their body hair can be transplanted to their scalp. A body hair transplantation (BHT) can restore hair growth on the scalp by harvesting body hair. It can be from their beard, arms, legs, chest, abdomen, pubis, and/or underarms. However, body hair transplant has a significantly low success rate. Moreover, it does not yield permanent results.
Body Hair Transplant Overview
There are two different types of hair on the body: vellus and terminal hair. Vellus hair is thin, fine, and lightly pigmented. It is the hair you see on your face, legs, and arms. These hairs have a very short anagen (growth) stage and a much longer telogen (resting) stage. Vellus hair in some areas of the body can become terminal hair after puberty, like the underarms, pubis and beard. Mainly, it is this terminal hair that is used for body hair transplantation. However, surgeons also use vellus hair for BHT.
Reasons for Low Surgical Success Rate
The reason why this surgery has an overall low success rate is that it is difficult to ensure the survival of the grafts.
- Where the duration of the anagen phase of the scalp hair is between 2-10 years, the anagen phase is only about 4 months long in all areas of the body, except for the beard.
- At any given time, more than 50% of the body hair is in the telogen phase, whereas only 10-15% of the scalp hair is in this phase. When harvesting the hair grafts, the surgeon needs to extract those hair follicles that are in the anagen phase.
- The exit angle of body hair is more acute than the hair on the scalp.
- How deep the follicle extends into the dermal tissue varies in different areas.
- There’s huge variation in the hair growth pattern in one area of the body, for instance, the whorls in the beard region.
- In the scalp, it is common for a follicular unit to contain more than 1 hair follicle. However, the follicular units in the body hair usually have 1-2. As a result, to achieve adequate coverage and density, more hair grafts are needed.
This all means that highly specialized tools and instruments are needed for different parts of the body to lower the transection rate, which still remains unusually high.
How Much Body Hair Transplant Costs
A scalp hair transplant in Turkey is far more affordable than in the UK or Europe. The reason for it is the low surgical fees. Healthcare in Turkey is financed by taxes. Many clinics are subsidised, which has lowered the cost of hair transplants in the country.
On average, the cost is three times lower than in the UK. That’s because there’s no price variation depending on how many grafts the patient needs for desired hair density. Medical tourists also get accommodation, transportation, and comprehensive aftercare services in their treatment package.
Who Can Have Body Hair Transplant & Why
Body hair transplantation is recommended to those patients who have a depleted donor area and have extensive baldness due to:
- Pattern baldness
- Alopecia areata
- Physical trauma
- Scarring (cicatricial) alopecia
- Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder)
However, to be a candidate for a body hair transplantation, the patient needs to be hairy (hirsute). That’s why more males can get their body hair transplanted on the scalp than females. They also make good candidates because of their thick beard hair. Since these are unwanted hairs, in most instances, patients do not have a problem using them for their balding scalp. Patients who need to improve the density of hair in the balding region may be recommended a body to scalp hair transplant.
Torso Donor Index (TDI)
The author of the book FUE from the Beard and Body, Robert H True, has developed a torso donor index (TDI) to determine the suitability of a patient for a body-to-scalp hair transplant. When the TDI Index is lower than 4, a patient cannot undergo this surgery. In this 5 hair characteristics are evaluated:
- Density of follicular units
- Similarity in the hair texture of body and scalp
- Number of follicular units containing 2-3 follicles
- Length of the hair
- Area of hair-bearing regions
Am I Suitable For Hair Transplant?
What To Think About Before You Have Body Hair Transplant
With this kind of surgery, it is important that you ask your surgeon the following questions:
- What is the experience, licensing, and training of the surgeon?
- How many body hair to head transplants have they performed? Can I see the surgical portfolio?
- What is the success rate of the surgery?
- What kind of complications have patients experienced after their body hair extraction for scalp transplant?
- Can I meet a previous patient of the surgeon who had body hair transplant?
- What is the aftercare plan?
How Best to Prepare for Body Hair Transplant
Before getting body hair transplant, you need to make the following preparations:
- Discontinue any blood thinners or supplements as they increase the risk of bleeding.
- Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or do recreational drugs.
- Your hair transplant surgeon may give you a prescription for minoxidil for 6 months before the surgery so that more hair is in the anagen phase.
- You may also need to wet shave the donor areas a week before the surgery so that the surgeon can find the hairs in the anagen phase of hair growth.
- Do not apply any skincare or haircare product before the surgery.
What Body Hair Transplant Involves
Before performing the surgery, the surgeon determines the number of grafts the patient needs and in which regions of the scalp. The surgery may need custom instruments.
With the help of a motorized punch tool, with the punch ranging in size from 0.7-0.9mm, the surgeon extracts the hair roots from the body. However, if the facial hair is the donor site, the surgeon may use a hypodermic needle with different gauge sizes to extract the hair. That’s because the beard hair is thicker and coarser.
After the extraction, the surgeon uses a steel blade of different sizes to insert the body hairs in the scalp. Since the hair quality and size is different in different areas of the body, unlike head hair, the size of incisions has to be different. It’s a reason why it is not possible to transplant a large number of grafts in one session.
- Crown/Vertex & Top: If the hair loss is occurring in the crown region or top of the scalp, the surgeon prefers beard hair, pubic hair or hair from the armpits.
- Hairline: Patients suffering from hair loss along the hairline usually get grafts from the leg hair, chest hair, abdomen and arms. That’s because the shorter, thinner hair looks more natural. This kind of donor hair is also suitable for eyebrow transplants and eyelash transplants.
After the surgeon identifies donor areas on different parts of the body, s/he will use the FUE technique for:
First, the surgeon administers local anaesthesia in the part of the body from where the hair is going to be extracted. The patient may need local anaesthesia in different areas of the body if there is more than one donor area. The punch tool/hypodermic needle extracts the grafts. The surgeon stores them in a solution to ensure their survival. After that, incisions are made in the recipient area for implantation.
It may take around 10 hours to transplant 2,000 grafts. Usually, the surgery takes place in 1-2 days. Depending on the aesthetic goals of the patient, the patient may need another surgery. They may not have enough body hair grafts for it. And if they do have enough hair, they have to wait for almost a year before getting another body hair transplant.
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Body Hair Transplant Recovery & Results
The patient will leave with bandages on the donor areas. You may need to wear the bandages for 2-3 days. It will be on the body and side/back of the head in the nape area if combination grafting takes place. Take the medications that the surgeon prescribes for normal recovery. Normal hair growth can start after 3-4 months. However, it may be 1-2 years before you see the final results.
Body Hair Transplant Aftercare
A satisfactory outcome depends on realistic expectations from the surgery. The patients should know that since body hair cannot grow as long as the hair on the head, they’ll always have short hair. You can use scissors to style them after 2 months. However, you need to wait for at least 6 months before using a razor.
Initially, the hair may appear uneven due to the different quality of follicular units. However, do not rush in to dye your hair or wear a wig. These things can cause permanent damage to the grafts, irritate the skin and increase the risk of infection. Make sure that you avoid all activities that make you sweat. You may start scalp massages 2 weeks after the surgery to promote hair growth. Make sure to drink water and eat healthy foods for satisfactory results.
Side Effects To Expect After Body Hair Transplant
Depending on the donor area, you may experience the following side effects:
- Temporary facial paralysis, which can cause droopiness
- Permanent nerve damage
- Keloid formation
- Ingrown hair
- Telogen effluvium
What Could Go Wrong After Body Hair Transplant
In addition, in a body to head transplant, the surgeon will mix grafts from different areas of the body, all having different colours, textures, orientations and growth cycles. There’s only the slightest possibility of the body hair taking the characteristics of scalp hair on transplantation. This will result in an uneven appearance. The results might not look natural, leaving the patient unsatisfied.
The hair grafts will not survive, so you’ll permanently lose the new hair transplants in the recipient areas after a couple of years. If you do not follow the aftercare instructions, you may develop an infection in the donor and recipient areas.
What To Do If You Have Problems After Body Hair Transplant
If complications arise after this kind of hair restoration or you’re not satisfied with the results, you should reach out to your hair transplant surgeon for aftercare services.
Alternatives To Body Hair Transplant
If you do not have sufficient donor hair for hair transplant, you can get scalp micropigmentation (SMP). It gives the illusion of hair follicles, and your scalp appears freshly shaven. If low hair density is the problem, SMP can fill in the balding regions.
Other Procedures To Have With Body Hair Transplant
The surgeon may recommend PRP injections after a body-to-scalp hair transplant. That’s because it may help increase the survival rate of the transplanted hair and promote healing.
Is body-to-scalp hair transplant permanent?
Unfortunately, such hair transplants do not yield permanent results. The hair growth cycle of body hair is different from scalp hair, and they probably won’t adapt to the recipient site. You may lose all the new hair transplants after 2-3 years.
What is the hair graft survival rate in body-to-scalp hair transplants?
Only 0-10% of the hair grafts survive in body-to-scalp hair transplants.
Are these hair transplants expensive?
Yes, because they are far more time-consuming and labour-intensive. Moreover, it requires customized medical equipment, which further raises the cost.
Will I have visible scars after the surgery?
You may have these on different areas of the body, but they will fade with time.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr Kuddusi Onay