According to the NHS, the hair transplant is “generally a safe procedure.” However, still, it has certain risks that come with almost every surgery. Your surgeon should discuss all the side effects of a hair transplant with you before the surgery takes place.
These are usually temporary. And their risk is minimized through the oral administration of antibiotics, steroids, and painkillers. It’s important that you are aware of these so that you know what to expect during the recovery process.
What Are the Side Effects of Hair Transplant?
Patients can experience the following after the surgery:
One of the most common side effects is swelling. It can occur due to different reasons, such as the inflammation of the scalp or the accumulation of fluids in the surgical area. Other than the scalp, the swelling can spread down to the face, making it difficult for patients to carry out their tasks normally.
Usually, it occurs a few days after the surgery and doesn’t last for more than 2-3 days. Your surgeon should prescribe you steroids for it along with instructions to minimize or prevent it.
Since in FUE hair transplant, surgeons make small incisions in the donor and recipient areas, you’ll likely experience light bleeding following the surgery. To avoid increased bleeding during the surgery, your surgeon will advise you against the intake of blood thinners like aspirin and even some vitamin supplements.
Your wounds will soon scab. Be careful when moving around and follow the aftercare so that the scabbing occurs normally and you don’t bleed abnormally.
In addition, to have the scabs naturally fall off, you should make sure to follow the washing instructions using the shampoo and foam lotion given to you by the clinic.
Scarring is also among the most common side effects of a hair transplant. In the case of FUT, you’ll have a linear scar at the back of the head, while FUE results in the formation of “micro-scars.”
Scarring from hair transplant fades with time. This is especially the case with those who make sure to stay out of the sun and avoid smoking during their recovery. If you are prone to keloid scarring, the surgery might leave you with these. Your doctor should screen you for these and inform you of this risk.
Hair transplant infections have an incidence rate of less than 2%. They do not occur that commonly. People with poor hygiene, lifestyle, and certain medical conditions involving a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of developing it.
It’s important that you keep a lookout for any signs of infection. In addition, avoid any activities that make you sweat and dusty places. Make sure to keep your scalp clean and eat healthily. In case you do develop an infection, your doctor can treat it. Be sure to get help as soon as possible.
While having scabs on your scalp, it is quite likely that you’ll feel itchy. It’s a part of the healing process and completely normal. However, some people find it hard to fight the urge to scratch.
It’s important that you do not do anything like that as it can damage the hair grafts. You should use a nasal spray or ocean water spray to soothe it. You should expect it to resolve on its own, though. This can persist for as long as 2 weeks, the whole duration for which you’ll have scabs.
Soon after the surgery, the effects of anaesthesia wear off, and you’re going to experience pain in the surgical area. Your surgeon will prescribe painkillers for their management. This, too, should go away after a few days. However, if it persists and worsens with time, it may be a sign of infection.
This is the inflammation of the hair follicles which have been transplanted into the balding areas of the scalp. According to a study published in the Hair Transplant Forum International, folliculitis can occur a few days to 6 months after the surgery.
It found that the younger the person and the more acne they had, the more likely they were to develop this skin condition. However, normal recovery is possible without causing any damage to the hair grafts. If you notice small, pus-filled bumps on your scalp, it may be a sign of folliculitis. It can also cause itchiness and pain. Resist the urge to scratch and get in touch with your doctor as you might need antibiotics for it.
It’s normal to experience numbness/loss of sensation for some time after the surgery. This can persist for 4-6 months, after which your sensation should return. If it goes on for any longer than 6 months, you should get in touch with your doctor. Your hair will keep growing normally during this.
One of the temporary side effects is shock loss. In this, the shock of the surgery itself causes the hair to fall 3-4 months after it takes place. It happens because of a shift in the hair growth cycle from the anagen to the telogen phase. This is also known as telogen effluvium.
The shedding is only temporary. It will not affect the roots of the hair grafts. Keep in mind that it can cause shedding in the donor and recipient areas. Normal hair growth should resume in 3-6 months.
Rarely patients can experience permanent damage to the skin tissue of the scalp. This is known as scalp necrosis, and it appears as darkened patches. There are many different reasons for this. The extremely close implantation of grafts or “mega-sessions” by inexperienced surgeons, for one, can result in this. Other than that, smoking and some medical conditions increase the risk of scalp necrosis in some individuals more than others.
You may also have hiccups after a hair transplant. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, it can occur due to the stimulation of the “phrenic nerve” (originating from the neck). This can happen during the surgery and after it. Both FUT and FUE hair transplant patients have experienced this complication.
According to the NHS, there’s a small risk of allergic reaction to the anaesthetic during a hair transplant. According to the study mentioned above, it can also occur due to the intake of antibiotics, antiseptics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, etc., which are a part of the surgery.
Rarely ingrown hair can form cysts on the scalp. This will, of course, affect the transplanted grafts. If you notice the formation of these small bumps, you should get in touch with your doctor.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From The Side Effects Of A Hair Transplant?
Hair transplant side effects like pain, bleeding, and swelling should go away in a matter of days. Folliculitis, cysts, and itchiness can take weeks to go away, while concerns like shock loss and scarring can take more than a few months to resolve. Except for scalp necrosis, the remaining side effects are temporary. However, if any of them lingers for too long or doesn’t get better with time, you should talk with your doctor about it.
Side effects of a hair transplant are an unavoidable consequence of the surgery. It can cause discomfort for a while. Although most of them should resolve on their own in some time, others can take a little longer. In case of more serious complications like necrosis, infection, folliculitis or painful cysts, you should make sure to let your doctor know as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may risk permanent damage to your newly transplanted hair grafts.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.