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 minimised through the medications. It’s important that you are aware of these hair transplant side effects so you know what to expect during the recovery process.
Are There Any Side Effects of A Hair Transplant?
Patients can experience the following side effects of hair transplant after surgery:
One of the most common side effects is swelling. It can occur due to different reasons, such as the accumulation of fluids in the surgical area or the inflammation of the scalp.
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 day after the surgery and doesn’t last for more than 4-5 days. Your surgeon can prescribe you steroids for it along with instructions to minimise 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.
After your hair transplant, you’ll have blood crusts on your scalp for about 1 week. They will fall off on their own, so you shouldn’t try to rub or scratch your scalp.
If you dig your nails too deep into your skin, it can cause more bleeding, damage your tissue and even harm the newly transplanted grafts.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s important for the crusts and scabs on your scalp to fall off.
For that, your surgeon may advise you to massage your scalp with your fingertips (or gently with a sponge if they still don’t fall off) when washing. Make sure to follow your surgeon’s advice on this.
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.
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.
What Are The Long-Term Side Effects Of A Hair Transplant?
A few side effects of hair transplant can take a little longer to go away. These are as follows:
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 them and inform you of this risk.
Numbness is one of the hair transplant side effects for the long-term. 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.
What Are The Risks and Complications of Hair Transplant?
While side effects are experienced by most patients, risks and complications are less common. Keep in mind that every surgery carries certain risks and hair transplant is also a surgery, albeit a minimally-invasive one.
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.
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.
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.
Wound dehiscence refers to the reopening of a surgical incision due to the failure of the wound to heal properly.
This can happen in FUT hair transplant, which requires stitching of the skin in the donor area (after a strip of skin is cut out).
According to a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, this can occur due to:
- Diabetes (impairs wound healing)
- Tension wound closure
- Coexisting infection at the suture site
- Removing sutures too soon
- Excessive early physical activity
While it’s rare, you should still be careful.
Bad scarring is mainly a complication of FUT hair transplant.
For instance, this surgery can lead to the formation of a wide scar on the back of the head. It usually happens due to improper assessment of the patient’s skin and/or problems in the surgical technique.
However, not following the surgeon’s aftercare instructions can also result in its development.
Other than that, you can also end up with keloid scarring. Keloid is a thick, raised scar that can grow larger than the original wound.
Hypertrophic scar is another risk. It’s also thick and raised, but it stays on the original wound site. While both are uncommon, they can still occur and require treatment (steroid).
Keep in mind that FUE is also not “scarless.” The scarring is just not visible because it’s pinpoint. These scars can get hyperpigmented or hypopigmented.
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.
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, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, etc., which are a part of the surgery.
This is another one of the complications after hair transplantation surgery.
Errors in the surgical technique can also cause persistent pain after a hair transplant. It’s a result of nerve injury during the surgery.
Partial to complete injury of a nerve can lead to the formation of a neuroma (benign nerve tumour). And that, in turn, causes pain. There are non-surgical and surgical treatment options for this.
Another complication of a hair transplant is over-harvesting of the donor area.
It’s a result of the over-extraction of hair grafts from the back of the scalp, leaving it bald and patchy. Again, this can happen if your surgeon is inexperienced.
Before performing the surgery, the have to define a “safe donor area” from which to extract grafts. If they overdo it and that too poorly, it can even cause necrosis of the skin.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From The Side Effects Of A Hair Transplant?
Side effects of hair transplants like pain, bleeding, and swelling should go away in a matter of days.
Itchiness can take weeks to go away, while concerns like shock loss and numbness can take more than a few months to resolve.
Keep in mind that the hair transplantation 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.
How Can I Avoid Hair Transplant Side Effects?
By choosing an experienced and qualified surgeon and following aftercare instructions, you can minimise the risk of more serious hair transplant side effects.
Hair transplant in Turkey is very popular. Every year thousands of people come to the country for this very surgery, so the surgeons here are very experienced. However, because of the high demand, some illegal clinics have also propped up.
So, you need to be careful about finding the right surgeon (which should apply no matter where you are). Because with proper technique and patient assessment, it’s possible to avoid some of the male and female hair transplant side effects.
On your end, you must follow your surgeon’s advice. It can also minimise many risks associated with this surgery, ensuring your normal recovery.
Is There Any Difference Between Male and Female Hair Transplant Side Effects?
There are no gender-based differences in the side effects of a hair transplant.
In both men and women, the FUE technique is commonly used, and the expected outcome is the same.
Patients may experience differences during the recovery process, but these differences are not gender-based. However, their lifestyle, age, anatomy, and general health can all play an important role.
Side effects after 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.