The history of hair transplants is full of scars. Fortunately, we have come a long way since. The surgical techniques and instruments have become more specialised and precise. That is why a hair transplant scar is not that big a problem anymore.
Still, there are many people who worry about them, especially if they want to keep things more discrete. It’s an understandable concern, but the good news is that you shouldn’t worry about this.
Do Hair Transplants Cause Scarring?
A hair transplant does not leave any visible scars as long as the surgical technique is right and the patient follows the aftercare instructions. Because of the nature of the surgery, the surgeon will have to punch holes and make incisions in the skin of your scalp. However, one type of surgical technique carries a greater risk of scarring than the other. These are as follows:
Follicular unit transplantation is the surgical technique in which a strip of skin is excised from the back of the scalp. The size of this strip depends on the size of the balding area. The more grafts you need, the longer the size of the strip. Sometimes, it even extends from ear to ear. Following the removal of the strip, the skin is stitched back together.
However, this leaves the patient with a linear scar, and the hair might not grow from this scar. According to a study published in the Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, FUT can leave wide and visible keloid, hypertrophic, and crosshatch scars. However, this happens if there have been some problems on the surgeon’s or patient’s end.
Because of how prominent this scar can be, many patients choose to not undergo FUT. The scar on Andros Townsend’s scalp when his head was shaved down was quite visible, which confirmed the suspicions of many people that he had the hair transplant surgery. The reason why the FUT hair transplant is still done to this date is that it can give a better graft yield, which is especially important among patients who have a weak donor area.
The follicular unit extraction technique came out later than FUT and is the latest one. In this, the surgeon directly extracts individual follicular units from the scalp using a punch tool that’s less than 1mm in diameter. This is used for extracting grafts from the donor area. And since the punch size is too small, there’s no need for stitches. As they heal, they’ll appear as white dots.
Regarding the implantation of the grafts, the surgeon makes incisions in the balding area. However, they’re also quite small, so they heal on their own. But because everything is on such a “micro-scale,” this surgical technique does not leave any visible or prominent scars on the scalp.
There is now a Sapphire FUE transplant, in which Sapphire tipped v-shaped blades are used for making incisions in the recipient areas. These are sharper and allow the surgeon to have more control over the depth of the incision. This can help in the quick and better healing of the scar.
Are Hair Transplant Scars Visible?
A hair transplant scar is not visible as long as they’ve healed normally. Once you’ve started to grow your hair, that alone should hide the scars even as they’re still healing.
However, if it’s been less than a year and you cut your hair pretty short, the chances are that your scars might be visible to those around you. This is especially true for FUT, where the linear scar can be quite large and prominent. However, if it’s FUE, you do not need to worry about visible scarring.
Are Hair Transplant Scars Permanent?
A hair transplant should also not leave any visible scars permanently. They fade to a large extent over time. However, it comes down to the execution of the surgical technique and how well you took care of your scalp afterwards.
If there are problems in either of these areas, you can expect permanent scarring following a hair transplant. Again, with FUT, the scar is unlikely to go away, and many people look for alternative treatments to cover the area.
How Long Does It Take For A Hair Transplant Scar To Heal?
Soon after the surgery, you’ll have scabs in the donor and recipient areas. These come off after 2 weeks. And during the recovery process, it’s important that you follow all the aftercare instructions of your surgeon.
That’s because if you don’t, the healing will be delayed, and it can cause bad scarring. This can happen if you don’t quit smoking for a while. Smoking itself can weaken your immune system, which increases the risk of infection. However, it also worsens scarring by causing an accumulation of fibroblasts at wound edges instead of having them move to the damaged area. This is true for both active and passive smoking.
In addition, you need to make sure that you’re using the special shampoo and lotion for washing your scalp so that everything goes normally. Here, you should also know that people who have an illness such as diabetes may face more problems during their recovery, which can increase the risk of permanent scarring.
Is The Risk of Scarring Higher In Afro Hair Transplant?
Since keloid scarring is more common among people of African descent, a hair transplant scar can be more concerning. Keloid scars are thick, raised, shiny, and irregularly shaped. They can also spread away from the area of injury, so it’s understandable that a patient is concerned about these. However, before the surgery is carried out, an experienced surgeon will make sure to screen the patient.
If you are prone to keloid scarring and have a history of them, you will be made aware of the potential risks beforehand. Also, according to a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, keloid scarring is a rare complication of this surgery and is more common in FUT than in FUE hair transplants.
Will Hair Grow From A Hair Transplant Scar?
Thick fibrous scars do not have any hair follicles in them, so hair is unlikely to grow in that case. This can happen in FUT. Also, in FUE, in the areas from where hair grafts have been extracted, there will be no growth.
That’s because the graft was placed in another area of the scalp. It won’t grow hair from where it was removed. However, that’s not the same as a scar since that’s how a hair transplant works.
But in the case of FUT, where scarring is a bigger concern, some patients end up in a situation where the hair growth does not take place from their scar.
How Can You Hide A Hair Transplant Scar?
There are different things that you can do to hide the scar on your scalp. These are as follows:
You should not use this during the recovery process as it can clog the pores and damage the grafts. However, if you have no hair on your scar after you have recovered, you can conceal it with makeup.
To hide the scar, you can use an eyebrow pencil or an eyeshadow of the same shade and colour as your hair. Of course, this is a very temporary solution to the problem, but it does offer a quick fix.
One of the most effective ways to get rid of a FUT scar is getting an FUE. Since the scar tissue won’t have any hair follicles in them, it’s only a matter of transplanting new hair follicles in it to see any growth.
Keep in mind that the surgeon will have to assess the thickness and type of scar to even determine if the surgery will be successful. Still, this is something that’s possible, and it’s one of the most effective ways to hide a hair transplant scar.
Scalp micropigmentation (SMP) is another way that you can conceal your transplant scarring. The practitioner will essentially draw the black dots of “hair follicles” on your scalp using permanent ink. This works quite well for patients who are unable to achieve a high hair density following a hair transplant. An SMP procedure creates the mirage of full hair density.
Laser therapy is quite popular for scar removal. For raised, pulsed dye laser may be used. It can help smooth the skin and even stimulate the production of collagen. This can be helpful in making the scar from the hair transplant less prominent.
You can consider applying synthetic hair fibres like Toppik to the transplant scar to conceal it. It works by sticking to the surrounding hair through a static charge. However, these may have some side effects, and they can quite easily come off if you rub your head against a surface (which can also create a mess by spreading to fabric).
A hair transplant scar is not a problem with the FUE technique. The size of the wounds is quite small, and they don’t need any stitches to heal. They should fade with time and leave no visible scars. However, the same cannot be said for FUT.
In case you’re left with bad scarring due to poor surgical technique, illness or aftercare, there are a few things you can do to conceal them. However, another FUE hair transplant is the only way to permanently grow hair from a scar and conceal it.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.