What Is A Donor Area? All You Need To Know

Before getting a hair transplant, many people wonder, “what is a donor area?” Donor area refers to the area at the back and sides of the head that donates hair for transplantation surgery. Different techniques are used to extract follicular grafts from this area so they can be transplanted to the “recipient” (balding) area.

A hair transplant surgery is possible because of the presence of this donor area. However, keep in mind that there are only a limited number of grafts in this zone. If you don’t have enough hair here, it won’t be possible for you to have a hair transplant.  

To have realistic expectations of the outcome of the surgery, you need to know what exactly the donor area is. And if any other areas on your body can be used for scalp transplantation. 

What Is The Donor Area For Hair Transplant?

Hair transplant donor areas are the back and sides of the scalp, where the hair follicles are resistant to the effects of the hormone dihydrotestosterone. Hair is extracted from these areas and implanted into the bald areas, where it grows for life.

Donor area for hair transplantation
Hair is taken from donor area to recipient area

The idea for the donor area for hair transplant came from the concept of “donor dominance.” Dr Norman Orentreich – considered the father of modern hair transplantation – presented the concept in his 1959 research paper titled: “Autografts In Alopecias and Other Selected Dermatological Conditions.” 

According to it, “when the transposed grafted skin maintains its integrity and characteristics independent of the recipient site it is donor dominant.” 

It means that even though the vertex and frontal regions of the scalp are DHT-sensitive if a DHT-resistant hair follicle is transplanted there, it will maintain its original characteristics. 

That’s what ensures the success and permanence of a hair transplant. But keep in mind that the entire back and sides of the scalp aren’t used as donor areas. 

Typically, the occipital area is considered most suitable because of its high density and lower risk of thinning. According to research published in Dermatologic Surgery, there are about 65 to 85 follicular units/cm2 in that area alone. Only 40-50% of those are extracted to avoid an overharvested donor area.  

Where Else Is The Donor Area For Hair Transplants? 

Other than the mid-occipital area at the back of the back, there are other sites on the face and body which can be used as donor areas for hair transplantation. These include the: 

  • Body hair – From the chest, armpits, and legs 
  • Facial hair – From the beard 

The main issue with the body to scalp hair transplant is that the success rate is quite low. The growth cycles of these hairs are also different, so they don’t grow as long as the hair on the scalp. 

Additionally, the characteristics (colour, texture, and orientation) are also very different from the scalp hair, which will give less than aesthetically pleasing results. Let’s take a closer look at each donor area: 

Body Hair Transplant 

As the name suggests, in a body hair transplant, hair is taken from different parts of the body and transplanted to the scalp. This kind of hair transplant doesn’t give permanent results, as hair usually falls out after a couple of years. 

Additionally, the survival rate of the transplanted grafts is around 10%, so you probably won’t achieve a good density with hair transplant using body hair.

The following are the specific areas for hair transplant using body hair:

Chest  Hair Transplant 

Chest hair-to-head transplant is typically considered for the restoration of the hairline because of the wispy quality of the hair. However, the anagen (growth) phase of these hairs is only 4 months long. Due to donor dominance, you will always grow short hair with this donor area.  

Armpit Hair Transplant 

Usually, armpit hair transplants to the head are done for the top and crown regions. But, again, just like all body hair, armpit hair has very limited growth. And around 50% of the hair will be in the resting (not growing) phase. 

Leg Hair Transplant 

The thinner leg hair is used as a donor area for the hairline and may also be considered for an eyebrow or eyelash transplant. Needless to say, however, the graft survival rate is very low. 

Beard to Hair Transplant

Although beard hair is considered the closest alternative to scalp hair, it does not produce satisfactory results either. According to a study published in the International Journal of Trichology, the anagen (growing) phase of beard hair is 4 weeks (unlike the 2-8 years of scalp hair). 

As a result, your hair won’t grow long. Additionally, the texture of beard hair is coarser than your natural hair. So, again, your final results might not look so good. 

Hair Transplant Donor Area Before and After: What’s The Recovery Timeline? 

Here’s how your donor area after the hair transplant should heal. 

Fue Donor Area After 2 Weeks

You’ll leave the clinic with bandages in your donor area. After these are removed during the check-up, you might have some bleeding. Additionally, there might be some discharge the following night. This is, however, normal.

Moreover, after your FUE hair transplant, donor areas are typically red, itchy, and painful (even more so than the recipient area). It’s because of the graft extraction and the punch wounds. 

Keep in mind these wounds will also scab. And to take care of that, your surgeon will likely advise you to massage the donor area while you’re washing your scalp. Even though it might feel tender, it’s okay to touch it right after the procedure (unlike the recipient areas).

Even though it might feel tender, it’s okay to touch it right after the procedure (unlike the recipient areas). The donor area after 10 days will look more healed. 

Lastly, although uncommon, weeks after surgery, patients can experience shock loss in the donor area. It’s due to the stress of the surgery itself and can be quite aggressive. Nevertheless, it will eventually resolve on its own.

Fue Donor Area After 1 Month

After a month, most of the side effects in the donor area will have subsided. However, if you’re experiencing shock loss, you’re going to have some bald patches. 

Many patients fear their donor area has been overharvested because these bald patches can be quite prominent. However, again, it’s only temporary. 

Fue Donor Area After 3 Months

After surgery, shock loss can persist for up to three months in the donor area. However, once it’s over, your hair should start to grow normally. 

Donor area after 3 months
Normal hair transplant donor area after 3 months

Keep in mind, however, that each person’s hair grows at a different rate. You might not see your hair grow as quickly as you would like, but give it time. You shouldn’t assume that your hair transplant has failed right away.

For a better idea, consider checking out our hair transplant Turkey before and after gallery. It has pictures of our patients at different stages of their recovery.

You should also know that some patients develop dry, flaky skin in the donor area 3 months after surgery (it can even occur as early as 2 weeks post-op).

If this happens, you might be recommended to use Nizoral shampoo every other day for 20 days, though this usually resolves on its own.

And as far as scarring is concerned, it will continue to fade with time. Besides, your scars will be well hidden once your hair begins to grow. 

If you notice bald patches on your scalp long after you’ve recovered from your hair transplant, then it may be because of overharvesting of the donor area. 

Overharvested donor area
Overharvested donor area

This happens when too many grafts are taken out of the donor area by inexperienced surgeons. Keep in mind that those bald patches are permanent because new follicles won’t grow in their place. 

Concluding Remarks

The hair transplant donor area is what makes this transplantation surgery possible. However, there are a limited number of hair grafts in the donor area that can be safely extracted. If it’s overdone, it will result in overharvesting. 

Those who don’t have enough donor hair on the scalp wonder if body hair can be used for transplantation. While it has been done using hair from the beard, chest, legs, and armpits, the results are not satisfactory or permanent. You can get a Turkey body hair transplant, but it’s likely not going to be worth it.

There are alternative treatment options that you can consider in this, such as scalp micropigmentation or PRP injections. They can help camouflage the bald spots on your scalp. In any case, make sure to consult a medical professional. They’ll prepare your treatment according to your needs and expectations.

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