One of the most popular surgical treatments for hair loss is hair transplantation. While it’s been around since the 1950s, it’s become more popular in the recent decade or so.
According to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), more than 700,000 hair transplants were performed in 2021. Many people seek this treatment to boost their self-esteem for personal and professional reasons.
However, despite its popularity, many people do not know the details of this procedure. So, before you decide to get a hair transplant, make sure to read this guide first.
What Is A Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant is a cosmetic surgery that involves the redistribution of hair follicles from the non-balding areas to the balding areas. It involves the following steps:
- Pre-operative planning and preparation
- Administering local anaesthesia
- Extracting healthy hair grafts
- Making incisions for transplantation
- Implanting grafts
Depending on the technique, stitches may also be involved.
The procedure is most commonly used to cover permanent bald spots caused by testosterone hair loss. ISHRS’ survey shows that more than 80% of people had a hair transplant for genetic hair loss.
However, it’s also performed for hair loss caused by illnesses and their treatments or any hormonal changes. Some people also seek them to hide scars left by traumatic injuries, burns, old hair transplants, or surgeries like facelifts or forehead lifts.
Although it should be noted that hair transplants do not “cure” or “treat” baldness. Therefore, you can still lose the non-transplanted hair after surgery.
Techniques of Hair Transplant
FUE – Follicular Unit Extraction – is the method in which “follicular units” are extracted from the donor areas (back and sides of the head). These follicular units or hair grafts refer to a bundle of 1-4 hair follicles.
After these units are taken out individually, they’re put in a storage solution for a few hours. During that time, holes are made in the bald regions of your scalp. And in those holes, these follicular units are transplanted.
With FUT – Follicular Unit Transplantation – the surgeon doesn’t extract single follicular units from the scalp. Instead, a strip of skin is taken out. And from that, follicular units are extracted for transplant.
Initially, FUT was the more popular technique. However, because of its more difficult recovery (it requires stitches, unlike FUE) and prominent scarring, FUE became more popular.
What Are The Different Types of Hair Restoration Surgeries?
Not all hair loss surgeries involve the extraction and transplantation of hair grafts. There are different types of restoration surgeries for hair loss, which are as follows:
- Scalp Reduction Surgery – It’s an old surgical treatment for hair loss that involves the excision of scalp tissue without hair. After the skin is cut out, the skin on the sides is stretched and sutured together. The top of the scalp was typically treated with this surgery.
- Scalp Flap Surgery – It involves placing a flap of hair-bearing skin tissue in the balding areas on the scalp. Usually, this surgery is done in combination with scalp reduction surgery.
- Tissue Expansion Surgery – It involves the stretching of the hair-bearing skin tissue on the scalp with the use of a balloon-like tissue expander. After 2 months, the bald skin is cut out, and the stretched tissue is draped and stitched on top of it.
All these techniques are quite uncommon these days, but these are considered suitable in certain cases.
Which Areas Can You Get A Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant isn’t just for the hairline, top and crown of your scalp. You can also get a hair transplant for your:
Just keep in mind that for all of these, the donor area will be the back and sides of your scalp. So, unless you have a really strong and dense donor area, you might not be able to get surgery for all these areas.
What Are The Contraindications For Hair Transplant?
Not everyone who’s experienced permanent hair loss can undergo a hair transplant surgery. In fact, it’s contraindicated for those who:
- Have donor zone miniaturisation
- Few hair grafts are left in the donor area
- Active skin or any other medical condition
- Have temporary hair loss
- Unrealistic outcome expectations
Patients with pattern baldness who’re younger than 20 are also advised against a hair transplant (there’s no upper age limit). That’s because the pattern of hair loss is still unpredictable at that age.
If you get it too early, you may need another hair transplant for better coverage soon enough.
What Is The Hair Transplant Patient Journey?
On the day of the surgery, first, a few medical tests will be done to make sure that you’re in good health.
Following that, you’ll have a detailed consultation with your surgeon. And if the results of your tests come back good, they’ll proceed with the surgery preparations.
For that, a hairline is drawn, and the hair is shaved (it’s sometimes optional).
In case you’re feeling nervous, tell your surgeon beforehand, as they might give you an anxiolytic.
In the operation theatre, the skin of your scalp will be cleaned with an antibiotic. It will also be numbed with local anaesthesia to avoid pain.
After that, it’s a 6-8 hour surgery during which hair grafts are extracted, incisions are made, and then the grafts are implanted in the bald areas.
Since the surgery takes quite some time, patients can choose to entertain themselves with music, movies or TV shows. Halfway through the surgery, you may also be given a meal.
Once the surgery is done, your donor area will be bandaged, and you’ll be given a headband along with medication, shampoo and lotion for your aftercare.
Who Performs A Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant is not a one-person job, which is why it’s done by a team consisting of:
- Head surgeon
- Surgical assistants
- Operative nurse
Usually, the incisions for the insertion of the grafts are made by the surgeons, and the rest of the surgery is supervised by them.
In any case, keep in mind that in Turkey, your surgeon needs to be registered with the Turkish Medical Association to perform the surgery legally. In the UK, they must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) and have a licence to practise.
Make sure to ask about the experience and training of your surgeon before you go ahead with the surgery.
How Long Does A Hair Transplant Last?
Since transplanted hair is not affected by follicle miniaturising androgens, a hair transplant will last a lifetime.
The results are completely natural-looking since it’s your original hair. Some people, however, complain about insufficient hair density after their surgery.
Keep in mind that this depends on the quality of your hair. Usually, people with thick, curly hair shafts are more satisfied with their final hair density. That’s because their hair type allows for more surface area coverage.
How To Take Care of Your Scalp After Hair Transplant?
Usually, patients are advised to stay upright and wear a headband to prevent excessive swelling. You’ll also have to avoid strenuous physical activities.
Also, since the grafts on your head can easily be dislodged, you cannot touch, scratch, or rub your scalp when it itches. You may be recommended to use a saline spray to take care of that.
Additionally, make sure to wear loose, button-down shirts so that the neck of a shirt doesn’t pull on delicate hair grafts.
Other than that, don’t use any shampoo, conditioner, gel, oils, or other hair products for at least 1 month after surgery. Wait till you get cleared by your surgeon.
How Long Does It Take For Transplanted Hair To Grow?
Usually, it takes 12-18 months for transplanted hair to fully grow and thicken. However, your hair should start growing at least 3 months after surgery.
Keep in mind that a few weeks after the surgery, you might experience telogen effluvium, also known as “shock loss.” It can lead to a temporary loss of hair, but you should recover from it after a few months.
What Are The Side Effects of A Hair Transplant?
Swelling is the most common postoperative side effect after a hair transplant. However, patients also experience bleeding, itching, and pain for some time. Some serous fluid may also ooze from the scalp, giving it an oily sheen.
Other than that, you’ll have scabs from the punch wounds and incisions made on your scalp. These, however, fall off after 2 weeks. And lastly, you will also have some scarring, which will fade with time (although not if you have the linear FUT scar).
What Are The Potential Complications Of A Hair Transplant?
In general, a hair transplant is safe, provided it’s done by an experienced and licensed medical professional.
Still, every surgery carries certain risks that are beyond the surgeon’s control. However, the risk of certain complications can also increase if the choice of surgeon is poor or you don’t follow the aftercare instructions.
A few potential complications that can follow a hair transplant include:
- Bad scarring
- Low survival rate of hair grafts
- Poor placement of grafts
- Arteriovenous fistula
- Wound dehiscence
- Cyst formation
At any time, if you feel like you’re not recovering normally or notice anything unusual, make sure to get in touch with your surgeon immediately.
What’s The Average Cost Of A Hair Transplant?
The average cost of a hair transplant largely depends on where you live. The cost of living and currency differences make this surgery more expensive in some countries than others.
In general, you can get a hair transplant for £3,000 to £8,000 in the UK. It’s somewhat the same in the US, costing anywhere between $3,000 to $10,000.
But in Turkey, you can get the same surgery at a starting price of £1,600 ($2,000). Prices can further vary depending on the technique of the surgery and whether or not you’re being charged per graft.
Keep in mind that since a hair transplant is a cosmetic surgery, neither insurance nor NHS covers it. You’ll have to get this treatment privately, but clinics do offer different finance options.
How Can You Find A Good Clinic For Your Hair Transplant?
When looking for a hair transplant clinic, make sure to ask for the qualification certificates and credentials of your surgeon.
And don’t forget that the clinic also needs to be registered with a health authority (Ministry of Health in Turkey and Care Quality Commission in the UK).
Other than that, make sure to check the patient portfolio, especially the before and after pictures. If you’re considering a particular surgeon, you may also want to consider independent reviews.
So, what is a hair transplant? It’s one of the most popular solutions for hair loss with a success rate of more than 95%. While it doesn’t “cure” it, it can reverse the damage by redistributing the hair follicles on your scalp. It has
Since the hair on the back and sides of the head isn’t affected by the hair loss hormones, the results of your surgery will be permanent.
Although keep in mind that not everyone is a suitable candidate for this surgery. You need to be in good health with a healthy donor area for good results.
Before getting this surgery, make sure that you discuss everything in more detail with a qualified, licensed and board-certified medical professional.