A hair transplant is the process of transferring hair to a balding or thinning area.
Hair from a part of the scalp unaffected by hair loss is moved to the problem area. Modern hair transplants can look very natural, and can be a suitable option for those feeling very distressed about balding.
Am I a suitable candidate for a hair transplant?
Some people experiencing balding choose to have a hair transplant. It's not suitable for everyone, and it can be expensive. You'll need to have a consultation with a suitably qualified medical professional to determine whether a hair transplant is a suitable treatment option for you.
There are several reasons for hair loss, generally categorised as pattern or non-pattern alopecia.
Non-patterned alopecia is divided into scarring or non-scarring alopecia.
Trauma, surgery and burns which result in scarring alopecia can sometimes be treated effectively with a hair transplant.
Some skin conditions also resulting in scarring alopecia may be treated with a transplant as well, after the condition resolves.
As for non-scarring alopecia, or alopecia areata, most transplant surgeons would advise against receiving a transplant procedure.
Men and women with pattern baldness (hair loss that often occurs at the front and/or crown of the scalp) would usually also be suitable candidates for a hair transplant procedure.
Does a hair transplant hurt?
A hair transplant is generally conducted under local anaesthetic and sedation, therefore you shouldn’t feel pain while the transplant is in progress.
What are the differences between an FUT and an FUE hair transplant?
The two types of transplant are follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE).
An FUT requires the removal of a strip of hair-bearing skin from the back and sides of the head. The strip is then split up into single hair grafts, which contain about two hairs.
The grafts are then transferred into small cuts made in the scalp. Finally, the cut at the back of the head is stitched.
For FUT, the head doesn’t need to be shaved completely. Instead, it only needs to be trimmed in the specific areas that are being removed.
In the case of an FUE, the head is fully shaved and a punch device removes individual hair grafts, one by one.
The grafts are then placed into small cuts made in the scalp.
Both the FUE and FUT procedures take a full day, though an overnight stay is not necessary.
After the procedure, the surgeon may give you a topical treatment, such as a lotion or a spray to use at home. Make sure you follow any instructions once you’re discharged and let your doctor know if you’re experiencing any pain after the procedure.
If you were given a sedative, you will need someone to drive you home, as it takes 24 hours for the sedative to wear off. Generally, patients return to work about three days after their hair transplant procedure and can usually return to their normal hair care routine after 14 days.
Where can you get a hair transplant?
Before undergoing a transplant procedure, you may also want to research:
- The surgeon who will perform the transplant
- The type of care that will be provided after the operation
- The location of the surgeon
- How many transplants surgeons have carried out where there have been complications post surgery
The effectiveness of a hair transplant procedure can often depend on the skill of the surgeon as complications, though rare, may occur.
Possible complications include an allergic reaction to the sedation or anaesthetic, bleeding, or infection. There’s also a very low risk the transplant won’t work and the hair falls out or a noticeable scar develops. The surgeon should explain the possible complications and the likelihood of them occurring.
Sometimes, a patient may feel that the desired effect wasn't reached and they may decide to undergo another hair transplant procedure.
What are the side effects of a hair transplant?
After a hair transplant procedure, you may experience:
- Temporary scabbing where the hair has been transferred
- A scar, although this should fade over time and usually isn’t very noticeable unless hair is cut short
- A swollen and tender scalp for some days following the procedure
There are several non-surgical options for treating hair loss, including:
- For pattern hair loss, medicines such as finasteride (the generic version of the brand Propecia, only suitable for men) and minoxidil (suitable for men and women)
- Low-level light therapy
- Hair replacements, like hair pieces and wigs
- Tattooing to mimic hair
- If you’re experiencing hair loss and you're interested in a hair transplant, you'll need a consultation with a specialist to understand whether a hair transplant would be a good option for you
- Ensure you follow any recovery instructions after being discharged from the clinic or hospital. If you’ve been given a sedative, have someone drive you home afterwards