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Hair transplant

Patient's head close up of hair transplant. In surgery.

You may have heard about hair transplants, or hair restoration surgery, as a way to improve the look of receding hairlines or patches of hair loss. Hair is connected to your self-confidence and the realistic results from hair transplants have increased interest in this  procedure. However, hair transplant still remains a lesser-known and understood solution to hair loss for most people. We’ve put together a five-step fact guide to help you decide if hair transplant is a suitable solution for you, the costs of undergoing a hair transplant surgery, and what results to expect post-surgery. 

Celebrities such as Elon Musk, John Travolta, and more recently influencers such as the Human Ken Doll (Justin Jedlica) have made it more of a popular choice for those looking to improve the overall look of their hair. Hair transplants has been and is still typically carried out on male patients. However, over the last few years more women have undertaken the procedure to address hair loss. Clinics are now seeing more women exploring this option, with one influential surgeon from New York claiming that as many as 27% of their patients are now women.  

 

But can any one become a hair transplant patient? Here's our five-step guide to understanding all undergoing a hair transplant. 

Fact 1: Hair transplant is suitable for some women...but not all 

Thinning hair parting. Example of female pattern baldness or alopecia

Hair transplant can be an option for both men and women but it is not as straightforward for women for a number of reasons. As a result, fewer women take up this option but it can still be suitable for some women.

One of the main reasons why some women are unsuitable candidates for a hair transplant is due to the type of hair loss most women suffer from. The most common type of hair loss experienced by women is called androgenetic alopecia or female pattern baldness. This type of hair loss, caused by your genetics, results in a gradual thinning of your hair across the scalp, giving the appearance of reduced volume overall. This is because the size of the hair follicles begins to shrink and fall out prematurely, which is known as miniaturization. Female pattern baldness may be more prominent on the parting of the crown but can often be diffused throughout the hair.  

Hair transplants require stable areas of the scalp where hair follicles are not miniaturized. They need to be healthy in size and unaffected by dihydrotestosterone (DHT, a bi-product of testosterone which attacks hair follicles) in order for them to be successfully transplanted across the scalp. Unlike women, many men with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) will tend to see thinning at the crown and along the hair line but the sides and back are usually less affected by DHT. Therefore, men tend to have more donor sites of normal hair follicles. These are more likely to succeed and grow following a hair transplant. Miniaturized hair follicles are less likely to be successful and an ethical doctor shouldn’t carry a procedure knowing it will fail. Basically, women have less suitable donor sites across their head for a hair transplant than men, if they are suffering from female pattern baldness.

The American Hair Loss Association believe 2-5% of women will be suitable candidates for surgery if a consultant identifies your hair loss as one of the following (not an exhaustive list).

Types of hair loss in women suitable for hair transplant:

  • Those who have donor areas on the scalp not affected by miniaturization or androgenetic alopecia. This is also dependant on the number of hairs (hair density) you have in this area

  • Hair loss from accidents and burns.

  • Alopecia marginalis (similar to traction alopecia) seen in black communities as a result of styling.

  • Those who have undergone cosmetic procedures and see hair loss around the worked-on areas. 

If your doctor identifies that your hair loss is linked to a deficiency in iron, vitamins, stress, post-partum etc., then other solutions may be more suitable. See our causes for hair loss page to learn more about the different types of hair loss. 

Fact 2: There are two types of hair transplants 

There are two methods in which a surgeon may carry out a hair transplant, Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) or Follicular Unit Excision (FUE). Both are known to have successful results.  

Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT)

FUT is where a strip of skin with hair follicles is taken from the donor area and cut up into small grafts to be placed where the hair is needed. The donor area is usually from the back of the head. The donor area is stitched together and will heal in a linear scar shape. As the hair grows from the surrounding area, the scar will be less visible. This method provides a fuller result.  

Follicular Unit Excision (FUE)

FUE is where the donor area is shaved and follicular unit grafts are individually taken out. These are carefully removed and reinserted into the new area of the scalp in dot shaped scars. They will continue this until the hair from the donor area has thinned. As hair follicles are limited, the surgical team will take care to ensure there is enough hair in all areas to give the best look for you. This is a good way to get a natural hair line if it is receding, or restoration in small area. This is a less evasive procedure and the dotted scarring will also be very small, eventually healing to become unnoticeable to the naked eye.   

Fact 3: Hair transplants can be expensive 

The cost of a hair transplant will depend on the extent of work that needs to be carried out, such as the number of grafts required, the type of hair loss, the patient’s desired look, which country the procedure is taking in, and the different surgeon/surgical team costs which are usually based on experience.

In the US, the average hair transplant can range from $4,000 to $20,000. In the UK, the cost of hair transplants can range from £1,000 to £30,000. In Europe, the costs vary from the affordable to very expensive depending on the country. Some people travel to Turkey for cosmetic procedures at a more competitive price.

Wherever you choose to go, make sure you research the surgeon you choose and the clinic. Ensure they are registered as surgeons in the designated country, have the correct licences, credentials, a history of carrying out hair transplants, and past patients who have clear images of before and after results.

Finding a suitable surgeon in the US is not an easy task as any physician can technically carry out this work. You can use the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons to aid your search in finding a suitable doctor, as well as these links below: 

Helpful tips to finding a hair transplant consultant: 

  • Avoid referrals from stylists or hairdressers. They may be making a commission and they are not trained to provide a medical opinion

  • Flashy adverts and a modern website doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the best hands

  • A large clinic doesn’t mean it is the best. 

Fact 4: Hair transplant uses your own hair  

Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that moves hair follicles from one part of the scalp to another.

Hair transplant is not like an organ donation from another person. The hair transplant must come from your own body. The basic science behind this is your body will reject a foreign hair donation and so the hair follicles must be your own in order for it to be successfully accepted by your body. It also needs to match the hair colour and texture of the rest of your scalp.

With this in mind, it’s important to stress that a hair transplant does not increase the volume of your hair (i.e. the number of hair strands). The purpose of a transplant is to redistribute your current hair to improve your hairline or to make hair loss less visible. For women this is typically at the front and crown. A transplant could therefore be beneficial to disguise hair loss from the front, which is the most noticeable to others.

To increase the volume in your hair, your consultant may advise some additional treatments to compliment the surgery or alternative treatment methods altogether! A popular alternative is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. This is a less invasive, non-surgical treatment which takes plasma cells from your blood and reinjects them into your scalp to boost hair growth.

You also don’t need to shave your hair for a hair transplant if you are a woman. Your surgical team can work to conceal any small shaven areas or incisions made at the back of your head with surrounding hair.  

Fact 5: Your hair may fall out after surgery before it grows back again  

Wooden hair brush with tangled hair

Just after your surgery, you will be given instructions on how to care for your hair in the initial period. It’s important you follow these guidelines to give the transplanted hair follicles the best chance for growth. This may mean you have to avoid washing your hair for a few days just after the surgery. 

One of the most important things to consider is what to expect in the coming months after surgery. Don’t be alarmed if you see your hair getting worse before it gets better!

In the first few days after surgery, you will see some growth. However, after about a week-and-a-half following the procedure, your hair may fall out and then grow back again in three to four months’ time. This is part of your hair’s natural lifecycle. Your hair will naturally begin to grow and you should see an improvement in your hair by five to six months following the procedure, when the hair will be in its resting phase. Hair will continue to stay on your scalp the way it is genetically programmed to, just like your other hair strands.

Improvements in your hair will take time but the changes will be permanent. Over the course of a few months, the scarring should reduce so that it becomes unnoticeable. 

References

Please click below if you want to read the science behind this article.

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