Hair transplants are done to add more hair to an area on your head that may be thinning or balding. It’s done by taking hair from thicker parts of the scalp, or other parts of the body, and grafting it to the thinning or balding section of the scalp.
Worldwide, about 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experience some form of hair loss. To address this, people often use over-the-counter products, including topical treatments like minoxidil (Rogaine).
Hair transplant is another restoration method. The first transplant was performed in 1939 in Japan with single scalp hairs. In the following decades, physicians developed the “plug” technique. This involves transplanting large tufts of hair.
Over time, surgeons began using mini- and micro-grafts to minimize the appearance of transplanted hair on the scalp.
Do hair transplants work?
Hair transplants are typically more successful than over-the-counter hair restoration products. But there are some factors to consider:
Anywhere from 10 to 80 percent of transplanted hair will fully grow back in an estimated three to four months.
Like regular hair, transplanted hair will thin over time.
People with dormant hair follicles (sacs that usually contain hair beneath the skin but no longer grow hair) may have less effective transplants, but a 2016 study suggests that plasma therapy can help up to 75 percent or more of the transplanted hairs fully grow back.
Hair transplants don’t work for everyone. They’re mainly used to restore hair if you’re balding or thinning naturally or have lost hair due to an injury.
Most transplants are done with your existing hair, so they’re not as effective for treating people with:
- widespread thinning and baldness
- hair loss due to chemotherapy or other medications
- thick scalp scars from injuries
FUT and FUE may each take several hours to several days to complete. In part, this depends on the amount of work performed by the surgeon. You will go home the same day of the procedure.
Once the surgery is done, your surgeon carefully removes any bandages. The area may be swollen, so your surgeon might inject triamcinolone into the area to keep the swelling down.
You’ll likely feel pain or soreness at the transplant site as well as in the area where hair was taken from. For the next few days, your surgeon may prescribe:
- pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil)
- antibiotics to prevent infections
- anti-inflammatories, such as an oral steroid, to relieve swelling
- medications such as finasteride (Propecia) or minoxidil (Rogaine) to help stimulate hair growth
Here are some aftercare tips for hair transplant surgery:
- Wait a few days after the surgery to wash your hair. Only use mild shampoos for the first few weeks.
- You should be able to return to work or normal activities in about 3 days.
- Don’t press a brush or comb down over the new grafts for about 3 weeks.
- Don’t wear any hats or pullover shirts and jackets until your doctor say it’s OK.
- Don’t exercise for about a week.
Don’t worry if some hairs fall out. This is part of the process. Transplanted hair may not grow much or seamlessly match the hair around it for a few months.