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When most people hear the term “hair transplant,” they imagine fake, “pluggy”-looking hair which clearly shows the result of a cosmetic procedure rather than a natural hairline.
Hair transplants, however, had a terrible reputation earlier. This was due to outdated “hair plug” treatments from the 1980s, which transplanted hairs into plugs of multiple follicles, resulting in an unnatural-looking hairline.
With today’s hair transplant technology, you can thicken your hair and restore a receding hairline without having to worry about the fake, plug-like appearance that came with older treatments.
However, hair transplants aren’t miracles, and there are still some drawbacks one need to consider.
It is important to understand how modern hair transplants work, and how they can be used to restore your hairline and reverse male pattern baldness, in this guide. Aside from the benefits, we’ll consider some of the drawbacks and limitations of hair transplant surgery.
To help you make an informed, confident decision about whether a hair transplant is right for you, the following information is provided.
What is a Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant is a cosmetic procedure that involves harvesting hairs from a certain part of your scalp (called the “donor site”) and transplanting them onto a different part of your scalp.
In short, getting a hair transplant means taking hair from areas of your scalp that aren’t affected by male pattern baldness and moving it to areas that are thinning or bald.
Hair transplants work because not all of the hair on your head is affected by DHT, the primary hormone that causes baldness. By moving DHT-resistant hairs from the back and sides of your head to the front, a hair transplant surgeon may be able to give you a thicker, fuller head of hair.
Originally, hairline transplants involved removing and transplanting hairs using “plugs,” which were groups of several hair follicles in clusters.
While hair plugs worked as a way to fill in a receding hairline, they typically looked unnatural due to the fact that hair grafts were grouped into separate areas, sometimes with a noticeable gap in between each “plug.”
Today, hair transplants are much more sophisticated. Surgeons can harvest hairs using FUE or FUT methods (which we’ll explain a little further down the page) and transplant them in groups of one to three hairs, creating a hairline that looks and feels natural.
From an aesthetic perspective, a hair transplant performed by an experienced surgeon will look and feel just like a natural hairline, assuming you have enough donor hair available and the ability to grow hair on the areas of your scalp that need it.
FUE vs. FUT: What’s The Difference?
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) are two popular methods of surgical hair restoration.
Each method produces a similar result, albeit with a few differences. FUE involves extracting small “units” of one to four hairs from the scalp using a medical device. These hairs are then transplanted onto the top of the head to restore a hairline or provide extra thickness.
The advantage of FUE is that it doesn’t produce a large scar. Instead, it creates hundreds of tiny scars that are much less visible after healing, especially for people with light hair that might not be able to completely cover a traditional “strip” hair transplant scar.
FUT, on the other hand, involves removing a strip of skin from the back of the scalp. Hairs are extracted from this strip in groups of one to four. After extracting the hair follicles, the surgeon can transplant the hairs onto the top of the scalp to fill in the hairline or crown.
The advantage of FUT is that the transplanted hairs have a higher survival rate than hairs transplanted using the FUE method. However, the downside of FUT is that it creates a larger scar on the back of the scalp that’s visible with some short or shaved haircuts. It is also important to note that the success of either procedure depends on the surgeon or dermatologist performing the surgery.
Minus the scarring – which shouldn’t be visible if the hair on the back of your scalp is dark and thick – both procedures produce the same aesthetic results in the hairline and crown area.
Hair Transplant Cost
Perhaps the biggest roadblock for people looking into hair transplantation is the fact that, put plainly, it ain’t cheap. How much you’re ultimately going to spend on hair transplant surgery depends largely on where you live, the extent of the procedure, and even the individual surgeon who does the procedure. And because it’s considered cosmetic surgery, insurance typically won’t cover it.
That said, a general answer is thousands. A very rough estimate can be anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 depending on the circumstances mentioned above.
Hair Transplant Recovery & Risks
Apart from the financial costs of hair transplantation surgery, the recovery time and potential complications is also something important that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Following your surgery, your surgeon or healthcare professional will typically allow you to return to work the next day.
However, the donor area (where the hair is taken from) and the recipient area (the hair where it’s transplanted) can take as long as three weeks to heal, depending on the type of surgery you elect to have. You also will likely be advised by your surgeon not to risk slowing down the healing process by wearing any kind of pullover garments (yes – this includes t-shirts) while you’re healing. Generally, anything that would touch or risk injury to the site should be avoided.
There may also be complications following hair transplantation surgery. Some common complications include:
- Failure of growth in the transplanted hair
- Post-surgery edema in the affected area
- Numbness of the affected area
- The development of cysts and the suture site
- Excessive bleeding
Is a Hair Transplant a Good Solution for Hair Loss?
If you have a receding hairline or diffuse hair loss and want to do something about it, getting a hair transplant may offer a potential remedy.
When performed by an experienced, skilled surgeon, a hairline transplant can restore your hairline and give back the volume and thickness that you had in the past.
However, a hair transplant isn’t a miracle treatment, and it might not necessarily be a total cure for baldness. You also might not be able to get a full head of hair from a hair transplant, making it important that you have realistic expectations about the procedure.
Before you consider a hair transplant, you should know the following:
If your hair is genetically sensitive to DHT, it may continue to fall out after you get a hair transplant. This could mean that the hair around the transplanted areas gets thin, while the transplanted hair remains thick and healthy.
Because of this, your hair transplant surgeons may recommend use hair loss prevention treatments after your procedure to minimize the rate of further hair loss.
All hair transplant techniques, including FUE, produce scarring. The only difference is the size and shape of the scar. FUT produces one large scar, whereas FUE creates hundreds of small, distributed scars on the back of your scalp.
If you have thick, dark hair on the back of your scalp, the scar from a hair transplant will probably be completely invisible. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that people will see if you decide to shave your head in the future.
A key factor in determining how your hair transplant will look is the skill and experience level of the surgeon. Choose a good and experienced surgeon and you’ll probably end up with a natural, great-looking hairline and a significant improvement in your appearance.
Like with all cosmetic procedures, it’s best to choose a surgeon that specializes in hair restoration instead of a general plastic surgeon that performs a wide range of different procedures.
A hair transplant doesn’t create new hair. Instead, it involves moving hairs you already have into a new location. If you’ve already lost most of your hair, you probably won’t be able to restore your original hairline and hair thickness with a transplant.
However, for most men, a hairline transplant can produce a significant improvement in the appearance of your hair. Just make sure you have realistic expectations based on the amount of hair you still have left.
Should You Get a Hair Transplant?
Getting a hair transplant is a significant decision that requires research and patience. Like all medical procedures, it’s important that you understand the effects, costs and limitations of the procedure before you go ahead.
It’s also important to be realistic about what you can achieve with a hair transplant. If you’re completely bald, a hair transplant will probably produce an improvement, but it’s not going to give you a completely full head of hair.
However, if you have minor hair loss and plenty of donor hair, a hairline transplant can help you reverse several years of hair loss and improve your appearance. Just remember that getting a hair transplant doesn’t permanently end hair loss. You’ll still need to take a proactive approach to protecting and maintaining your hair after the procedure.