A hair transplant is often the last and only resort to getting back at least some of those luscious locks of hair that you have lost. The good news is that it is a well-established procedure that is proven to work in most people far more reliably and effectively than regular over-the-counter hair restoration products.
We all love our hair and losing it is often a stressful and harrowing experience for most. Whether the cause is genetic, age, an underlying disease, medication or just pattern hair loss, a hair transplant is a solution that can help you regain at least some of those beautiful locks of hair.
Hair transplant is a surgical procedure that involves collecting a hair follicle graft from a part of the body – known as the donor site – that is resistant to balding and transplanting it to the part of your scalp that is experiencing balding, also known as the recipient site.
How effective is a Hair Transplant in regrowing lost hair?
Hair transplant success rates vary quite a bit from case-to-case but there is almost always some improvement after the procedure in cases where the hair loss is due to dead follicles rather than follicles that have simply gone dormant. It is estimated that anywhere from 10 to 80% of transplanted hair fully grows back.
In the video below, a US Board Certified Plastic surgeon explains how success rates of hair transplant surgery can be as high as 98% if the surgery is performed properly.
What are the common procedures for Hair Transplant?
Hair transplant is usually done in two ways: strip harvesting, also known as Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).
Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS)
In this procedure the surgeon collects a six to ten inch strip of skin from the back of your scalp, considering it is the area that has the maximum growth of hair and is also far less prone to pattern balding. After having collected it, the surgeon will stitch back your scalp to close it. The hair around the area of the wound will cover it for the time being. This strip will then be divided into several tiny grafts, about 1000-2000 in number, each containing some hair follicles. These tiny grafts are then planted onto the bald areas of your scalp which triggers the growth of new hair gradually.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
This is the other common procedure of hair transplantation. This proceeds by the shaving of the back of your scalp. Tiny grafts are collected from the back of your scalp with the help of a micro surgical extraction unit, containing a needle with a diameter ranging from 0.6mm to 1.00mm. These grafts contain two to four hair follicles. The surgeon will then puncture your scalp in various areas that is supposed to receive these hair grafts.
Both these procedures are carried out under local anesthesia and take about 4 to 8 hours depending upon the procedure you’re going under and the extent of your hair grafting needs. The local anesthesia lasts until the end of the transplantation, thereby numbing the pain.
FUSS OR FUE: Which one should you opt for?
Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS)
The procedure of FUSS involves the removal of a strip of skin of a certain length and is often priced on a per graft basis which saves you the pain of paying more than what you need. The procedure might even be completed much faster than FUE.
However this procedure comes with side effects such as swelling of the donor portion of the scalp and might leave scars that might not completely fade over time. As a matter of fact, the scars may even stretch and widen over time. The recovery is likely to be much more painful in this case. In order to cover the scar, you will need to keep your hair longer than you might have required in case you underwent FUE.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
The procedure of FUE which removes individual follicles instead of completely extracting a whole strip of skin is likely to cause you much lesser discomfort in comparison to the FUSS procedure. Since it does not extract a whole strip the chances of scarring are much less, and the scars are also far more negligible. Since the individual hair follicles are extracted from various parts, you are likely to retain fullness.
This is however a time-taking procedure, lasting up to around eight hours and is much more expensive in comparison to FUSS. Despite these disadvantages, it is a much safer choice to opt for natural looking hair. Since it saves you the trouble of trying to hide your post-operative scar, you can wear your hair either long or short as you please, hence allowing you to choose from a wide variety of hairstyles.
Your plastic surgeon will recommend one of the above two procedures depending on your requirements, expectations and your scalp condition.
Side effects of hair transplantation that you should be aware of
After undergoing a hair transplant surgery, you may experience one or two of these side effects:
- Bleeding: Some amount of bleeding post surgery is common however if there is persistent bleeding, you may want to consult your doctor
- Pain: You are likely to experience some amount of pain post surgery. Your doctor will prescribe you some painkillers beforehand to help subside the pain
- Infection: There are chances that you may experience some infection after undergoing hair transplantation.
- Shock loss: You may experience hair thinning or some hair fall after the surgery. But fret not. This hair will grow back in time.
- Swelling: You are likely to experience swelling in your scalp as a whole or the back of your hair in case of FUSS procedure.
- Bruising: This happens in the scalp area or around the eyes
- Itching: You may experience itching after the surgery which will subside in some days. However if it seems to be severe, you should consult your doctor. This generally happens due to the formation of scabs which can be cured when you shampoo your hair carefully. There are medications to bring it under control
- Scarring: This is more common in case of FUSS procedure and is relatively negligible in case of FUE procedure
- Folliculitis: This refers to a rare condition in which the hair follicles experience inflammation or infection
- Undesirable results: The new hair that grows may appear unnatural
- Crusting: This happens on the scalp on and around the area that has undergone transplantation
- Numbness: This generally occurs in the donor area and lasts for quite some time, approximately 15-20 weeks. If this persists, consult your doctor.
How much will Hair Transplant cost you?
A hair transplant surgery is not for the cash-strapped! It is not covered under medical insurances and the cost can range anywhere between $US 3,000 and $US 20,000, depending on where you get it done and also how many grafts you need to get the required density of new hair growth.
Asian countries such as Korea, Singapore, Thailand can however offer hair transplantation at a much lower rate as compared to the US with prices typically ranging from just $US 3,000 to $US 6,000.