Does Hair Transplant work? Side Effects, Recovery, Cost

Hair Transplant side effects, cost, recovery, and how does it actually work?

The main aim of hair transplant is to improve the hair quality or to add some more hair. People go for a hair transplant because their hair might be getting thin or they can be losing too much hair; which leads to balding. The process is simple: they just take the hair from the thicker parts of your scalp and place it to the area facing issues.

Overview

According to a survey, almost 60% of total men and 50% of women in the world face some kinds of hair issues. As a cure, many people like to go for over-the-counter medicines that also include minoxidil(Rogaine).  

Another remedy or restoration method is hair transplant. The first one of its kind hair transplant took place in 1939 in Japan which involved only single scalp hairs. Then over the period of time, physicians came up with the “plug” technique which transplants large amounts of hair.

Then, as technology grew, mini- and micro-grafts came in the market to minimize the appearance of this hair. As this hair was earlier distorted and its appearance on the scalp was taken care of by the new techniques.

What is a Hair Transplant?

A hair transplant is kind of a cosmetic process in which your hair is moved to the head’s bald area by a surgeon. In general practice, the hairs are taken from the back or side of the head and moved to the top or front portion of your head. 

Surgeons perform hair transplants in a special clinic or a medical office while you are given local anesthesia. 

One of the major reasons responsible for this hair loss is pattern baldness. Also, genetics has a big role to play in this. If not this, other factors responsible for this can be:

  • illness
  • medications
  • diet
  • hormonal imbalance
  • stress 

What are the different types of hair transplants?

Currently, we have two types of hair transplant procedures in the market:

  • Slit grafts
  • Micrografts

In slit grafts, there are 4 to 10 hairs per graft whereas, in Micrografts, it only has 1 to 2 hairs in a single graft. It depends on the area that will be covered for the transplant.

Do Hair Transplants work?

Let’s consider a fact: Hair Transplants are more successful or work better than over-the-counter hair pills or remedies. Why? 

Because:

  • Whenever you go for a hair transplant, between 10% to 80% of the transplanted hair grow back to their full size in a quarter or two.
  • The transplanted hair grows and becomes thin same as your natural hair.
  • According to a physician’s experience, the ones with dormant hair follicles might not have a very effective transplant. (Follicles are the sacs under the skin that actually contain the hair but they don’t grow anymore)
  • But a study in 2016 says that plasma therapy helps almost 75% of the transplanted hair to grow to its full potential.

Also, exceptions are always there, there is nothing that suits everyone. The process is effective if you are naturally balding or thinning; you might have gone through an accident or injury which lead to hair loss.

As far as the process is concerned, most transplants are done with the help of hair you already have. So it might not be very effective for you if you have any of the below conditions:

  • Wide thick scalp scars due to some injury
  • Widespread balding and thinning of hair
  • Serious hair loss due to the medications or chemotherapy

How much does Hair Transplant Cost?

To be very honest and factual, hair transplants price range from about $4,000 to around $15,000 for a single session.

The total Cost of hair transplant includes and varies by:

  • Experience of the surgeon performing
  • Number of the surgeons available in your area
  • The extent or the length of the transplant procedure
  • The technique in use 

Well, this might hurt a bit but, since hair transplants are cosmetic processes, health insurance won’t help.

After you are done with your transplant, your surgeon might also suggest some medications for the same.

Who can actually benefit from the hair transplant

Who can benefit from the Hair Transplant? 

A hair transplant will improve your appearance by a great difference and also it will give a boost in your self-confidence naturally.  

Who are the right candidates for Hair Transplant?

If you are:

  • a man and going through male pattern baldness
  • have lost your hair due to some burns or scalp injuries
  • women and your hairs are thinning

But this hair replacement thing isn’t a very good option for:

women who are facing widespread hair loss in the whole area around the scalp

the ones who have lost their hair from chemotherapy or some medications

people who don’t have much good quality hair at the donor sites to be used as the replacement hair

the ones who have keloid scars(thick, fibrous scars) as a result of some surgery or injury

How does Hair Transplant Work?

Talking in a very simple language, hair transplant isn’t very complex. It just takes the hair you already have and plant them where you are lacking them. Generally, surgeons take them from the back of your head, but in many cases, they can take them from body parts also. 

Sterilizing the area and numbing it with local anesthesia before transplant is the common practice by a surgeon. Also, if you want, you can ask for sedation so that you will stay asleep during the whole hair transplant process.

For the hair transplant, your surgeon will go for one of the two methods: FUE or FUT.

Follicular Unit Transplantation(FUT)

This Follicular Unit Transplantation, FUT is also known as follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS). The Standard Operating Procedure, the surgeon follows for performing a FUT is:

  1. The surgeon takes a small piece of your scalp, mostly from the back of your head by using a scalpel.
  2. Generally, the strip size ranges from 6 to 10 inches which can also stretch from one ear to the other.
  3. That area undergoes stitching to prevent it from some kind of bleeding or infection.
  4. Then, the surgeon along with his assistant divides your scalp piece into smaller pieces(also known as grafts). Sometimes, these grafts range as high as 2,000 grafts in which each graft contains one hair.
  5. Then the surgeon makes small holes or pores at the place of transplant in your scalp with a needle or some blade.
  6. Then surgeon does the grafting process. In this process, the surgeon puts the removed hairs(2nd step) into the pores on your scalp.
  7. In the end, they cover these areas with some bandages or gauze.

Follicular Unit Transplant

The number of grafts depends on different factors:
  • Size of the transplant site where the hairs need to be grown
  • The color of your hair
  • The kind  of hair you have
  • The quality or the thickness of your hair.

Follicular Unit Extraction(FUE)

The procedural steps for FUE undertaken by your surgeon are:

  1. In this procedure, they simply shave off the hair you have on the back of your head.
  2. The surgeon then takes out the individual follicles from the skin of your head. There will be small marks on your head from the place follicles were taken out.
  3. It is somewhat the same as that with FUT. The surgeon will pierce the tiny holes or pores in your scalp, then simply graft your follicles into these holes.
  4. Then the surgical area is covered with bandages or gauze. 

Generally, one session of a hair transplant surgery takes about 4 hours or more. The removal of stitches takes place at least after 10 days of the surgery. 

Also, it depends upon you on how much area do you desire to get a hair transplant. Each session occurs at a gap of several months which allows your hair to heal properly from the previous session.

Success rates of Hair Transplants

After we have gone through most of the facts about Hair Transplants, let’s get to the reality. You must have had these questions like if these transplants are actually successful or just on paper right?

The success rate of your hair transplant will depend essentially on the skills and experience your surgeon possess; this also depends on the thickness levels of the donor’s hair. Also, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons(ASPS), hair transplants don’t make very drastic changes. If you want to go for overall developmental improvements with great changes, then you can choose tissue expansion, scalp reduction techniques, or skin flap surgery.

There is not a very big list of studies or research about the hair transplant success rates. Though, there are different smaller studies and articles that tell about the effectiveness and viability of these processes. According to a study, in a test of 79 participants, the mean score of their satisfaction was 8.3 out of 10; which is quite a great number.

Another study concludes that most of the people who got through with FUE by using hairs from body parts or beards were also very satisfied with the results after average of about 2.9 years.

One more study shows that getting platelet-rich plasma(PRP) therapy with FUE effectively improves the success rates of FUE hair transplants. While testing for the PRP group, everybody in the participants had 75% better hair regrowth results in just after 6 months. They had better recovery and hair density reports than the non-PRP people/

Difficulties and Challenges during Hair Transplant

1.Donor Surgery

You need to make sure the clinic and the surgeon you are going to for your surgery. A Hair Transplant requires perfect hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, and full in-depth knowledge about the hair anatomy.

Scarring is one of the most significant side effects of improper surgery. This takes place when tissue is taken out in excessive amounts and making it difficult to close the cut. Improper healing leads to scars.

But now, due to the improved technology and better medical science, scalp laxity and incision limit helps in surgery. Though surgeons and physicians are constantly improving their techniques, it still leaves very light scars.

Now, they use scalp punch for placing the follicular units in the area. The worry is that using scalp punch leaves a hole that becomes a bit bigger when follicular units are taken out; they might hypo/hyper pigment.  

For this procedure, robotic arms have started coming to be in use; this follows the double-barrel principle, with one hand handling the needle while the other making the holes for the grafts. These arms control the right angle and piercing amount for the needle. But, this might not work well for the ones with curly hair as curly hair makes it difficult for the needle to navigate. 

Donor Surgery

They have also come up with the healing strategies which help in hair growth and healing the wounds:

  • Extracellular Matrix Material(ECM) – This material aids in effective cell regeneration. Its bio scaffolding material is composed of proteoglycans, cellular factors, and proteins helping in healing wounds.
  • Scalp Micropigmentation: This is a great process in which the balding part is covered with small spots so that it looks like small hair.
  • Piloscopy: In this procedure, a camera is sent to choose the follicular units and the attachment pulls them out. Since this process doesn’t involve any cutting and healing of the scalp, this doesn’t leave any scar.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma(PRP):  In this process, a layer of concentrated platelets are used to cover the cut area after the repairing is done. These platelets come from the donor’s blood.   

2. Optimizing Growth

As these hair transplants use follicular units, the biggest challenge in this is the growth of the graft itself. This requires replacing the graft a bit regularly and doesn’t give the graft a chance to grow fully.

3. Regenerating Hair

Okay, just hear me out. The main aim of hair transplants is to solve hair loss issues and promote natural hair growth. According to the studies, the graft naturally shows growth but the areas around it have some form of hair damage. The challenge that arises is that the hair transplants should promote hair growth without damaging the surrounding areas. 

4. Donor Preservation

The hair bulbs that are taken from another donor, don’t stay alive for longer periods of time. So it is difficult to find an apt donor at the time of surgery. In most cases, the recipient needs to wait until the donor arrives.  

6. Graft Preservation

The two most common substances used for storing grafts are Ringer’s lactate and chilled saline. According to the research, the donor’s hair stays alive for at least 8 hours in these solutions before depicting any signs of demise.

However, watching the recent scenario, more cases of hair transplants are arising and there is a need to preserve the grafts for a longer time.

Another improvisation is the solution Hypothermosol which preserves the hair in good health for 5 days and shows signs of hair growth even after 18 months of surgery. The reason is that hypothermosol helps reducing stress and avoids scavenging of free radicals.

7. Preventing Hair Loss

The outcome and the absolute aim of getting hair transplants are to prevent future hair loss. It gets difficult when somebody has genetic issues like androgenic alopecia. One solution for this is to understand the whole hair growth and loss structure, and genetic mapping.

8. Enhanced Grafts

We need to accept that hair transplants have come a long way from the time they began. But, now with advanced technologies, a lot of it can still be improved upon. The grafts when planted, take almost a year to show the right results and growth.

Then, the next issue is the low quantity of donor cells. Low supply than demand triggers the need for stem cell regeneration by using bits of donor hair. 

What happens after a Hair Transplant?

Talking about both FUT and FUE recovery, it may take some hours to some days for full completion. It depends on the work your surgeon is performing. There is no need for you to stay in the clinic; you can go home on the same day once the procedure completes. 

Your surgeon will carefully remove your bandages or gauze when upon completion of surgery. Though the area could be a bit swollen, to control this your surgeon will most probably inject triamcinolone in the swollen area.

Recovery

It is very likely to feel some pain or soreness after your transplant at the site and also the area from where follicles were taken out. For the pain and swelling, your surgeon can prescribe you these medications:

  • Some antibiotics for preventing infections
  • Over-the-counter medications like minoxidil(Rogaine) or finasteride(Propecia) help to promote hair growth.
  • Anti-inflammatories to relieve the excessive swelling just like an oral steroid
  • Medications like ibuprofen(Advil) for relieving pain.

These medications help to slow down hair loss and preventing any chances of hair loss. Most of the patients get back to their work several days after their surgery.

Hair Transplant Recovery

Some simple care tips you can perform yourself at home after your hair transplant surgery:

  • Give your new hair some time before washing your hair. Also, use only mild shampoos so that the rough soap or hard shampoos might not affect your hair negatively.
  • Try not to comb or brush your hair at least for a month after surgery.
  • Also, avoid exercise for some time as sweating excessively might not open the pores.
  • You can return to your normal work or daily activities in a week.
  • Avoid all kinds of hats or pullover jackets and shirts until your doctor says it’s fine to do so.

And most importantly, remember one thing! There’s nothing 100% sure in this world so if some hair falls out; it’s not a thing to worry about. That is very natural. Also, don’t expect the transplanted hair to grow like your natural ones, they will take time to grow and settle down properly. 

Hair Transplant Side Effects

Well, let’s accept it, everything has two sides: the good and the bad. There are some common side effects of hair transplants. The most common side effect of this surgery is the unavoidable scars left after its completion.

Different potential side effects of hair transplant include:

  • Pain in the scalp, swelling, and itching on that area
  • Feeling numb around the area
  • Still losing hair and experiencing the balding effects
  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Formation of pus or crust around the surgical sites
  • Hair follicles getting inflamed(folliculitis)
  • The areas or the effects of the transplant being visible and not matching with the surrounding hair

Common Hair Transplant Side Effects due to Medications:

Except for the surgical hair transplant side effects, many can face side effects due to the medications after surgery. Medications such as Minoxidil and Propecia:

  • Chest pain
  • Swelling in foot, hand, or breast
  • Dizziness
  • Irritation in the scalp
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction

Possible Long Term Side Effects of Hair Transplant:

  • Graft Failure- In certain cases, the grafts and the area in which they are placed, don’t easily accept each other. In those cases, many grafts fail to grow in the area and graft replacement is the only option left.
  • Scalp Laxity- In simple words, the elasticity amount is known as scalp laxity. This is caused by the tension underneath the scalp which is carried by the tissues. This generally happens because physicians fail to estimate the scalp laxity accurately during extraction. This leads to unhealable odd scars.
  • Hair Curl- Talking about curly hair, they are many types that range from 2C to 4C. Sometimes, the hair from the donor area might not be able to curl as your natural hair.

Though the ones undergoing the surgery are given a set of rules they need to adhere to for successful results.

Also, if you don’t take medications like minoxidil or finasteride, you are prone to facing hair loss issues in the non-treated areas.

Final Takeaway

Talk to your personal doctor or a professional surgeon before deciding to go for it.

Also, you need to understand that it doesn’t come with a 100% success rate whereas scarring is permanent. And you might not be even eligible to go for any of the procedures depending upon the volume and quality of your hair.

 

Leave a Comment