We have all heard the phrase before: “tall, dark, and handsome” to describe a woman’s ideal partner. However, what if the “dark” part was missing because the man had no hair at all. Approximately 35 million men in the United States suffer from some type of hair loss. 85% of men will have major hair thinning by the time they’re 50. Although extremely common, it doesn’t necessarily make that an easier thing to accept, with hair loss affecting self-esteem and confidence for men and women all over the world.
What Are Hair Transplants?
Thankfully, with modern medical advances, some can find relief from their insecurities by going through a hair transplant. Hair transplants are what they sound like: doctors will transplant hair grafts from one part of the body to the section of the scalp where hair is thinning or balding, for hair to be able to grow there again.
Some Facts About Hair Transplants
- Hair transplants have been conducted since the 1950s
- There are a few recognized types of hair transplant procedures, but the two most common methods are known as Follicular Unit Transplantation and Follicular Unit Extraction.
- Hair transplants are conducted by a surgeon and they typically take four to eight hours
- You cannot receive a hair transplant if you are completely bald, since the procedure is simply moving hair from one part of the scalp to another
Although mostly, genetic, there are a few other outlying factors that may cause or worsen hair loss.
Possible Causes Of Hair Loss
- Medical conditions
- Too much Vitamin A
- Poor nutrition and a lack of protein
However, most of the factors that cause hair loss that is not due to genetic reasons are often reversible when eliminating the cause. Many know and believe their hair loss is due to genetic reasons.
Although many who experience balding may find hair transplants a magical solution to a larger problem, there are so many things to consider before proceeding with this course of action.
What You Should Consider When Thinking About Getting a Hair Transplant
- Your age
- The cause of your hair loss
- The pattern, such as if you have unpatterned alopecia, you may not be a great candidate
- The quality of hair on your donor site
- Your health
- Can you dedicate the time to surgery and recovery
- Surgeon choice
- Is this something you truly want
Your age is one of the most important factors. Although you can begin losing your hair very early on, it’s best to wait until your hair loss cause, and hair loss patterns are completely developed and stop changing. Getting surgery on your hair too early may result in more natural hair loss later and cause your results to be uneven.
If you’re curious about your hair loss pattern, you can use the Norwood scale in order to rate the baldness. The Norwood scale categorized the level and location of hair loss patterns into 12 different patterns, which emphasizes why it’s so important to wait until your pattern is “stable” before you seek correction.
Doing your research to find a great surgeon is very important as well. Not only should you compile a list of questions for your surgeon at your consultation, but they will have some things to ask you ask well, to see if you’re the right candidate for the procedure.
What A Surgeon Will Consider When Getting A Hair Transplant
- The type of hair loss
- The hair loss pattern
- The quality and quantity of donor hair that will be transplanted
- The size of the balding area
- Your immune system, and any medications you may be on
Once the surgeon can determine if you’re a candidate or not, you need to ensure he or she is the proper surgeon for the job. Since this is hair on your head, it’s not something you should take lightly. It’s important to do extensive research before you sign any paperwork.
Questions To Ask at Your Hair Transplant Consultation
- Ask for before and after photos.
- How long has the practice been open? Doctors recommend a minimum of 10 years.
- Is the office doing hair transplants full-time and exclusively?
- How is each skin graft inspected before transplanted?
- How many techs are in the office per procedure?
- Ask if the doctor does the procedure with mechanized equipment or manually. Many surgeons in the industry offer that manual is still the best technique since it’s a very personalized procedure.
The Success Rate Of Hair Transplants
Depending on a few different factors, the success rate for this procedure is fairly high. There is only a 90% lowest possible success rate to be quantified as a successful hair transplant, so the standard for success in this field is great. There is often a 95-98% success rate in hair transplants with 10-80% of “new hair” growing in three to four months of the procedure.
Some Factors That May Affect The Success Rate:
- Surgeon’s skill level
- The pattern of hair loss
- How strong the donor hair is
- Recovery and care after the procedure
- Additional sessions
Some expect instant results after a hair transplant and expect to walk out of the doctor’s office will a full head of hair, which is simply not possible. After the procedure is complete, it may take months for the hair to come to grow in the new location. It is known to take up to a year or two to have the results envisioned when having a hair transplant procedure.
How Long Do Hair Transplants Last?
Although it does sometimes take a longer time to begin seeing the results a patient may have envisioned, the long-term results may vary as well. One of the most important things to note from this entire experience: hair transplants do not generate new hair, but they just take hair you already have and place them elsewhere.
Can You Still Go Bald After A Hair Transplant?
The short answer to the question “can you still go bald after a hair transplant”? Yes. Immediately after the surgery, your new hair follicles will begin to shed. Essentially, you will lose hair for it to come back and regrow in a different area. There is one pretty major contributing risk factor that may have you go bald after your transplant: dihydrotestosterone hormone or DHT.
DHT is the hormone and androgen that plays a large cause in baldness. If you had higher levels of DHT to begin with in order to lose your hair in the first place, there is a chance this will prevent you from growing hair in the places where your follicles were transplanted.
Sometimes if the thinning doesn’t occur on the newly implanted hair follicles, you may continue to bald on other portions of your scalp, causing a new, uneven balding pattern. There are some ways to prevent this residual hair loss from happening.
Preventing Post-Transplant Baldness
- Be gentle with product choices and water usage
- Medication such as finasteride (Propecia) and/or minoxidil (Rogaine)
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Do not smoke
- Get regular trims to keep the ends healthy
The Cost Of Hair Transplants
The cost of a hair transplant will range anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars, upwards towards $15,000 and because the treatment is considered cosmetic, often all of the cost will come out of pocket for the patient. Not only will the surgery itself cost money, but you must also factor in recovery costs.
- How many grafts you will need
- The type of procedure you’ve chosen
- The severity of hair loss
- The skill of your surgeon
- Geographic location
- Pain medications, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medications for recovery
- Time taken off work for recovery
Because of the high cost and variable factors when considering a hair transplant, you should get multiple consultations with several surgeons before you make a final decision on which to go with.
What Is The Procedure Like?
Bottom line, there are two different methods of the procedure: 1) Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and 2) Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT).
FUE works by taking one hair graft at a time from the sides or back of your scalp, harvesting it, and transplanting it to the preferred location. There are a few medical devices that can be used for this procedure.
- The most popular method of hair transplant surgery
- Takes from 6-8 hours
- Local anesthesia in a clinical setting
- Conducted by a hair transplant surgeon, assisted by technicians
- Small incisions, leaving few or no scars
- Up to 3000 grafts may be extracted and moved
- Usually priced per graft and more expensive than other methods
- Quicker recovery time than other methods
FUT is also known by other names, but it uses strips rather than individual hair grafts. The surgeon will take a strip of hair from the back of the head or the “donor area.” The area where the hair came from is then stitched up and concealed so that it is not noticeably removed. The strip is harvested and split into individual “micrografts” which consist of 1 to 3 hair follicles.
- Takes from 4-6 hours
- Local anesthesia in a clinical setting
- Conducted by a hair transplant surgeon, assisting by technicians
- Up to 4000 grafts
- Risk due to the procedure taking too long, the grafts may dry out if not completed in under a certain amount of time
- A long scar can be noticed from the donor area
- Removal of stitches will be required in a follow-up appointment
- A denser result compared to FUE with a higher survival rate
Recovery Post Procedure
When you leave the clinic after the procedure, you will be covered with a bandage to protect your raw wounds against infection. There are a few things of note for post-surgery maintenance and recovery:
- Some people feel pain a few days to a week or so after surgery
- Most people will experience redness and tenderness at the graft location for the first two weeks, but this is extremely normal
- You can take pain medications to manage, such as ibuprofen
- Don’t exercise for the first week
- Be careful to only use mild shampoos for a few weeks
- Don’t brush or comb your hair for three weeks
- Don’t wear any hats and be careful about pullover jackets, as they can pull on your healing grafts
Alternatives To Hair Transplants
The first alternative to hair transplants is focusing on prevention through medication. There are two most commonly used, and only FDA-approved medications for hair loss prevention on the market.
Medical Aids To Hair Loss
- Finasteride, also known as Propecia, is taken in 1mg tablets. It works to lower and slow down your body’s DHT production, so it is referred to as a “DHT blocker.” Propecia can reduce hair loss in men, but also regrow new hair in others.
- Minoxidil (Rogaine), which is available for purchase without a prescription as is often recommended in younger individuals. It can be used on both men and women.
- As mentioned, these medications are mostly for prevention, but there are also non-surgical, non-medical alternates as well.
Non-Surgical, Non-Medicinal Aids To Hair Loss
- Low-level laser therapy can treat hair loss by irradiating photons into scalp tissue, stimulating cellular growth, and charging the hair follicles. This can strengthen weak hair and is much less invasive than surgery.
- Hairpieces are a very common solution for bald spots. The pieces range from $60 to $300, making them much more cost-effective than surgical options. People can even get hair systems professionally applied with glue adhesives to a bald scalp and come in for maintenance every six weeks. This may be the best solution for those who experience complete baldness and are not candidates for a hair transplant, as the pieces can look very realistic.
- Platelet Rich Plasma is a procedure where your blood is spun in a centrifuge and then injected back into specific places. PRP is rich in growth factors and has been known to assist in the prevention of hair loss and assists with hair thickening.
Natural Ingredients For Hair Loss Prevention
There are a few natural ingredients that have been proved to either assist with hair loss prevention or to assist with hair growth and thickening. It’s recommended that you rub your balding area with these oils or products with these ingredients for two minutes per day. You can try some of these as the first level of defense, or as a “hail Mary” attempt before surgery, but there are notably a few natural remedies that assist with hair growth such as:
- Rosemary Oil
- Onion juice
- Fish Oil
- Aloe Vera
- Silicon-based Products
- Thyme Oil
- Coconut Oil
As we learned, hair loss happens to so many people, but it can truly affect self-confidence and body image. Through surgical procedures, there are options of hair transplants for those who suffer from hair loss. Being a candidate and finding a surgeon you trust is a harmonic song that not everyone will have the time or the money to afford.
If the cost is too steep for you, or you’re not an ideal candidate, you can turn to non-surgical alternatives to hair loss. Prevention is also important, and you may benefit from implementing FDA-approved medicine for hair loss prevention into your routine.
Whatever you may decide is best for you, remember that hair loss happens to so many people! It’s easily understood how balding can affect your confidence, however, you can find solace that it happens to a lot of other people… including many celebrities. Ensure you are taking care of your body from the inside out, with good health, and this will help assist you in the long run anyways if you do decide to get a hair transplant.