Hair Transplant | Procedure, Recovery, Cost, and Considerations

While some medications and herbal remedies can help slow hair loss, no procedure is more permanent and effective than hair transplants.

Since their invention in the mid-twentieth century, hair transplants have come a long way. Now, they are more affordable and available, with faster recovery times and higher rates of client satisfaction.

If you have any interest in a hair transplant, this is your go-to resource to get started. We’ll talk about procedures, recovery, cost, and other considerations that will factor into your final decision. 

Procedure Types and Common Practices

There are two main types of hair transplants now practiced in clinics worldwide – Follicular Unit Transplant and Follicular Unit Excision. Let’s take a closer look at these two procedures and compare some pros and cons. 

Follicular Unit Transplant

In 2009, NeoGraft became the first robotic device FDA approved for hair restoration. However, the most highly skilled surgeons choose to perform the procedure by hand to avoid a higher rate of transection. Most modern hair transplants are FUT procedures since it’s the most established method through years of practice, research, and technological advancement.

FUT is sometimes called “strip surgery” because of the horizontal strip of hair harvested from the back of the head known as the donor area.

This strip of hair tends to be dense with healthy new hair growth, making it an ideal source of follicle units for the recipient area, typically along the front of the hairline, the temples, and sometimes the vertex.

Surgeons and technicians will process individual follicle units from the strip of harvested hair. To follow, hair will then take root and grow back healthy after the recovery process.

The following advantages make FUT the most tried-and-true method of hair transplant today:

  • Hair harvested from the horizontal strip is best in terms of both quantity and quality
  • Best for surgeries requiring long “mega sessions” with thousands of grafts
  • Most surgeons are trained and proficient in FUT
  • The process is efficient and cost-effective
  • The quality and amount of hair grafts available is increased.Clients do not need to shave their head for surgery

Since FUT is the most widespread hair transplant technique, you might find it easier to schedule this procedure with a reputable surgeon at a reasonable price. 

Follicular Unit Excision

A more recent and less-practiced method of transplant is known as FUE, or follicular unit extraction, which features a few key distinctions in the procedure. 

Rather than the strip-harvest method of FUT, the FUE hair transplant is accomplished by harvesting donor hair from various regions in treated areas of the scalp, pinpointing clusters of hair follicles, and extracting them individually before processing and grafting to the recipient area.

This reduces scarring in the donor area and does not require the client to shave their head before surgery. FUE is not as commonly practiced, however, and may cost more than FUT.

Pros and Cons – Which is Best?

To say which procedure is best is largely a matter of context. Comparing FUT to FUE requires an understanding of the cause of hair loss and the candidate in question.

While FUT has the advantage of being a more established and proven procedure, some clients do not require the high volume of hair yielded by the strip-harvest method. Advocates of FUE also point to the absence of scarring in the donor area from FUE, which can be a key factor.

Therefore, FUE is considered most appropriate for clients requiring a lower number of grafts, and who might be willing to try other treatments, such as microneedling, and attempt repeat procedures down the road.

On the other hand, FUT is more of a “one-and-done” surgery that will transplant high quantities of body hair in a shorter period of time, and generally yield more consistent results.

Also take note that fewer surgeons are well versed in FUE procedures, and will point to FUT as a default option. If you are committed to seeking FUE, be sure to choose a surgeon and clinic with a strong track record and experience in the method.

From the client’s perspective, the process of both procedures is also, for the most, the same. The client will be in and out of the clinic within a day, experience little discomfort, and have the opportunity to take breaks and walk around between sessions.

While there may be some more irritation from scarring of the donor area from FUT, the recovery schedules and protocols are also nearly identical.

Choosing between these two options really comes down to context and preference, but for the majority of hair transplant candidates, FUT will be the best choice.

Recovery and Timeline

When the procedure is finished, the client will be encouraged to get a ride home and be fully prepared for a few days of rest and relaxation. Here are some things you’ll need to know about the recovery process and the timeline for results.

Rules of Recovery

Whether you’ve undergone FUT or FUE surgery, it’s extremely important that you follow the protocols explained to you by the surgeon and technicians at the clinic.

Some of these will be strict rules, while others will be more suggestions, but to ensure the best results from your surgery, stay within all guidelines.

For the first week of recovery, your newly grafted hair will be extremely delicate and the skin in the area quite tender. It’s important to not touch, scratch, or agitate the area in any way, no matter how much scratching or irritation you may feel.

Be sure to avoid exercise, household projects, even stress-inducing activities like driving or working on the computer or phone.

After that first week or two is through, you can gradually start returning to normal activities, but always consult your doctor before taking any major steps.

Treatment, Follow-up, and More

In the following weeks and months, you will have follow-up meetings with your surgeon and ensure everything is going well. Normal hair growth should return within a few months.

It is important in this stage to stick to the guidelines in your recovery plan, which could include certain medications, specialty shampoos, or lifestyle recommendations. 

For instance, some restoration specialists will prescribe Minoxidil or Finasteride to promote the health and strength of the newly grafted hair.

Never hesitate to call your clinic if you notice any unusual sensation, bleeding, swelling, or infection of the hair follicles, known as folliculitis. While strip harvesting will leave a thin linear scar, scarring is a common side effect and cannot be avoided with any procedure. Stay in touch with your point of contact and keep them apprised of developments.

After about a year, you’ll have a final follow-up with your surgeon, review the entire experience, offer feedback, and discuss the next steps.

Depending on the type of your hair transplant surgery, as well as its success and your level of satisfaction, you may consider repeat procedures within the next year or years to come — FUE can be used to “refresh” hair loss that takes place long after FUT surgery.

Schedule a consultation with your doctor before you decide to get a hair transplant procedure or hair restoration procedure. It is important to understand the most common side effects and symptoms that may occur to make the most of your restored hair procedure and discuss further treatment as needed. 

Sources:

Hair Transplantation | NCBI 

Complications in Hair Transplantation | NCBI 

Hair transplantation surgery | NIH