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 

What Is Hair Transplant?

Surgical hair transplantation is a popular and, nowadays, almost painless surgical technique during which the doctor removes existing hair follicles from a healthy part of the patient’s scalp (referred to as donor hair) and then inserts those follicles into those areas that have been affected by alopecia.

JPMD FUT Patient Before and After Comparison
Actual JPMD Patient who received FUT Surgery

The area where the donor hairs are taken from is called the donor site, while the surface in which the follicles are inserted is called the recipient site. This procedure is mostly used to treat male pattern baldness, but has been used for female pattern hair loss as well. 

Usually, this operation is done by a surgeon specializing in surgical hair restoration. Most of the time, grafts that contain multiple hair follicles are extracted from the back of the head, where normally, individual hairs tend to be thicker. The majority of patients deal with baldness in the front area of the head.

How Does Hair Transplant Work?

Before the procedure, you will have an initial appointment with your surgeon and discuss everything that needs clarification. Also, you will be locally sedated so you won’t feel any pain. A small needle is used to anesthetize and numb your scalp. However, all surgeons will also thoroughly clean the area before beginning the operation, as is typical with most surgeries.

Based on the type of hair transplant that you and your doctor opt for, the procedure is slightly different. One requires a scalpel to remove a narrow strip of skin. The other relies on thousands of small punch incisions.

FUE Male Hair Transplant Patient from JPMD
JPMD Patient before and after FUE Hair Transplant

One session of hair restoration surgery might last around 6 hours or, sometimes, even longer. After 10 days post-surgery for FUT hair transplant patients, the doctor will remove your staples. Many patients will need to have more than one procedure to obtain their desired results. These procedures are scheduled months to years apart, depending on the amount of hair loss the individual is experience and the amount of hair density the patient is trying to achieve. This pause is necessary for the scalp to fully heal.

Note that even though it’s called hair restoration surgery, hair transplants work by moving healthy hair follicles to areas where hair follicles are no longer functioning, thus restoring the presence of healthy hair follicles versus restoring function to the nonfunctional hair follicles. 

Main Types of Hair Transplant

There are two main types of hair transplants:

FUT – Follicular Unit Transplantation

During this procedure, the doctor uses a scalpel to cut a small part of your scalp skin. Usually, surgeons make this incision around the back of your head. The length of the incision is approximately 6 inches. Before going on to the next step of the process, the doctor stitches or staples and closes the incision.

Then, the surgeon will remove and separate small sections from the removed strip using a sharp surgical knife and a microscope/magnifying lens. This way, when inserted into the recipient site, these tiny parts of follicles will help you achieve a natural look, once the hair grows back.

FUE – Follicular Unit Extraction

During this type of hair transplant, the surgeon cuts the hair follicles out directly from the back part of the patient’s head by doing thousands of very small punch incisions that are the size of dots.

The doctor uses either a needle or a tiny blade to create holes all over the recipient site. Then, he or she fills those areas with the hairs taken from the donor site. In one single session, an expert could transplant hundreds, if not thousands, of different hairs. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Both FUT and FUE?

Both hair transplants procedure types are safe and generally painless during the procedure. Some soreness is normal right after the surgery, but that will pass in just a couple of days. The recovery time is quick after hair transplantation. You can return to work after only 2 to 5 days post-operation, with little visible signs that a procedure was performed.

In a couple of weeks after surgery, all the newly-transplanted hair will fall out just to make room for new growth, but you must have a little patience because this entire process will take a 9-12 months to show the full results of your procedure.

FUT Pros

  • Has a better growth rate compared to the one of FUE
  • The stereo-microscopic dissection is so precise that the follicle damage is minimal
  •  Patients don’t have to shave their heads before the surgery
  • Usually, a FUT procedure is less expensive than FUE surgery.

FUT Cons

  • After the operation, patients will be left with a linear scar, but it generally won’t be visible because it will fade away after a while and it will be hidden within the hairline
  • If you want to cut your hair very short, the scar will become visible, so you should avoid using the #1 guard of your razor – this generally isn’t a problem because once you enjoy hair regrowth, you won’t want to have very short hair ever again.
  • In some cases, FUT can be a little more painful right after the surgery than FUE – both procedures are safe, and they aren’t that painful, but pain is a highly subjective concept, each patient experiences it in a different way.

FUE Pros

  • With the FUE hair transplant, patients will avoid linear scars.
  • FUE generally has lower postoperative pain than FUT.
  • You can wear your hair any way you want, even cut it very short because there won’t be a linear scar showing.
  • In some cases, with FUE, the donor site heals a bit quicker than with the FUT procedure.

FUE Cons

  • There will be numerous tiny dot scars at the back of your scalp but once your hair grows back, no one, not even you, will typically notice them.
  • FUE comes with more transection compared to FUT.
  • Because of the transection, the growth rate might be a little slower.
  • You will need to shave your head or at least the areas where the doctor will work on before the surgery.

Hair Transplants: FUE vs. FUT

Both types of surgeries are effective for restoring the appearance of a normal hairline and a full head of hair. However, they can have slightly different outcomes, in some cases. 

Some say that FUE requires a more experienced and skilled surgeon, and it also takes longer compared to FUT. Most of the time, doctors take hairs from either the sides or the back of the scalp. These areas are considered donor areas.

When the situation requires it, a hair transplant surgeon could even remove hairs from other body parts such as the back, chin, or chest. After a successful procedure, you will enjoy having much thicker-looking hair, so most don’t mind where the donor hair actually comes from.

Your surgeon will certainly offer some advice regarding the things you should do or avoid after the operation. If you follow those instructions as well as avoid intense workouts for a couple of weeks, you shouldn’t generally encounter any problems