How Do Hair Transplants Work? | Jae Pak MD

- Reviewed by: Dr. Jae Pak, M.D.

How Do Hair Transplants Work? 

Hair loss is a prevalent issue that affects millions worldwide, with causes ranging from genetic predispositions to environmental factors. Baldness and thinning hair can lead to a significant psychological toll, impacting self-esteem and social interactions. 


In the pursuit of hair restoration, hair transplants have emerged as a notable solution, offering a permanent and natural-looking remedy for those grappling with hair depletion. The efficacy of hair transplants has been widely recognized, prompting many individuals to explore this surgical option. 


Understanding the mechanics of how hair transplants function is essential for anyone considering this procedure, as it provides clarity on expectations and outcomes. As we delve into the intricacies of hair transplant surgery, it’s imperative to grasp the underlying causes of hair loss and the sophisticated techniques developed to counteract them.

What Is Hair Loss?

Hair loss, particularly male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia, is often a hereditary condition that causes hair follicles to shrink and eventually cease producing hair. This type of alopecia is characterized by a receding hairline and thinning crown, hallmarks of what many consider traditional signs of aging in men. 


Healthy hair follicles are crucial; they are the very factories where hair growth begins, and their functionality determines the thickness and health of individual strands. When these follicles fail, balding areas appear, altering one’s appearance and self-image. 


The impact of hair loss is not merely aesthetic — it can be a profound emotional and psychological journey for many, influencing their quality of life and sometimes leading to social withdrawal or diminished confidence.

What Is a Hair Transplant?

Hair transplant surgery is a procedure that involves relocating hair follicles from a part of the body known as the donor site (usually the back of the head where hair is more abundant) to the bald or balding parts of the scalp. 


This surgical intervention has evolved significantly since its inception in the mid-20th century, transitioning from using conspicuous hair plugs to more advanced and refined methods. Today, the two primary types of hair transplant techniques are Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)


FUE involves removing individual hair follicles directly from the scalp and implanting them into small incisions in the balding areas. FUT requires taking a strip of skin from the donor area, dissecting it into individual grafts, and then transplanting these grafts to the required site. 


Both techniques aim to restore hair density and provide a natural-looking result, differing mainly in their approach to harvesting hair.

How Do Hair Transplant Procedures Work?

Understanding the process of hair transplant surgery can help mitigate any apprehensions and provide clarity for potential patients. While the procedure can vary depending on the chosen technique (FUE or FUT), the general steps remain consistent.

  • Preparation: Before the procedure, your surgeon will conduct a thorough discussion to confirm your desires and establish realistic outcomes. This involves examining your hair loss pattern, the quality and quantity of your donor hair, and your overall health. Local anesthesia is also applied to eliminate any discomfort during the procedure.
  • Harvesting: In this phase, hair is collected from the donor site. In FUE, individual follicles are extracted using a tiny punch device, while in FUT, a strip of skin with hair follicles is removed from the back of the head.
  • Graft Preparation: If undergoing a FUT procedure, the removed skin strip is meticulously divided into individual hair grafts under a microscope. This step doesn’t apply to FUE methods, as follicles are directly harvested.
  • Implantation: The prepared grafts are then implanted into tiny cuts on the recipient site, blending them seamlessly with existing hair. The surgeon carefully follows the natural hair direction and distribution to ensure an optimal aesthetic result.
  • Post-Procedure Care: Following the surgery, scalp tenderness is common but is usually managed with prescribed oral medication. To ensure proper healing, patients receive post-op care instructions, including washing routines, diet tips, and activity restrictions.

The results typically become noticeable after three to four months, with the complete effect visible within a year. The transplanted hair should grow just like natural hair, further enhancing the potential for renewed self-confidence and improved appearance.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Hair Transplant Surgery?

Not everyone experiencing hair loss is a suitable candidate for hair transplant surgery. Ideal candidates typically meet the following criteria:

  • Sufficient Donor Hair: A good candidate has enough healthy hair at the back and sides of the head to provide grafts for the transplant.
  • Stable Hair Loss: It’s preferable for hair loss to have stabilized, as ongoing hair loss can affect the long-term results of the transplant.
  • Realistic Expectations: Understanding the potential outcomes and limitations of the procedure is important.
  • Age Considerations: While there’s no specific age limit, maturity in hair loss patterns can help in planning an effective restoration.
  • Healthy Scalp: A scalp free from conditions that could complicate surgery or healing is important.
  • General Health: Good overall health is critical for the surgery and recovery process.
  • Type of Hair Loss: Those with male pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia, or other hair loss conditions that affect only parts of the scalp are often ideal candidates.
  • Hair Characteristics: Hair color, texture, and curliness can influence the aesthetic results of the transplant.

Individuals who don’t meet these criteria may need to consider alternative hair restoration methods or address any treatable underlying health issues before being deemed good candidates for hair transplant surgery.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

As with any surgical procedure, hair transplant surgery comes with potential risks and side effects that should be carefully considered:

  • Infection and Bleeding: While rare, as with any surgery, there is a risk of infection and bleeding at the incision sites.
  • Scarring: FUT, in particular, leaves a linear scar, while FUE may result in tiny dot scars scattered across the donor area.
  • Nerve Damage: On rare occasions, patients may experience temporary or permanent nerve damage in the treated areas.
  • Graft Rejection: Although uncommon, sometimes the transplanted grafts may not ‘take,’ leading to less than desired hair growth.
  • Shock Loss: This is a temporary thinning of the pre-existing hair due to the trauma of the surgery, which usually recovers.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Post-operative pain is expected but typically manageable with prescribed painkillers.
  • Itching and Swelling: As the scalp heals, itching and swelling are common but usually subside within a few days.
  • Unnatural-Looking Results: If not performed by an experienced surgeon, the transplanted hair may look unnatural.

Patients are encouraged to discuss these risks with their hair transplant surgeon to understand the implications fully. Choosing a reputable and experienced MD like Dr. Jae Pak can greatly mitigate these risks and ensure a satisfactory outcome.

What Are Alternative Hair Loss Treatments?

While hair transplant surgery offers a permanent solution for hair restoration, it may not be suitable for everyone. 


There are several non-surgical options available that can effectively address hair loss:

Scalp MicroPigmentation (SMP) 

SMP is an innovative technique that mimics the appearance of a shaved head or adds density to thinning areas by applying natural pigments at the epidermal level of the scalp. This method can also be used to camouflage transplant scars or enhance an existing hair restoration result.

Medical Treatments 

These are often the first line of defense against hair loss. Medications such as finasteride, which blocks DHT (a hormone linked to hair loss), and minoxidil, which stimulates hair growth, are commonly prescribed. 

These treatments are usually more effective when started early in the hair loss process and may be used in maintenance following a hair transplant.

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) 

LLLT is gaining traction due to its convenience and the absence of side effects. This therapy utilizes devices like laser caps or combs that emit specific wavelengths of light to encourage cellular activity and potentially promote hair growth.

Hairline Lowering Procedures

Hairline Lowering surgery, also known as forehead reduction, can be an option for individuals with a high forehead who wish to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing hairline. This procedure can also be combined with hair transplant surgery for comprehensive results.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy 

PRP involves the injection of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. In the context of hair loss, PRP can potentially stimulate dormant hair follicles to enhance hair growth.

Conclusion

At Jae Pak MD, we understand the profound impact hair loss can have on an individual’s confidence and overall quality of life. We take pride in offering advanced hair restoration solutions, including hair transplant surgery, that cater to the unique needs of our clients. 


Whether you opt for the transformative potential of a hair transplant or choose alternative treatments, our goal is to help you regain not just your hair but a sense of self-assurance and well-being. 


With cutting-edge techniques and a compassionate approach, we stand ready to guide you through your journey to hair restoration, ensuring that you feel supported every step of the way.



Sources:


Hair loss – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Hair Follicle: Function, Structure & Associated Conditions | Cleveland Clinic 

Hair transplant surgery | Better Health Channel

What is male pattern hair loss, and can it be treated? | AAD 



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