BEFORE WE BEGIN...
The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please read our disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more information.
As we have outlined in our article on Hair Loss Treatments, it is widely acknowledged that your first step in combating Androgenetic Alopecia is through the use of proven treatments such as Minoxidil or Finasteride. This is even more important if you are considering a Hair Transplant.
Although for some, hair transplants perhaps represent the only realistic long-term solution to restoring their hairline, before you go calling your local clinic there are some important points that you should consider.
Firstly, as any good hair restoration surgeon will tell you, a transplant alone does not guarantee you wouldn't continue to lose any hair in the future. Even after having a transplant, your hair can continue to recede and you could be left with an area where hair has continued to fall out, so it is important to consider this if you are in your younger years or early stages of hair loss. It is also worth mentioning that, if you have absolutely no hair left on your head then it is very unlikely that a hair transplant will be suitable for you.
Secondly, and here is another important part for you to remember, using treatments such as Finasteride and Minoxidil is vital in preserving your existing hair. These treatments are also a fundamental step to reduce the need for any further hair transplants in the future. In short, medication and transplants go hand in hand.
WHAT IS A HAIR TRANSPLANT?
Hair Restoration Surgery is nothing new, in fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), early Hair Replacement Surgery was documented in articles written by Japanese surgeon, Dr. Okuda in 1939.
While there are different techniques available, hair transplants are essentially a surgical procedure involving the transferring of your existing hair from an area unaffected by hair loss, typically known as the donor area, to an area where the hair is thinning.
A hair transplant can feel like the next step for many men alongside treatments such as Minoxidil or Finasteride. In fact, the American Hair Loss Association believes that around 25% of men will start to see signs of male pattern baldness by the age of 21 and by the age of 35 this will affect two-thirds of American men. This then soars to approximately 85% of men by the age of 50 so, coupled with the emergence of newer and less invasive hair transplant techniques, you can see why demand is on the rise - especially given the explosion of social media in recent years.
With the rise in celebrities undergoing transplants, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Callum Best, James Nestbitt and Gordon Ramsey all openly admitting they have gone under the knife, the stigma that once surrounded hair transplants have certainly been lifted.
According to results of a member survey conducted by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) published in June 2020, the number of people seeking proven medical and surgical treatments for hair loss grew 13 % from 2016 to 2019. Of this, 681,964 surgical patients sought treatment in 2019 (+14% from 2016), with 1.4m nonsurgical patients treated in 2019 (+13% from 2016).
Europe experienced the largest growth in the number of surgical hair restoration procedures in 2019, with 106,949 procedures representing a 35 % increase from 2016.
And with more people seeking treatment for hair loss in 2019, the estimated worldwide market value for surgical hair restoration reached $4.6 billion USD in 2019. We think it is safe to say transplants are very popular!
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR A HAIR TRANSPLANT?
While hair transplants are a very viable option for many, as with any type of surgery, this will not be suitable for everyone and there are a number of factors that will be considered by your surgeon before you are considered as eligible. These include;
As we briefly touched on, while hair loss can start at any age, your hair continues to develop as you get older, so a surgeon may be reluctant to discuss a hair transplant if you are under the age of 25. After this age, it is more likely that your hair growth patterns are likely to have stabilised.
YOUR HAIR LOSS CLASSIFICATION
The next elements that will need to be taken into consideration are the cause of your hair loss, and the length of time that this has been progressing, as this can affect the amount of donor hair available to transplant.
Candidates suffering from Androgenetic Alopecia, more commonly known as Male/Female pattern baldness, typically respond well to hair transplants as this follows a fairly predictable pattern as it progresses. However, those suffering from other types of hair loss, may not be considered viable candidates as there is the possibility that they are unlikely to have enough healthy donor hair follicles.
Along with the type of hair loss experienced, candidates are often judged by how far they are along the Norwood Scale (Hamilton-Norwood scale) for men, or the Ludwig Scale for women. These scales are considered the leading classification systems used to measure the extent of pattern baldness. More information on this can be found by reading our article Understanding Hair Loss.
After classifying your hair loss, next on the list we come to your remainign hair, its strength and its characteristics. Some of the determining attributes that will be looked at include the density of your hair, it's texture and thickness, along with the colour of your hair.
- HAIR DENSITY
According to clinics such as The Harley Street Hair Clinic and Farjo Hair Institute, the density of your hair plays an important role in deciding the suitability of a candidate. Hair density is essentially the number of hairs, per square inch, so a higher count means that there is more hair available to be transplanted from by the surgeon. Having strong, healthy hair around the sides and back of your head provides surgeons with a good donor site to transfer hair.
- HAIR TEXTURE
You may be wondering what texture has to do with suitability but thicker, coarser hair typically produces better results. In this instance, having afro, wavy or curly hair is certainly beneficial as it appears thicker on your scalp.
- HAIR COLOUR
The last of the characteristics to take into consideration, the colour of your hair plays an important role as the contrast between your hair and scalp can determine how effective the results are. Hair that is lighter in colour, provides less contrast and often requires fewer procedures to conceal the thinning area.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
At your consultation, those who are eligible, will typically discuss the two main methods for performing hair transplants with their surgeon: Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT).
What's the difference we hear you say? Well, once you get past the technical terms it is actually fairly straightforward to understand.
FOLLICULAR UNIT EXTRACTION (FUE)
Follicular Unit Extraction, or FUE for short, is the more modern approach to hair transplants of the two we will discuss but also the more time consuming. This method is usually preferred by patients favouring shorter hair styles, because it leaves less obvious scarring. FUE involves individual hair follicles being extracted directly from the donor area and moved to the hair transplant site using a specialist micro surgical needle.
This procedure will require your head being shaved, so it's worth noting that you will not benefit from having your existing hair to cover up the transplant while the new hair grows back. Here is where Nanogen Hair Fibres come into play , perfectly blending with the existing hair, helping to conceal the hair as it regrows over the coming weeks and months post surgery.
FUE Transplants have gained popularity in recent years as it is considered a “minimally invasive” procedure because it does not involve stitches. Having said that, we are still talking about thousands of small cuts being made to your scalp to accommodate the grafts, so it is an invasive procedure and can still be painful even though the surgery is conducted under a local anaesthetic. The actual transplantation will see the individual grafts, typically somewhere around 2,000 grafts/4,500 hairs, inserted into what is known as recipient sites (small incisions) in the areas of your scalp where you experience hair loss.
With FUE transplants, patients would normally start to see new hairs growing around 4-6 months after surgery and they will continue to grow through for the next 12 months or so.
Another reason why FUE is proving popular is down to the fact that your surgeon has greater control over the exact number and quality of grafts used., which has the potential to lead to a more successful transplant overall.
Top 3 advantages of the FUE technique are;
- Typically less scarring/no linear scar.
- Multiple donor sites possible.
- Quicker recovery times.
Top 3 disadvantages of the FUE technique are;
- Generally, the more expensive of the two options.
- Requires the entire head to be shaved.
- Longer time in surgery.
FOLLICULAR UNIT TRANSPLANTATION (FUT)
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) is a fairly straight-forward method to explain and is more commonly known as “strip” surgery. FUT came into prominence, replacing the more widely used ‘hair plugs’ seen through the 1980’s, and is still commonly used today, especially for those needing a large area of coverage or with a preference for longer hair styles.
In a nutshell, FUT would involve your surgeon taking a strip of hair-bearing skin from your scalp, known as the donor area. Typically this is located at the back of your head, as this is where it is most dense with hair. Tiny cuts are then made in the scalp for the follicular unit grafts to be carefully placed into, understandably this can leave some scarring.
The strip is then divided up into tiny grafts of individual units containing around one to four hairs. The donor area where the hair has been taken from is then stapled or stitched up and generally concealed to some degree by the remaining hair surrounding it. Around 10 - 14 days after the procedure, the stitches are then removed and the area heals to form a linear scar.
Over time, this area will then heal with a scar which would normally be completely camouflaged by surrounding hair, so it is often a good option if you prefer your hair longer.
The FUT method is typically used for patients who have more advanced hair loss and require a larger graft count as cited on the Farjo Hair Institute website.
Top 3 advantages of the FUT technique are;
- Commonly, quicker surgery times.
- Typically higher graft quality.
- Often the more affordable option.
Top 3 disadvantages of the FUT technique are;
- More visible scarring.
- Slower recovery time.
- Longer post-op discomfort.
WHAT IS THE EXPECTED RECOVERY TIME?
Having referenced a number of clinics, along with the general guidance provided by the ISHRS, the consensus is that “the minimum amount of time a patient should wait before going back to work is one week if the procedure performed was FUE, and two weeks if it was FUT (strip)”.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Many people are concerned by the cost of a hair transplant with fees varying depending on the cause of your hair loss, the type of surgery and where this is conducted and, of course, the area of coverage needed to cover the hair loss. Any search online and you will see that there can be a big difference in hair transplant costs and also the reviews of the work completed, so you should certainly do your homework when looking at a surgeon to carry out the work.
It's also important to understand that, as hair transplants are considered a cosmetic procedure, they are not covered by the NHS and you will need to go privately to have this surgery.
Hair transplants in the UK can cost anywhere between £1,000 and £30,000 according to both the NHS and Westminster Clinic websites, with the prices typically calculated by the number of grafts required. However, for reference, the Harley Street Hair Clinic quote that moderate hair loss (approximately 1,500 grafts) should cost somewhere between £3,000 and £8,000 with the same FUE procedure costing upto £15,000. You are also likely to pay more for clinics around London.
Whichever way you look at it, this can be a big financial commitment and it is worth noting that some patients may need a second hair transplant to improve density, definition and the overall look of the new hair.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS?
Firstly, no matter which surgery you opt for, the transplanted hair will usually fall out within 2 to 3 weeks but this is completely normal and to be expected as part of your natural hair cycle.
Secondly, for the first few days after hair transplants it is fairly common to suffer from a few side effects such as:
- a tight, achy and swollen scalp
- some temporary scabbing
- difficulty sleeping
Why is it difficult to sleep ? Well, aside from any possible discomfort you may experience, your head needs to be as straight as possible so the hairs can 'link-up' with your bloodstream. The first three nights you will need to be careful how you sleep.
There is also a small risk that the hair follicles are rejected by your body, but instances of this happening are extremely rare.
HOW CAN NANOGEN HAIR FIBRES HELP?
As your hair typically grows around 1/2 cm a month, you could be stuck with a thinning area for a while longer with an FUE transplant.
Nanogen Hair Fibres can really help and one of the reasons our keratin hair fibre brand is so popular with hair transplant surgeons and patients post-op. Nanogen Hair Fibres are the ideal product to help you cover the transplanted area, in line with the pre-op advice provided by your surgeon, while the new hair regrows over the following months.
Answering the question "should I have a hair transplant?" is not straightforward and there are many things to consider. Hair Transplants are certainly another restoration option for you, however, as with any treatment it is important to understand that there is no guarantee that you will not continue to lose your hair in the furure and you may require further surgery.
Hair transplants can provide long lasting results but it is important to consider all of your options. Remember that you need to be the 'right candidate' and that the results and success may vary, so take your time to choose your surgeon if you do believe that this is the right choice for you.
Also, it is important to discuss expected results so that these are realistic for you from the outset. The IAHRS website has a handy Q&A section that is worth checking out if you are interested to explore transplants further.
Why not check out our other articles;
While our aim is to provide you with up-to-date and relevant information, drugs affect each person differently. As such we can not guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects and this information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss treatment options and possible side effects with a healthcare professional who knows your specific medical history.