A hair transplant is a type of surgery that moves hair from one area of the body to another. This minimally invasive procedure has been carried out in the United States since the 1950s and is commonly used for male pattern baldness.
While hair transplants are the most effective way to increase the amount or thickness of hair, they can be expensive in terms of both treatment and recovery.
This article looks at the cost of hair transplants and transplant recovery and outlines what can be expected after hair transplant surgery.
The cost of a hair transplant varies greatly and depends on several factors. In general, it will cost between $4,000 and $15,000.
Some factors affecting cost include:
- The amount of hair being moved: It costs significantly more to increase hair over the entire scalp, rather than in just one or two small areas.
- The type of hair transplant procedure: There are two main hair transplant procedures called follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE). The cost of the hair transplant will depend on which one is chosen.
- The surgeon: Surgeons who are considered experts in their field often charge more than others who are less established. However, higher costs do not always indicate a better result. It is important to research the surgeon and the treatment carefully.
- Location: In areas where the cost of living is high, surgery costs may be greater. Competition also affects price, so places with relatively few hair transplant surgeons may be more expensive.
- Travel costs: Many people do not factor in the costs of travel to and from the clinic or hospital. However, it may be necessary to travel long distances to find a suitably qualified surgeon, which can add to the overall cost.
It should be noted that some clinics offer financing options or payment plans to help spread the cost of treatment over several installments.
Does insurance cover hair transplant surgery?
As most insurance companies view hair transplants as cosmetic, the majority of plans do not cover the process.
The two most popular types of hair transplants are FUSS and FUE, which are outlined below.
Follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS)
FUSS involves removing a strip of skin from a non-bald area. This donor site is usually the back of the head. The cut is then closed and hidden by the surrounding hair.
The strip of scalp that is removed is divided into tiny sections called grafts, each containing just one hair or a few hairs. These are each relocated to the balding areas being treated, known as the recipient sites.
The cost of the hair transplant can depend on the number of grafts being relocated. This can be an advantage if the person only requires a few grafts, as it may work out cheaper than paying a flat rate for the treatment.
One of the main disadvantages of FUSS transplants is that they typically lead to scarring around the donor site. Some people may also experience pain and swelling in this area.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE)
FUE surgery involves shaving the back of the head and then removing individual hair follicles, as opposed to taking an entire strip of scalp.
The donor sites heal relatively well. Only small dots are noticeable, but these are covered by the surrounding hair.
As with FUSS, the surgeon will prepare the grafts and place them onto the recipient areas. The entire process takes between 4 and 8 hours, depending on the transplant size.
Usually, FUE is less invasive than FUSS, and there is a lower likelihood of experiencing complications, such as scarring or post-operative pain. Also, the hair follicles can be removed from several areas, rather than from one single site, so hair thickness at the donor sites is not affected.
FUE transplant surgery is often more expensive than FUSS.
The scalp may be quite sensitive following hair transplant surgery. It will be necessary to wear bandages for a few days, and the doctor may prescribe pain medication, an antibiotic to prevent infection, or an anti-inflammatory to stop swelling.
Recovery time depends on the type of surgery used, with FUE offering faster recovery times.
In general, most people return to work within a week of the procedure. If stitches are used, they will be removed within 10 days.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, most of the transplanted hair will fall out within 6 weeks of the surgery. New hair growth should be visible in the recipient areas within months, with hair growing by a half-inch each month.
Along with the cost of the hair transplant surgery, there may be recovery costs, such as:
- pain medication
Treatment may also be necessary for complications after surgery, such as infection, which can involve spending money on visits to the doctor and additional medications.
Also, some surgeons prescribe minoxidil (Rogaine), which is a hair-growth drug, following the transplant. This can be expensive, and its effectiveness is unclear.
Hair transplant surgery is considered to be safe when carried out by a qualified and experienced surgeon. However, all surgeries carry risks.
The risks associated with hair transplant procedures include:
- excessive bleeding
- inflammation of the hair follicles
- scarring on the scalp
- bumps on the scalp
- unnatural, patchy new hair growth
Sometimes, some of the original hair in the recipient site can fall out, an occurrence known as shock loss. Usually, this is not permanent, and the hair will grow back with time.
Additionally, there is the risk that the grafts will not "take" and the surgery will have to be repeated.
Not everyone who wants thicker hair will undergo a hair transplant. For some, the cost of the hair transplant is too high, while others would prefer a nonsurgical approach.
The American Academy of Dermatology list some of the most common alternatives to hair transplant surgery as:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine): This is available for both men and women without a prescription.
- Oral finasteride (Propecia): Available for men by prescription only, this drug may encourage regrowth of hair or slow down hair loss.
- Estrogen: Women who experience hair loss may benefit from topical or oral estrogen medications.
- Cortisone: Both topical and injectable cortisone may speed up hair regrowth in some people.
- Laser therapy: Low-dose laser therapy can be used to treat genetic hair loss and pattern balding in both men and women.
Finally, hair loss that is caused by medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, may be reversed by treating the underlying condition.
The cost of hair transplants can be high, and there is no guarantee of success. There are also other factors to take into account when considering a hair transplant, such as the cost of travel, medications needed after the transplant, and the recovery time.
Those who are interested in getting a hair transplant should thoroughly research the subject first and choose a skilled and experienced surgeon to carry out the treatment.
It is advisable to discuss surgical risks and recovery times with the surgeon before going ahead with the procedure.