Hair transplants aim to restore hair growth to areas of the scalp with limited or absent growth. They are effective treatments for many types of hair loss, but they cannot stop future hair loss. For lasting results, people may need follow-up transplants.
Hair loss and thinning hair are a normal part of aging, but they can also occur due to a medical condition or trauma to the scalp. Some people who experience hair loss may choose to have a hair transplant for cosmetic or reconstructive reasons.
In this article, we look at the success rates of different types of hair transplant, as well as how long they last and their possible side effects.
During a hair transplant, a surgeon removes follicles from a dense area of hair, such as the back of the head, which they will refer to as the donor area. They then implant the follicles into tiny slits on the affected area of the scalp.
There are two main types of hair transplant:
- Follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS). The surgeon will remove a strip of skin from the donor area and close the incision with stitches. They will then use a microscope to separate the donor skin into tiny follicular units that contain one or several hair follicles and insert these units into the desired area.
- Follicular unit extraction (FUE). The surgeon will use a tiny punch tool to remove follicles from the donor area. Although this procedure will still lead to some scarring, it may be less noticeable, and the person will not usually require stitches.
Both techniques are effective, but they can achieve different results in some cases. The authors of a 2019 article state that FUE requires more skill and takes longer than FUSS, but they note that FUE can produce great results if the surgeon has plenty of experience in the technique.
In most cases, surgeons use the side or back of the head as the donor area. However, taking skin from the chin, back, or chest can also prove effective. Using body hair may be helpful for people who do not have thick hair on the back or sides of their head.
Some research suggests that taking body or beard hair is more time consuming and requires more skill than using scalp hair. However, another study reports that the body and beard can be an “excellent source” of donor hair for hair transplants.
Each procedure takes several hours, depending on how many follicles the surgeon implants, and both involve a local anesthetic. Usually, a person will be able to go home on the day of the treatment.
Hair transplants are effective procedures for restoring hair growth following many causes of hair loss. The success rate of hair transplant surgery depends on many factors, including the skill and experience of the surgeon and the thickness of the person’s donor hair.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), hair transplantation can provide a modest change in hair fullness. For dramatic changes, people may wish to opt for skin flap surgery, tissue expansion, or scalp reduction techniques.
There are no large studies that list specific hair transplant success rates. However, several smaller studies and articles provide some information about the effectiveness of these procedures.
One study found that the majority of people who underwent FUE using body or beard hair combined with scalp hair were satisfied with the results at an average follow-up of 2.9 years. Among 79 participants, the mean overall score of satisfaction was 8.3 out of 10.
The findings of another study suggest that using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy with FUE increases the success of FUE hair transplants. All of the participants in the PRP group had more than 75% hair regrowth after 6 months. They had more rapid improvements in hair density and skin recovery than those in the non-PRP group.
In most cases, a person will have thicker-looking hair after a successful hair transplant. However, they may continue to experience hair thinning and loss after the procedure, which can give the hair an unnatural or patchy appearance. For longer lasting results, people may require follow-up transplants.
According to the ASPS, there is a chance that some of the transplanted hair follicles will not “take.” These follicles die, and no new hair grows in their place.
The ASPS also warn people to expect that they may need a “touch-up” procedure. This procedure can help by filling in any areas that are not thick enough or blending the follicles for the most natural look.
For the best results, a person should follow their surgeon’s postprocedure instructions. Doing this will increase their chances of a successful hair transplant. A person may need to avoid strenuous activity and exercise for several weeks. They may also need to wait a few days before washing their hair.
The ASPS say that hair transplants are generally safe when a qualified, experienced surgeon performs them. However, even with successful hair transplants, some side effects can happen.
Infection or bleeding
Hair transplants involve making cuts or incisions in the skin. A surgeon makes an incision to remove the donor follicles, and they make tiny incisions on the scalp in which to place the follicles. With any incision, there is a risk of infection or excessive bleeding.
There is also a risk of scarring on both the donor area and the area of the transplant. A person should speak with their surgeon about these risks before they decide to have the procedure.
The FUSS method usually leaves a long, linear scar where the surgeon removed a strip of the scalp. This scar may become camouflaged as new hair grows in around it. It may, however, be visible if it becomes widened during healing, the surrounding hair is thin, or the person wears it short in style.
The FUE method may also leave some scars in the area where the surgeon removed the follicles with the punch tool. However, these scars may not be as large as the scar from FUSS.
In some cases, a person may have raised bumps around the transplanted hair. As the hair grows back, it may hide these bumps.
Pain and swelling
Some people may experience pain as their skin heals after the procedure. Their surgeon may provide them with pain relievers to help with this. They may also have some swelling in the head and face as the skin heals.
Hair transplant surgery may be a good option for people who have hair thinning and hair loss. It may not be a permanent solution to thinning hair, but for many people, it can help restore hair fullness and self-confidence.