For some transgender people, hair transplant procedures can be a key step in matching their outward appearance to how they feel on the inside.

Hair can play a significant role in how a person presents themselves, particularly regarding how they express their gender. A gender-affirming hair transplant involves taking hair follicles from somewhere else on the body to adjust a person’s hairline.

This article discusses the types of hair transplant procedures that may be part of gender-affirming care, how they work, how much they cost, and the recovery process.

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Hair transplants are surgical procedures that aim to encourage hair growth in areas of the body where hair is thinning or absent. These procedures involve a surgeon taking hair follicles from somewhere else on the body with thicker, denser hair and implanting them in a new area.

Some people may have a hair transplant as a step in their gender-affirming care.

Gender-affirming care is crucial medical care that aims to better the well-being of those whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. This can allow a person to live more comfortably as their most authentic self and help minimize ongoing discomfort and distress.

There are several different hair transplant procedures that a transgender person may consider, depending on their gender identity and specific goals they would like to achieve. These include:

  • Hairline lowering/hairline feminization: This aims to create a more feminine hairline by lowering it and giving it a rounder shape.
  • Crown restoration: This helps promote new hair growth in areas that have thinned due to male pattern baldness.
  • Facial hair restoration: This aims to encourage the growth of thicker and more visible facial hair.
  • Chest hair restoration: This aims to boost the growth of body hair across the chest.

Doctors may speak about these procedures in terms of masculinizing or feminizing. But ultimately, every person’s sense of gender is unique to them, and they may undergo any combination of procedures to feel comfortable as themselves.

A hair transplant removes hair follicles from an area with dense hair growth, known as the donor site, and implant them into a new area to encourage new hair growth. These hair follicles typically come from the back of the head but can also be from other areas of the body, such as the chest.

The surgeon then implants these new follicles into small incisions in the new area.

There are two common hair transplant procedures: follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit transplantation (FUT).

FUE involves a surgeon collecting follicles with a hollow, circular blade or a “punch” from the donor site. The surgeon collects each follicle one by one, leaving a small circular wound.

FUSS, or FUT, involves a surgeon removing a strip of skin from the donor site, leaving a linear scar. They then harvest the hair follicles from the strip under a microscope.

Before the procedure, a surgeon or hair technician will draw an outline of where they will implant the new hair. They will trim the hair on the donor site to make follicles easier to access and may administer a local anesthetic to the surgery sites.

The surgeon will then harvest the hair follicles from the donor site and implant them into the new area.

Depending on the type of hair transplant and the number of follicles the surgeon removes, the procedure can take up to 4–8 hours. Afterward, a person may experience mild pain and swelling for 1–2 days.

Typically, a person can wash the area a few days after surgery and return to regular activities within 10 days. A surgeon may advise a person to avoid strenuous exercise and contact sports for at least 3 weeks after surgery.

Between 2 and 8 weeks after surgery, the implanted hairs may fall out. This is a typical part of the recovery process and does not mean that the transplant has been unsuccessful. New hair will tend to start regrowing around 3–5 months after surgery, with full results being visible 10–12 months after.

The cost of a hair transplant can vary depending on the surgeon and the type of procedure. Those that involve a surgeon extracting and implanting more hairs over a larger area will tend to take a longer time and cost more.

The cost may also depend on if the procedure requires a surgeon who specializes in a specific type of surgery.

Hair transplant procedures that may be part of a person’s gender-affirming care — including ones such as hairline lowering, beard transplants, and chest hair transplants — can cost around $3,000–$15,000.

During a consultation about their procedure, a person may wish to ask their surgeon:

  • Do you have experience treating transgender people?
  • Do you have before-and-after photos that can show a reasonable expectation of results?
  • What are the associated risks and complications?
  • What is the procedure for handling complications if they arise?
  • What are the options if I am dissatisfied with the results?

A person who wishes to have a hair transplant as part of their gender-affirming care may benefit from seeking a surgeon who specializes in treating transgender people. According to a 2022 study, people whose surgeons were sensitive and understanding toward their experiences with gender experienced lower levels of stress.

Several hair transplant options can form part of a person’s gender-affirming care. These procedures aim to help a person express their gender on the outside more closely to how they feel on the inside.

An individual may undergo hair transplants to masculinize or feminize aspects of themselves or opt for a combination of procedures.

A person typically recovers from a hair transplant procedure within roughly 10 days. However, it may take up to 12 months before the full results are visible.