Before you have hair transplant surgery, you might want to know how it will turn out. The truth is that every head of hair is different from all others and you cannot know exactly how it will turn out. However, with a few facts at your disposal, you can get an advance idea of how your hair will look.
- Learn Facts about How Your Hair Will Look After Hair Transplant Surgery
- Things to consider before having hair transplant surgery
- Finding a hair transplant surgeon
- Medical issues with hair transplant surgery
- Hair transplant operation
- Hair transplant graft
- Flap surgery
- Scalp reduction surgery
- Immediately after hair transplant surgery
- Complications of hair transplant surgery
- Self-care after hair transplant surgery
- Long-term outlook after hair transplant surgery
- Alternatives to hair transplant surgery
Learn Facts about How Your Hair Will Look After Hair Transplant Surgery
1. The more hairs per graft that are used in your hair transplant, the less natural your hair will look. Many doctors still use grafts that contain up to eight hairs. These do not look as conspicuous as the hair plugs of earlier decades, but they do not look as natural as they can, either. Try to find a doctor that uses grafts that contain one to four hair follicles.
These smaller grafts, also called follicular unit grafts, are ideal in restoring a receding hairline. If your doctor uses the follicular unit grafts for your hairline, it will look much more natural than with the larger plug-like grafts. This is important because your hair transplant will be noticeable if the hairline is not done well.
2. Your hair transplant site will be fuller if you have higher density in your donor sites. The density is based upon the number of hair follicles you have in each section of your scalp. If you have a high number of hair follicles per square centimeter than most people, more grafts can be done, so your hair will look fuller.
3. Your scalp laxity will also affect the fullness of your resulting hair transplant site. This refers to the flexibility of your scalp. How loose your scalp is helps to decide how many grafts can be done just as hair density does.
4. Coarse hair will cover more area. When your hair transplant is done, the surgeon will be able to use fewer hair follicles per graft if your hair is coarse. That is because coarse hair provides more coverage. However, finer hair will tend to look more natural, if thinner.
5. Straight hair does not cover scalp like curly hair does. If you have straight hair, you can be sure that your hair transplant surgery will be a challenge to your doctor. Curly hair appears to provide even more coverage than it actually does because it stands up from the head.
6. The way your hair color compares to your skin color will have an effect on the look of your hair transplant. If you have a hair color that is similar to the color of your skin, you are in luck. Your scalp will not betray any lack of coverage that happens to be present.
If, on the other hand, your hair and skin color contrast distinctly hair follicles show up more. If there is even the slightest lack of coverage, it will be evident. Just imagine a very light-skinned person with jet-black hair. This person’s hair follicles will stand out in a very obvious way.
No one ever knows how hair transplant surgery will turn out until they see the results. All of the basic problems can be dealt with if a skilled surgeon is involved. However, knowing the possibilities will make it easier for you to know what questions to ask.
Things to consider before having hair transplant surgery
Before you opt for hair transplant surgery, some important issues to keep in mind include:
- It is important to have realistic expectations. If you start off without much hair, a transplant will not give you a full head of hair. The thicker and denser your remaining hair, the better the results will be.
- Generally, thick hair that is light coloured or grey gives better results than hair that is thin and dark coloured.
- Following hair transplantation, it can take up to nine months before the hair takes root and begins to fill in.
- Think about the cost. Cosmetic surgery does not usually qualify for rebates from Medicare or private health insurance companies. If the hair loss was caused by burns or trauma, however, hair replacement surgery is considered a reconstructive treatment and may be covered by health insurance. Ask your surgeon about any out-of-pocket costs you can expect.
- Smokers are at increased risk of complications from surgery. If you are serious about undergoing surgery, you should try to quit smoking.
- There may be a need for continuing medical treatment after hair transplant surgery.
Finding a hair transplant surgeon
You may want to ask your doctor for advice on a suitable and reputable doctor or hospital where hair transplants are performed.
At your first consultation, you should ask the surgeon about their training and experience. It is preferable to have these procedures done by a reputable professional who is specially trained to perform hair transplant surgery and has a lot of experience in carrying out this type of operation.
Medical issues with hair transplant surgery
Before the operation, discuss the following range of medical issues with your doctor or surgeon:
- Physical health – an examination will help your doctor or surgeon decide if the treatment is appropriate
- Medical history – some pre-existing conditions and surgery you have had in the past may influence decisions about this operation, including the type of anaesthetic that is used
- Hair evaluation – includes your hair growth pattern, the extent of your hair loss, the hair loss history in your family and any prior surgical or medical treatments for hair loss you may have had
- Risks and possible complications – it is important that you understand the risks and complications so that you can weigh up whether a hair transplant is right for you
- Medication – tell your surgeon about any medication that you take on a regular basis or have recently taken, including over-the-counter preparations such as fish oils and vitamin supplements
- Past reactions t medication – tell your surgeon if you have ever had a bad reaction or a side effect from any medication, including anaesthesia
- Preparation for surgery – your surgeon will give you detailed instructions about what you should do at home to prepare for surgery. For example, you may be advised to take a particular medication or alter the dose of an existing one. Follow all instructions carefully.
Hair transplant operation
Various methods of transplant surgery are available. Your surgeon will choose the surgery most appropriate for you, based on your own circumstances.
Hair transplant graft
Hair transplant grafts are usually performed under local anaesthetic. Each session of treatment can last from two to eight hours, depending on the number of hairs that are transplanted.
It is common to transplant between 1,000 and 2,000 hair follicles in one session, but larger areas of hair loss may require up to 4,000 follicles in each session. A session can take several hours and many people choose to have two or three separate sessions.
The operation generally includes:
- The hair on the ‘donor’ area of scalp is trimmed short to make it easier to handle.
- The surgeon anaesthetises this area of the head where the hair grows thickly.
- The surgeon takes small sections of hair-bearing scalp and transplants them to the desired area (usually the front of the scalp above the forehead).
- Various instruments may be used to harvest the donor skin. For example, a round tube (punch) or a scalpel may be used. A single punch graft, depending on the size of the tube, may harvest 2 to 15 hairs. A slit graft may contain 4 to 10 hairs, and the much longer strip graft has up to 40 hairs.
Flap surgery is used if the hair transplant is extensive (for example, requires large tissue flaps instead of small grafts). You may need to stay in hospital for this type of hair loss surgery and general anaesthesia will be required.
Flap surgery involves:
- The surgeon implants balloon-like devices (called tissue expanders) under the skin of a hair-bearing section of scalp. The tissue expanders are inflated with more and more saline over a period of weeks. This encourages the area to grow more skin cells.
- After about two months, the scalp has grown enough extra skin for the transplant surgery.
- The bald section of scalp is cut and removed. The newly grown area of hair-bearing skin is partly cut away, moved to its new location and stitched into place. Since the flap is never fully severed from the scalp, it should retain a good blood supply.
Scalp reduction surgery
Scalp reduction surgery is suitable to treat bald areas on the back and top of the scalp, not towards the front of the scalp. The surgery includes:
- Local anaesthesia is administered to the scalp.
- The surgeon cuts out a strip of bald skin in a U or Y shape.
- The scalp is loosened and the incisions are brought together and stitched.
Immediately after hair transplant surgery
How you feel afterwards depends on the extent of surgery. After the operation, you can expect:
- bruising and swelling
- possible numbness
- pain, throbbing and discomfort
- a tight feeling in the scalp
- to wear dressings or bandages (a pressure bandage may be worn for one or two days)
- formation of small scabs across the treated areas of scalp.
Complications of hair transplant surgery
All surgery carries some degree of risk. Some of the possible complications of hair transplant surgery include:
- risks of general anaesthesia, including allergic reaction, which may (rarely) be fatal
- surgical risks such as bleeding or infection
- scars that may be severe, raised, reddened and itchy
- nerve damage, including permanent loss of sensation
- death of the skin grafts
- tissue death along the wound
- further surgery to treat complications.
This is not a complete list. For example, your medical history or lifestyle may put you at increased risk of certain complications. Speak to your surgeon for more information.
Self-care after hair transplant surgery
Be guided by your surgeon. General self-care suggestions include:
- Follow all instructions on looking after your wounds.
- Avoid exercise or any strenuous activity that could increase blood pressure, as this can make your wounds bleed. Your surgeon may advise you to avoid sex for about 10 days.
- Report any bleeding, severe pain or unusual symptoms to your surgeon.
Long-term outlook after hair transplant surgery
Most hair transplants are successful, although it can take up to nine months before the hair takes root and begins to fill in. It is not uncommon for the transplanted hair to fall out after several months and then regrow.
Once the hair starts to regrow, it should look natural because the hair is transplanted in the direction in which the hair would normally grow in that location.
Most scars should be covered with hair and will be hard to see. Any visible scarring will be permanent, but should fade with time. Be patient – improvements to scars may take a year or so.
You will almost certainly need ‘touch up’ surgery to improve the look of your hair transplant.
Alternatives to hair transplant surgery
Non-surgical alternatives to hair transplant surgery include:
- prescription medications such as creams
- wigs, hair pieces or hair extensions
- accepting that hair loss is a natural part of ageing – talking to a counsellor or psychologist may help you overcome your concerns about your appearance and you may decide that you like yourself the way you are.