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Risks And Benefits Of Hair Transplants | Philip Kingsley

Hair transplants (also known as hair restoration surgery) can be very effective when they are carried out correctly. But how do they work? What does the process involve? And are you an eligible candidate?

How Hair Transplants Work

Every hair on your body has and knows its own identity — whether it is a scalp hair, an eyebrow hair, a leg or arm hair, and so on. Transplanted hairs will continue to grow in the way that they used to grow, no matter where on the body you put them. For instance, an eyebrow hair will still grow like an eyebrow hair even if it is transplanted to your head. This is the theory behind hair transplants.

When you transplant a scalp hair and hair follicle, it will keep the characteristics of the scalp area from which it was taken. The sides and lower part of the head do not usually go bald, even in the most advanced male and female pattern baldness. This is because the follicles in these areas are not affected by male hormones. So, when you remove follicles from here, and put them elsewhere, they will continue to grow just as they were growing before.

What Conditions are Eligible for a Hair Transplant?

Transplants are suitable for some types of hair loss, but not all. Your Trichologist or transplant surgeon will be able to advise you about your eligibility for treatment.

Hair transplants are most commonly used in the treatment of male and female pattern hair loss. In these cases, hairs are transplanted from the rear and sides of the scalp (sometimes referred to as the ‘permanent’ area, since these hairs grow indefinitely throughout a person’s lifetime) to the top/frontal/crown regions of the scalp (sometimes referred to as the ‘non-permanent’ area, since this can be affected by male/female pattern hair loss).

As well as male and female pattern hair loss, hair transplantation may also be used for:

  • Traction / mechanical hair loss
  • Hair loss due to burns
  • Hair loss following plastic surgery, such as face lifts
  • Permanent hair loss following radiotherapy

Hair transplantation can also be used to create or thicken the eyebrows where these have been lost, depending on the cause.

Hair transplants are not suitable for hair loss due to the following conditions:

  • Primary Scarring Alopecia (resulting from an autoimmune condition) such as Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia
  • Alopecia Areata

Hair Transplant Methods

There are two main types of hair transplants used today:

FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation)

FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction)

Each method has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. You and your surgeon will be able to decide together on the best option for you. Expect costs to start from around £5,000.

FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation)

  • Also known as the ‘strip method’ because a strip of skin and hair is removed from the donor area at the back of the scalp.
  • The donor strip is divided into grafts (each containing 1-3 hairs) under a microscope, then transplanted into small incisions at the recipient site.
  • Around 1500-1600 grafts can be transplanted in one operation.
  • Incision closure techniques at the donor site have become very sophisticated – but still leave fine scarring when healed. The scarring is likely to be visible if the patient decides to wear a very short hairstyle.
  • No need for the patient to shave their head before the procedure.

FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction)

  • Hair follicle units (containing 1-3 hairs) are removed one by one from the donor site, using a special device, and inserted into small incisions at the recipient site.
  • Around 1300-1400 grafts (each containing 1-3 hairs) can be transplanted in one operation.
  • This method takes slightly longer than FUT and there is a higher risk of follicle wastage — but it has a faster healing time.
  • There is no linear scarring, making this method more suitable for those wishing to wear very short hairstyles.
  • Patient must usually shave head before the procedure.

In both types of transplantation, the donor and recipient sites are numbed with local anaesthetic prior to the surgery, so there should be no discomfort. Depending on the number of hairs being transplanted, the procedure can last between 4 and 12 hours. It is usually very straightforward, and complications are rare, but it is important to follow the aftercare routine advised by your surgeon.

Choosing Your Hair Transplant Surgeon

We do not offer hair transplants at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinics, since it is a highly specialised field. However, our experts are knowledgeable and up-to-date about surgeons, clinics and techniques. We are happy to advise our clients on where to go and which specialist might be right for you.

Care After Hair Transplants

Your transplant surgeon will give you detailed instructions on how to treat your scalp after transplant surgery. You can usually go home around half an hour after the surgery is complete, and you may be given medications and topical treatments to prevent infection. Most surgeons recommend taking at least a few days off work and/or strenuous activity.

Where the grafts have been implanted, small scabs are likely to form. These will fall off after around 7-10 days, and the hairs may fall out too. This is normal — remember, it is the hair follicles, and not the hairs themselves, that have been transplanted. The hairs will grow back.

Be sure to be gentle during this initial period — in particular, when you shampoo. If you rub your scalp vigorously, you can damage your grafts.

New hairs will start to grow within the following 3 months. Full results should be seen about a year after surgery.