Hair transplantation can help restore hair to balding or thinning areas by harvesting hair follicles from the ‘donor zone’ and implanting them in the area requiring treatment, ‘the recipient site’ . There are both non-surgical and surgical solutions.
There are both non-surgical and surgical solutions to hair loss.
Non Surgical Solution
Before undergoing a hair transplant, men might want to try and stabilise their hair loss using the medications which are licenced for this indication such as topical minoxidil and oral finasteride. Although topical minoxidil is licenced for use in women, the oral medication that can also be used should only be prescribed off-licence by a doctor who specialises in hair loss. Other treatments that lack robust researched evidence for widespread efficacy but which seem to work in some people include low level light therapy (LLLT), platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections, mesotherapy and micro-needling. There is little evidence for over the counter protein, vitamin and mineral supplements unless there are nutritional deficiencies, and cell therapy is still in the research phase. Camouflage products can give the appearance of fuller, thicker hair and micropigmentation tattooing, when done professionally, can simulate hair stubble. Shampoos and conditioners may alter the quality and appearance of hair but do not affect the amount of hair or rate of loss.
Hair transplant surgery can be used by both men and women to achieve long lasting results. It restores the hair by transplanting hair follicles into the area of the scalp where thinning or balding is evident. It can be used to correct male and female genetic hair loss, scars from burns trauma or surgery, some types of hair loss from dermatological conditions, and other cases of hair loss.
After the surgery some patients may experience numbness which is usually temporary. The level of pain varies but is usually well controlled with painkillers. Each patient is different and the full recovery time after surgery can vary. During the first month it is normal to see some or all of the transplanted hairs falling out. Within three to four months, the transplanted follicles should start to grow again but it might take twelve to eighteen months to see the full result.
How is hair transplant surgery performed
In the Strip Follicular Unit Transplant (Strip FUT) method, a strip of scalp is removed from the back and/or sides of the head and the wound is sutured or stapled closed. This leaves a linear scar. The strip is divided into follicular units (groups of 1-5 hairs) which are individually implanted into small incisions in the recipient site. In the Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) method, the follicular units are individually extracted using a manual punch, an automated drill, or a robot. This leaves multiple small round scars. The follicular units are individually implanted in the same sort of incisions as with the Strip FUT method. In both techniques follicular unit grafts are implanted using forceps or specialised implanters.
Hair transplant surgery is mostly performed under local anaesthetic with or without oral or IV sedation. Depending on the method used and the number of grafts required, the procedure may take up to two days but in the majority of cases it is done in a single day.
Risks of hair transplant surgery include bleeding, infection, scarring, skin necrosis (loss of blood supply), and unnatural aesthetic outcomes.
The outcome of a hair transplant is a long lasting solution that allows hair to grow normally in the areas that previously were bald or thinning.
Some patients may choose to follow up their initial treatment with further surgery to increase density or to fill out other thinning areas.
By the time they reach the age of 50, up to half of men will experience some degree of hair loss. Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is the main cause of thinning hair in men, responsible for around 95% of all cases.
Typically hair loss is first seen in the temples, hairline, or crown but may occur throughout the anterior mid and posterior scalp in men. In women the thinning usually starts just behind the hairline and expands in an oval shape but may involve the entire scalp.
The cost of hair transplant surgery will depend on the size and extent of the area to be treated, generally the price will be between £1000-£10,000.