How does a hair transplant work?

POSTED: 14 February 2017

A string of celebrities have come to Crown Clinic for surgical help in a bid to stop balding.

Hair transplants are the only long-term viable solution to the problem if you are not interested in wearing a hairpiece (most men hate the idea of hairpieces).

Crown Clinic's surgeon Asim Shahmalak is known for his work with celebrity patients.

These include the model Calum Best, Gogglebox star Chris Steed, I'm A Celebrity and Homes Under The Hammer star Martin Roberts and the football pundit Didi Hamann. They all had FUE procedures - follicular unit extraction. TV doctor Christian Jessen also came to Crown Clinic twice and had the more traditional method of transplantation - FUT (follicular unit transplantation), also known a strip surgery.

What is a hair transplant?

Hair transplants are a type of cosmetic surgery used to target male and female pattern baldness. As well as this, they can be used to restore hair and to fill in scars caused by accidents or burns.

Results can permanently change your appearance, but the new hair can take up to a year to grow back entirely.

Hair transplants are the only long-term effective cure for male and female pattern baldness. Around half the men in the UK will have experienced hair loss by the time they are 40.

How is a hair transplant carried out?

There are two types of transplant - they only vary in the way the surgeon sources the donor hair. In both cases, the transplanted hair is planted in the balding areas of the scalp in the same way.

The more traditional method, FUT, is where a strip of skin is removed from the scalp surgically to obtain the donor hair. The hair grafts are then removed from the strip using a microscope and replanted in the balding areas of the scalp.

The advantages of this method is that it is cheaper than FUE, the more modern method, because it takes less time to obtain the donor grafts.

The disadvantage is that a scar is left on the scalp through the removal of the strip. This is barely visible on the scalp of men who wear their hair long (the hair covers up the scarring). However, it is visible on a man who likes to shave his head. 

The more modern method of hair transplantation, FUE, has taken over in the last five years as the procedure favoured by most men. Around 80% of Crown Clinic patients opt for FUE - the method used by Calum Best and other celebrities such as Wayne Rooney. Instead of cutting a strip of skin, Dr Shahmalak removes the donor grafts individually from a shaved area at the back or side of the scalp. Scarring is less than for FUT - patients have red dots where the grafts have been removed but these go away after a few days. If you like to wear your hair short, FUE is definitely preferable.

How long does it take for a hair transplant to heal?

Both cosmetic procedures can be completed in a day and patients are given pain relief to help them through the recovery process. We advise patients to take a week off work to recover from the procedure. Patients are advised to be careful in the first two weeks after their operation - as the new hair grafts will not yet be completely secure. So, for instance, we advise that you wear a buttoned shirt rather than a T-shirt or jumper because pulling a garment over your head could dlslodge the new grafts.

When will I start to notice the difference?

The new hair will start to grow back in the months after the procedure but you will not see the full benefits until around eight months to a year after the procedure when all the new hair should have bedded into the balding areas which have been targeted.

Men who undergo a procedure say that it boosts their self confidence and makes them feel younger. There is research to suggest that men with a full head of hair earn more and are more successful on average than men who are balding.

Are there other ways you can treat hair loss?

All the transplanted hair is permanent and should last for the rest of a patient's life. However, there is no guarantee that a patient won't carry on losing more of their natural hair. For that reason, Dr Shahmalak does sometimes recommend that, as well as undergoing a hair transplant, patients also take the clinically proven anti-hair loss drug Finasteride, also known as Propecia. This will not help to grow any new hair but it should stop a patient from losing any more of his natural hair. 

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