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How does a hair transplant work?

POSTED: 14 February 2017

How Hair Transplants Work & Common FAQ's Answered

A Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), otherwise known as a hair transplant, is a surgical procedure in which individual hair follicles are moved from one part of the body to another. This modern method of hair transplantation has become increasingly popular over the last five years and is now the procedure favoured by most surgeons.

Before FUE was developed, hair transplant surgeons would perform a Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) where a strip of skin is removed from the scalp surgically to obtain the donor hair. The hair grafts could then be removed from the strip using a microscope and replanted in the balding areas of the scalp.

Despite being a delicate procedure hair transplants are now highly common and are completely safe. Surgery is performed under sedation and/or local anaesthetic ensuring the comfort of the patient at all times.

Despite the low level of risk involved, undertaking any surgical procedure is a serious decision. It will alter your appearance permanently. If you’re considering a hair transplant it’s important to undertake proper research and seek guidance from a qualified surgeon and medical professional.

The NHS has compiled a guide to hair transplants which discusses many of the key issues surrounding the topic. You can also visit our blog for articles and advice.

When is the best time to have a hair transplant?

6 things to consider before a hair transplant

8 things to consider when choosing a surgeon

Crown Clinic guide to hair transplants

When is a hair transplant appropriate?

Hair transplants can be used to target male and female pattern baldness. They can also be used to restore hair and to fill in scars caused by accidents or burns.

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.

Although ‘thinning’ can begin at a young age, it is not advisable to undertake a transplant before the age of 25. Once patients have reached this age it becomes much easier to gauge how their pattern baldness will progress in the years to come. There is no ‘perfect time’ to get a transplant– whether you have recently started losing hair, have been thinning for a while or you've gone completely bald, each case needs to be examined by an experienced and professional surgeon to strategise the best way to move forward. If you are unsure or have questions about your hair, then it’s advisable to book a consultation with a surgeon as soon as possible.

What are the respective benefits of FUE and FUT?

There are two main types of transplant and 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 main advantage of FUT is that it is cheaper than FUE 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.

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 common with FUE - patients have red dots where the grafts have been removed but these go away after a few days, so If you like to wear your hair short, this method is preferable.

Would I need to shave my head before a transplant?

Patients should not be put off having an FUE procedure because they are worried they’ll have to shave their head, as this is no longer the case.

For an FUE transplant, a small section of the scalp is shaved to obtain the donor hair. However, the longer hair above falls to cover the shaved area. This means patients can keep most of their long hair and their appearance is not radically changed after the procedure. The shaved area is only detectable to those who know about the transplant, and the hair in the shaved area grows back quickly.

For more information visit our Guide to FUE Transplants.

Patients do not need to shave their heads for an FUT.

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. It is advised that patients take a week off work to recover from the procedure and follow the aftercare.

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. During the recovery time, we advise that you wear a buttoned shirt rather than a T-shirt or jumper because pulling a garment over your head could dislodge the new grafts.

When will I start to notice the difference?

The new hair will start to grow back in the months after, but the full benefits will not appear for around eight months to a year after the procedure when all the new hair should have bedded into the balding areas.

Men who undergo a procedure say that it boosts their self-confidence and makes them feel younger. Research suggests that men with a full head of hair earn more and are more successful on average than men who are 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 has treated a number of celebrities and helped them to stop balding.

These include the model Calum BestGogglebox star Chris SteedI'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.

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