If you’re a good candidate, new methods of hair transplant can bring natural-looking results. Here’s what you need to know.
In movies and TV, attempts to mask hair loss with hair plugs, toupees or combovers are often employed as jokes. But for the roughly 6.8 million men and women in this country who experience hair loss, it’s anything but funny. Men sometimes choose to flaunt their bald head as a fashion statement, but some people do desire a thicker head of hair. New treatments may be able to make that a reality.
How hair transplants are done
In a day or two, with just a numbing anesthetic and perhaps a mild sedative, you may be able to have fuller hair. It may not be quite the same fullness you used to have, but you’ll see the improvement.
“Hair restoration transplant involves moving hair from the back of the scalp to somewhere else, typically the frontotemporal (hairline) or vertex (crown) regions,” says Amit Kochhar, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC and clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Kochhar explains that there are two commonly used methods of removing and transplanting the hair.
“The first is called follicular unit transplant, or the strip method. It involves cutting a strip of hair from the back of the head, preparing each follicular unit and then placing it into its new site. The second, follicular unit extraction, is done by removing individual hairs from the back of the head with a special device and then transplanting them to a different region.”
In both methods, the healthy hairs are inserted into the thin or balding areas in a natural pattern. “Although follicular unit extraction takes longer, it’s less invasive, because there aren’t any stitches involved,” Kochhar says. Plus, the method is less likely to leave a noticeable scar.
What you need to know
- According to the American Academy of Dermatology, how natural your hair transplant ends up looking is largely a result of the skill of the surgeon, so make sure you go to a doctor who is experienced in the procedure.
- If the new hairs fall out, that’s perfectly normal. The healthy follicle will produce new ones.
- Results may take a while to show up. Your hair may even look thinner for a few months after the procedure, but just wait: In six months to a year, it should be fuller. “People having hair transplant should understand that it will take several months before their new hairs will grow,” Kochhar says.
- Your doctor may also recommend medications to prevent further hair loss.
Will it work for me?
That depends on several conditions. To be a good candidate for a hair transplant, you have to have enough healthy hair to move, as well as the ability to grow hair on the parts of your scalp where it’s thinning. A surgeon can evaluate your scalp and determine whether you’re a candidate for a transplant. If you decide to move forward, take heart: Hair transplant procedures have been successfully performed by board-certified surgeons for more than three decades.
by Tina Donvito