Hair Transplant
What Is A Hair Transplant and Is It A Good Idea?
Author

Fact Checked by Brett Melanson, PhD

As we age, we tend to experience increasing rates of hair loss.

This can be natural due to the aging process or influenced by genetics (1).

One of the ways that people have tried to restore lost hair is through hair transplant.

This is basically the process by which a surgeon moves hair from one area on the head (usually from a place where it continues to grow) to areas where hair is missing (2).

While hair transplant surgery can certainly help you restore lost hair, thereby making you feel and look more confident in your appearance, there are elements to consider when thinking about having this procedure done.

Here, we’ll review some of those elements so you can make a well-informed decision as to whether hair transplant surgery or natural alternatives are right for you.

1. What is Hair Transplant and Who Would Benefit Most?

As mentioned, hair transplant in its simplest form is moving hair from an area that has a lot of hair to an area that does not have a lot of hair.

Hair transplant procedures can be divided into two types (3):

  • Slit graft—a transplant procedure that involves 4 to 10 hairs per graft.
  • Micrograft—a transplant procedure that involves 1 to 2 hairs per graft.

Whether you choose slit- or micrograft depends on the amount of coverage you need transplanted.

Micrografts may be reasonable for smaller areas of hair loss such as in minor or early stages of alopecia areata, which is a condition where hair begins to fall out in small patches, but can progressively lead to larger hairless areas. (4), (5)

In people with pattern baldness or alopecia universalis, it would be more beneficial to look for slit grafts as these will cover larger areas.

People that should not get a hair transplant include (6):

  • Those who do not have enough hair to transplant (i.e., healthy, continuously growing hair).
  • Those who have formed thick, fibrous-like scars after having surgery (i.e., keloid scars).
  • Women who experience large amounts of hair loss across the scalp.
  • Those who experience hair loss because of medications (i.e., chemotherapy).

Main point: Hair transplants are not for everyone and tend to be for those with very specific conditions. Choosing whether you want a slit- or micrograft depends on your situation. It is important to see if your current conditions or medications may prevent you from achieving optimal (if any) results from hair transplants.

2. How Much Does It Cost and is it Safe?

Cost

If you were in Boise, Idaho, hair transplants can range from $3,500 to $14,000 USD, depending on the procedure you are looking to have done.

For example, in this region of North America, a procedure to correct male-pattern baldness floats around $9,500 CAD (7).

It is important to note that these prices can vary quite significantly depending on demand for the procedure and the relative number of surgeons willing to perform the surgery (8).

It is also noteworthy that the costs to perform this procedure are often out-of-pocket because many insurance companies consider hair transplants to be cosmetic (8).

Additional treatment costs that should be considered are those that come after the procedure, such as medication to manage the pain during recovery and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling (8).

You may even have to consider days off work if you are sensitive to the temporary side effects of the procedure.

Finally, you’ll have to decide (after consulting the physician) whether you will need a follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or a follicular unit extraction (FUE) which are two techniques used to transplant hair follicles.

These are the cells that generate hair growth. Both techniques can be used but can differ in pricing (9), (10)

Safety

Hair transplant procedures come with some adverse events that need to be considered.

Temporary side effects include swelling, bruising, and sensitivity in the treated area, which should subside in a few days after the procedure (11).

Other side effects that are often reported during the operation include (12):

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Tachycardia (high heart rate)
  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Bleeding
  • Itching

In rare cases, because the surgery involves an invasive component (breaking the surface of the skin), there is a risk of infection and/or death of skin cells in areas involved in the procedure (11), (12).

If infection occurs, this can increase the cost of your procedure, especially if insurance does not cover the cost of antibiotics that are necessary to tackle infection.

Main point: Many things come into play when deciding whether hair transplant is for you. These can include the cost and safety of the procedure. This operation can be very expensive, depending on your location and expertise in your area, while safety ranges from temporary swelling to bleeding or tissue death at the site of treatment.

3. Is This Treatment Permanent? Are There Alternatives?

Is it permanent?

The hair follicles that are transplanted may or may not have a long lifespan ahead of them. This is important to consider if you plan on getting one treatment and are expecting a lifetime of hair growth.

At the same time, the growth of new hair following the operation can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months because the treatment location on your scalp needs time to heal and close any scars (13).

There is also the possibility that you may need more than one operation in a series of hair transplant sessions in order to achieve the best result (13).

Alternatives

Some alternatives to hair transplant are medicinal compounds like Minoxidil and Finasteride.

The first is a topical solution that is applied and is typically used for male pattern baldness but can be used for both men and women (14).

The second is a tablet that is consumed, but typically takes anywhere from 3 to 6 months of use before any results can be seen (15).

Of course, medicinal products come with side effects that may cause one to either stop using it or avoid taking it.

Then there are the natural alternatives, like Hair Therapy Shampoo (16), which contain natural, earth-derived compounds like Biotin—a compound that is thought to play a role in hair health (17), (18).

Natural products are a great way to try and recover and/or reduce the rate of hair loss while avoiding possible side effects that are associated with medicinal/surgical methods.

Main point: Hair transplant surgery may require many sessions, increasing the risk of infection and/or surgery-related side effects and complications. This may also increase the cost. Alternatives include medicinal options (topical and pill-form) as well as natural options like nutrient-rich shampoos.

In conclusion

There are many ways that are thought to help prevent and/or recover from hair loss.

While medicinal and surgical products are great, it is likely they are not a one-time fix.

This raises the possibility of dealing with medicinal/surgical side effects and can be very costly.

Natural alternatives like nutrient-infused shampoos may be a great way to replenish hair without dealing with the side effects and spending a lot of money.

In the end, it comes down to waying the benefit/risk ratio. So, after looking into the pros and cons of hair transplant surgery, decide whether this seems like a reasonable option, or whether you think the elements of nature can help you reach your hair goals.

As always, you should discuss any changes to your diet or lifestyle with a healthcare professional.

Author

Fact Checked by Brett Melanson, PhDc

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