Hair transplants are done to add more hair to an area on your head that may be thinning or balding. It’s done by taking hair from thicker parts of the scalp, or other parts of the body, and grafting it to the thinning or balding section of the scalp.
Worldwide, about 60 percent of men and 50 percent of womenTrusted Source experience some form of hair loss. To address this, people often use over-the-counter products, including topical treatments like minoxidil (Rogaine).
Hair transplant is another restoration method. The first transplant was performed in 1939 in Japan with single scalp hairs. In the following decades, physicians developed the “plug” technique. This involves transplanting large tufts of hair.
Over time, surgeons began using mini- and micro-grafts to minimize the appearance of transplanted hair on the scalp.
Do hair transplants work?
Hair transplants are typically more successful than over-the-counter hair restoration products. But there are some factors to consider:
- Anywhere from 10 to 80 percent of transplanted hairTrusted Source will fully grow back in an estimated three to four months.
- Like regular hair, transplanted hair will thin over time.
- People with dormant hair follicles (sacs that usually contain hair beneath the skin but no longer grow hair) may have less effective transplants, but a 2016 studyTrusted Sourcesuggests that plasma therapy can help up to 75 percent or more of the transplanted hairs fully grow back.
Hair transplants don’t work for everyone. They’re mainly used to restore hair if you’re balding or thinning naturally or have lost hair due to an injury.
Most transplants are done with your existing hair, so they’re not as effective for treating people with:
- widespread thinning and baldness
- hair loss due to chemotherapy or other medications
- thick scalp scars from injuries
How does a hair transplant work?
Simply put, a hair transplant takes hair you have and transfers it to an area where you don’t have hair. It’s typically taken from the back of your head, but can also be taken from other parts of your body.
Before starting a transplant, your surgeon sterilizes the area where the hair will be removed and numbs it with a local anesthetic. You can also request sedation in order to stay asleep for the procedure.
Your surgeon then performs one of two transplant methods: FUT or FUE.
Follicular unit transplantation (FUT)
FUT is sometimes known as follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS). To perform a FUT procedure, your surgeon follows these steps:
- Using a scalpel, the surgeon removes a piece of your scalp, usually from the back of your head. The strip size is typically about 6 to 10 inches long but can stretch from ear to ear.
- They close the area where the scalp was removed with stitches.
- Your surgeon and their assistants separate the scalp strip into smaller pieces with a scalpel. They may split the piece up into as many as 2,000 smaller fragments, called grafts. Some of these grafts may contain only one hair each.
- Using a needle or blade, the surgeon makes small holes in your scalp where hair will be transplanted.
- The surgeon inserts hairs from the removed piece of scalp into the puncture holes. This step is called grafting.
- They then cover the surgical sites with bandages or gauze.
The specific number of grafts you receive depends on the:
- type of hair you have
- size of transplant site
- quality (including thickness) of hair
- hair color
Follicular unit extraction (FUE)
To perform a FUE procedure, your surgeon takes these steps:
- They shave off hair on the back of your head.
- The surgeon then takes individual follicles out of the scalp skin. You’ll see tiny marks where each follicle was removed.
- As with the FUT procedure, the surgeon makes small holes in your scalp and grafts hair follicles into the holes.
- They then cover the surgical site with bandages or gauze.