7 Common Myths in Hair Transplantation
Hair transplantation is among the mostly consistently successful and life-changing of all the hair loss therapies. Hair transplants nowadays can look extremely natural (when performed by skilled teams). However, there are a number of myths that are infrequently talked about when it comes to hair transplantation. These can sometimes be overlooked.
1. Transplanted hair lasts forever
It’s a common myth that transplanted hair moved during a hair transplant last forever. Fortunately, most hairs that are transplanted do generally remain in their new location forever. However, anyone is has followed a hair transplant patient for 10, 20 or 30 years will tell you that the same number of hairs that were put in are not always remaining over time. Most will stay - but not all
There are many reasons why hairs transplanted hairs don’t always last forever. For one, donor hair is not always completely resistant to balding in all men. In fact, it’s a spectrum, from some men who have very little to no balding in their "donor area" (at the back of the scalp) to men who have considerable thinning in the donor area over time (ie. men with DUPA are the extreme). In addition, the medical community has not rigorously studied long term the immunological and physiological changes that happen to transplanted hairs over extended periods of time.
Nevertheless, there is no arguing that transplanted hairs last forever. It holds true for a high proportion of men and women but not all. We hope they last forever are and they seem to be in many men. However, a proportion of transplanted hairs slowly disappear over decades in some men.
2. Only one hair transplant surgery session is needed
From the time male balding and female thinning announces its presence in any patient, it always progresses. While it is true that androgenetic alopecia can stop or slow for periods of months to a year or two, androgenetic alopecia by definition never stops. Anyone who gets a hair transplant must assume that existing hair in an area will slowly thin over time. If a patient is under 30 years of age, he (or she) must assume that another hair transplant will likely be needed if he wishes to maintain his current look into his 50s and 60s.
3. A hair transplant procedure is always a great success
Hair transplants are generally quite successful. That's why they are popular! With the right patient, and a skilled team, the chances of success are high. Unfortunately, hair transplant don’t always work out as successfully as one might hope. There is not an experienced hair transplant surgeon in the world who can state that he or she has never had a patient who did not grow as much hair as they hoped. The reasons why this occurs is quite varied - but ranges from "patient factors" (post op care, smoking, unrecognized scalp diseases), to "surgeon-related" factors (surgeon skill, skill of the technicians handling the grafts). Sometimes one never knows the exact reason why things don’t turn out. In the hair transplant field, this is called the ‘X factor.’
4. A hair transplant is a one-day event
A hair transplant procedure itself is a one day event, but the actual procedure when one considers the time from the surgery to the time where the patient feels back to normal ranges from a few days to a few months. The actual recovery time varies from patient to patient and varies based on the size of the surgery.
In general, the post op recovery period is longer for FUT procedures than FUE and longer for patients that require more grafts. Patients who don’t require shaving for FUE procedures and have limited baldness, may find that 2-3 days is sufficient to feel back to their usual self. However, a patient whose scalp is shaved completely for a large 3000-4000 FUE procedures may find that it takes just a few days to “feel good” but takes 3-4 weeks before he feel confident to go to work. Depending on his occupation, he may or may not feel comfortable at work for an extended period. A patient who sees clients on a daily basis at work may not feel completely comfortable seeing his clients even after 2 weeks post op from a 4000 graft FUE. This needs to be taken into account. A hair transplant is not always a ‘one day thing.’
5. A hair transplant is always an option for treating hair loss
It’s a myth that a hair transplant is always an option for an individual with hair loss. Some patients may be too young, some have medical issues that preclude surgery, and some have a type of hair loss that also will not be successful if a hair transplant were performed. Hair transplants aren't for everyone.
6. There are no complications to a hair transplant
Hair transplants are quite safe. But it’s a bit of a stretch to say that they are without complication. Patients may have have redness, swelling and crusting post operatively. In general, the recovery in FUE procedures is much easier than FUT procedures. But there are rare complications in hair transplant surgery that include long lasting nerve pain (more in FUT than FUE procedures) and persistent scalp redness. Unless a physician is carefully monitoring the procedure, a patient can even get sick. The hair transplant community tends to shy away from calling hair transplant procedures a 'surgery' in order to make the procedure more patient friendly - but make no mistake a hair transplant is a surgery.
7. You will regain the hair density of your youth
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure which involved moving anywhere from 10 to 10,000 hairs into an area of balding. If an area of hair loss is small, it may be possible to build some very nice density in the area – but the density is generally less than it once was. For example, in a patient who is very bald, a density of 35-40 follicular units per square centimeter will typically be created. This area likely had a density of 90 or more follicular units per square centimeter at one time years earlier. Therefore, it is generally the norm for a hair transplant to create results that are less dense than the original density. A skilled surgeon can often help make 35-40 follicular units look like the original density. However, photos and videos of patients with amazingly thick and dense hair following their procedure may not always be accurate.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299