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Hair Transplant Candidacy: Is A Hair Transplant Right for Me?

Written by Lisa Rhodes, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on December 15, 2021 No Comments

hair transplant surgery

Hair transplants have come a long way since the “hair plugs” people may remember from the 1990’s. Inferior techniques like hair plugs and flap procedures have been replaced with advanced hair transplant techniques that yield natural appear and long-lasting results. Beyond increased efficacy, current hair transplant techniques are also safer, lowering the risk of unwanted side effects like scarring.

Here’s how to know if a hair transplant procedure is right for you:

Hair Restoration Therapy

If you’ve been suffering from male pattern baldness, the first and best course of action is to try non-surgical hair restoration therapies before considering a hair transplant. These non-invasive treatments may help you grow more, thicker hair without the need for surgery.

Effective non-surgical hair restoration options include:

Finasteride: Is an FDA-approved hair loss drug used to treat hair loss in men. Finasteride works by inhibiting the body’s ability to produce dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone largely responsible for male pattern baldness. Studies of the brand Propecia find it effective, although some side effects have been reported including low libido or temporary erectile dysfunction.

Minoxidil: Commonly known by the brand name Rogain, minoxidil treats pattern baldness in men and women. The prescription medication comes in tablet or topical form. Minoxidil may work by widening blood vessels, allowing more nutrients to travel to hair follicles. Side effects include redness, irritation or itching and hair growth in unwanted areas of the body.

Plasma Rich Platelets (PRP): PRP hair restoration treatments are used to promote healing in many areas of the body, and may also help hair regrowth. The process separates platelets, red and white blood cells from your own blood. The resulting PRP solution contains proteins and other growth factors that are then injected into the scalp. Results may vary depending on frequency of treatment and the technique used.

If the above solutions did not result in a sufficient amount of new hair growth, it may be time to consider hair transplant surgery.

Determining Hair Transplant Candidacy

Not everyone experiencing hair loss will qualify for a hair transplant procedure. If you’re a good candidate for a hair transplant, you’ll check most of the following boxes:

  • Between the ages of 25 & 65
  • Suffering from pattern baldness (versus other types of hair loss)
  • Been losing hair for more than 5 years
  • Hair loss has stabilized
  • Potential ‘donor hair’ is dark, thick and not very curly
  • Hair follicles are healthy
  • General health is excellent
  • You have realistic expectations

If you answered yes to most of the above, a hair transplant is likely to have a positive outcome.

Researching Current Hair Transplant Options

It’s important for prospective hair transplant patients to do their research and develop a basic understanding of current hair transplant options. Hair transplant technology has advanced in recent years. Hair plugs are a thing of the past, and instead, two primary techniques have come to the forefront. One is called follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and the other is follicular unit extraction (FUE).

Most hair transplants today use follicular unit extraction. FUE involves extracting follicles from the rear of the scalp with a pen-like instrument, then implanting each follicle one at a time where needed.

FUE micro grafts can be extracted with incredible precision. Some techniques even use robots versus human hands for more precise follicle extraction.

The FUE technique arranges the implanted follicles according to the number of hairs that grow from it, resulting in even distribution. Alternatively, follicles are arranged within channels using a method called direct hair implantation (DHI).

FUE is generally preferred over FUT because there’s less pain and scarring involved, recovery is faster, and it works better for those with less dense hair.

Understanding Hair Transplant Recovery

Another important thing to consider is the recovery experience. The FUE method of hair transplantation can be performed without shaving the head. It’s also a relatively pain free procedure. Patients may experience discomfort when the scalp is first numbed, and will be sent home with pain relief medication for the first few weeks of recovery.

First 1-2 Weeks: Swelling, which is worst during the first 3 days, can be managed with ice packs, elevation and a head bandage. Scabs will form and then fall off by the end of the second week. Most patients return to work within one week.

First Month: Avoid hot showers and strong water pressure, excessive sweat and strenuous activity for one month. Keep your head away from direct sunlight to avoid discoloration and visible scarring.

Six Months: Your transplanted hairs will begin to look natural approximately 6 months after your hair transplant procedure. At the same time, the donor site will begin to disappear as the incision line becomes smaller and covered by hair.

Final results take shape after approximately one year, resulting in a fuller, thicker head of hair.

Maintaining Your Hair Transplant Results

If your scalp is healthy, your hair transplant results will be permanent. Follicles implanted at the top of the head will not go bald, as they are different from the follicles that originated there.

However, non-transplanted hair may continue to thin. Consider maintaining a hair restoration therapy routine to prevent further hair loss from non-transplanted follicles.


Lisa Rhodes, MD

Lisa Zanetti Rhodes, MD received her Dermatology specialty training at the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, where she served as Dermatology Chief Resident in her last year. Dr. Rhodes is Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a member of the Texas Medical Association, the Travis County Medical Society, and the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. Dr. Rhodes serves as a community preceptor at The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine.


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