Two in three U.S. men will experience some hair loss by the age of 35, and by age 50, approximately 85 percent will have “significantly thinning hair,” according to the American Hair Loss Association. In other words, there’s a good chance you’re part of this club.
And whether you’re just beginning to notice your hair thinning or if you’ve got a shiny bald spot, it’s likely affecting your daily life, making you self-conscious and possibly affecting your self-esteem, according to the journal, Current Medical Research and Opinion.
Luckily, there are plenty of options out there if you’re interested in reclaiming some of the hair you’ve lost to time and life.
Hair transplants are one of those options.
If you’re considering getting a hair transplant, the information below can help you make a more informed, confident decision about whether the procedure is the right option for you.
What Is a Hair Transplant?
It’s a type of surgery that moves hair you already have to fill an area with thin or no hair. Doctors have been doing these transplants in the U.S. since the 1950s, but techniques have changed a lot in recent years.
You usually have the procedure in the doctor’s office. First, the surgeon cleans your scalp and injects medicine to numb the back of your head. Your doctor will choose one of two methods for the transplant: follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE).
With FUSS, the surgeon removes a 6- to 10-inch strip of skin from the back of your head. They set it aside and sews the scalp closed. This area is immediately hidden by the hair around it.
Types of hair transplants
The two most popular types of hair transplants are FUSS and FUE, which are outlined below.
Follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS)
FUSS involves removing a strip of skin from a non-bald area. This donor site is usually the back of the head. The cut is then closed and hidden by the surrounding hair.
The strip of scalp that is removed is divided into tiny sections called grafts, each containing just one hair or a few hairs. These are each relocated to the balding areas being treated, known as the recipient sites.
The cost of the hair transplant can depend on the number of grafts being relocated. This can be an advantage if the person only requires a few grafts, as it may work out cheaper than paying a flat rate for the treatment.
One of the main disadvantages of FUSS transplants is that they typically lead to scarring around the donor site. Some people may also experience pain and swelling in this area.
Follicular unit extraction (FUE)
FUE surgery involves shaving the back of the head and then removing individual hair follicles, as opposed to taking an entire strip of scalp.
The donor sites heal relatively well. Only small dots are noticeable, but these are covered by the surrounding hair.
As with FUSS, the surgeon will prepare the grafts and place them onto the recipient areas. The entire process takes between 4 and 8 hours, depending on the transplant size.
Usually, FUE is less invasive than FUSS, and there is a lower likelihood of experiencing complications, such as scarring or post-operative pain. Also, the hair follicles can be removed from several areas, rather than from one single site, so hair thickness at the donor sites is not affected.
FUE transplant surgery is often more expensive than FUSS.
How much the treatment costs
The cost of a hair transplant is highly variable and typically ranges anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. These costs are often all out of pocket. Most insurance companies consider a hair transplant a cosmetic procedure.
The cost of hair transplants is dependent on many different factors. These include:
Where you live: The relative cost of living in the area and the number of nearby surgeons offering the procedure can affect what a surgeon charges.
The type of procedure you choose: There are two different types of hair transplants: follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). Each has a different cost.
The skill of your surgeon: This is a common correlation: If your surgeon is considered to be one of the best, they may charge more. At the same time, higher rates don’t always mean superior skill, so do your research carefully.
How much hair you want transplanted: Wanting a few patches added will cost significantly less than wanting to increase hair across the entire scalp.
Travel costs: This isn’t something that your doctor will charge, but it’s still a cost you should consider. Sometimes you have to travel to find the best specialists, and you should consider these costs when deciding if you can afford the procedure.
Recovery Time and Post-Surgical Care
In addition to financial costs, there are physical costs to any surgery. If you’re bandaged, you’ll need to be cautious when removing the dressings at home, as they can stick to the wounds.
You’ll also experience swelling in the origin and areas of the scalp where the hair has been transplanted. Your plastic surgeon may give you steroids to lessen this effect.
You’ll be able to gently wash your hair two to three days after the procedure, but will likely be cautioned against wearing pullover shirts (including t-shirts) for several weeks.
Your doctor may also start you on a topical minoxidil regimen post-surgery, though you’ll want to follow their instructions closely as any topical product could cause irritation at the surgical sites.
Recovery time varies on whether you opted for FUT or FUE. In FUT procedures, you can expect your surgical areas to heal in two to three weeks and you can resume regular activity in a similar amount of time. In FUE, your surgical sites can heal in one to two weeks and you can resume regular physical activity then, according to an article published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery.