Just like we tend to take our youth and health for granted, most of us assume that our shapely eyebrows and full heads of hair will stay with us for the rest of our lives. The truth is that many people will experience hair loss due to a variety of causes such as simple genetics, aging, or other lifestyle factors, during their lifetime.
Fortunately, advances in medical science have made it possible for eligible patients of hair loss, especially hereditary hair loss, i.e. male and female pattern baldness, to undergo hair transplant surgery to restore lost hair and regain their youthful appearance.
Is hair transplantation right for you? With a number of factors that influence candidacy, having a clear understanding of the procedure will help you and your consulting physician make the appropriate determination.
What is Hair Transplantation?
Hair transplantation surgery has been around for over 60 years. Traditional hair transplantation (also known as Follicular Unit Transplant) involves the removal of a narrow strip of hair from an area of the head (usually the back of the head) and transplanting these hair follicles onto the thinning and bald areas of the head. The hair follicles harvested from the donor area are resistant to the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is the hormone most responsible for progressive hair loss. When transplanted, these follicles will continue to grow naturally.
The hair transplant procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia, making it a pretty simple outpatient procedure. Many Bosley patients return to work the next day. Depending on the extent of the hair loss and amount of grafts to be transplanted, the procedure can take anywhere from four to eight hours.
Are There Any Risks or Side Effects?
As with any surgical procedure, undergoing hair transplant surgery comes with a minor risk of infection and bleeding. Some patients report minor discomfort due to swelling in the transplant area, but this is easily managed with medication and cold compresses from your hair transplant physician and usually passes quickly. Some patients may experience inflammation or infection of the hair follicles around the time new hair begins to grow, most often as a result of ingrown hairs. Aside from the normal swelling and minor discomfort, there are no known side effects from the procedure.
What Makes a Good Hair Transplant Candidate?
Most people can undergo a hair transplant procedure with no problems, but there are a few traits that physicians look for in patients before recommending the procedure. Here are a few things your doctor will discuss with you during your consultation to determine your candidacy for hair transplant surgery.
Technically a person can undergo a hair transplant at any age, but there are some precautions that must be considered for very young people looking to restore their hairline. “We’re very, very careful in patients under the age of 18. We want them to be fully mature, we want to see what the pattern is evolving into” notes Dr. David Deutsch of Bosley Medical Beverly Hills. “The most important thing is to make sure that the patient has proper expectations about what their hair loss is going to be in the future. A lot of young patients want a very low hairline just like it was when they were kids, and that’s not going to be realistic.”
Younger patients have immature hair loss, which means their hair loss will continue to progress as they age. Having a hair transplant too early may require multiple procedures in the future to maintain natural looking results as the hair loss continues to progress over time. Patients over the age of 30 are the best candidates as their hair loss pattern has been well established and the hair transplant is more likely to stay natural looking over the years.
Before considering any type of surgical procedure, patients must first be healthy enough to undergo a medical procedure and have a heathy immune system. Serious medical conditions should be treated and resolved before surgery to reduce the risk of complications post-procedure. If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes or are prescribed medications that may adversely affect your results (like blood thinners), be sure to discuss your situation with your hair transplant surgeon so a customized treatment plan can be created for you.
Making healthy lifestyle choices like eating a balanced diet, exercising often, and avoiding stress not only help us feel better, but are also key factors in the success of a hair transplant. Making healthy choices every day boosts your immune system which means less recovery time, less swelling, and a lower risk of infection for hair transplant patients. Keep your body in top condition by staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep each night.
Hair Loss Classification
Another important factor for hair transplant candidacy is the severity of the hair loss, or the amount of donor hair that is available to transplant to thinning areas of the head. With the most severe hair loss classifications (Class 3 on the Ludwig Scale for women and Class 7 on the Norwood Scale for men), the amount of donor hair available will determine the results that can be expected from a hair transplant procedure. Consult a Bosley counselor to get an idea of your hair loss classification and if you would like more details about your hair restoration options.
Commitment to Aftercare
Your commitment to following the aftercare instructions from your physician is one of the most important factors that will predict the success of your hair transplant procedure. Following the aftercare instructions correctly will reduce your risk of infection, reduce your recovery time, and keep discomfort to a minimum. Once your scalp has fully recovered from the outpatient procedure, in a few months’ time you’ll be able to enjoy the hair transplant results. The transplanted hairs will grow naturally, just like the rest of your hair.
Follow these steps to assess your candidacy for a hair transplant procedure:
1) Conduct preliminary research to understand what hair transplant surgery entails and make a personal assessment of your hair loss situation using the Norwood Scale for men or the Ludwig scale for women.
2) Speak to your family doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions or medications that may be contributing to your hair loss. Make sure your immune system is not compromised and you are cleared to undergo an out-patient cosmetic procedure.
3) Schedule a free consultation with a Bosley counselor or/and hair transplant physician to review your overall health, the nature of your hair loss, the speed at which you are losing your hair, and the results you can expect after your procedure.
It’s important that you work with your hair transplant physician to set realistic expectations about what results you expect from your procedure. A typical hair transplant takes a few hours to perform and several months to show positive results. Depending on the extent of your hair loss and your desired results, you may need more than one procedure. Have an open discussion with your surgeon to make an informed decision. Contact a Bosley office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your hair restoration options.