It’s not uncommon for patients with hair loss, especially pattern baldness, to question the risks and effectiveness of hair transplant surgeries.
As a dermatologist who has treated over 50,000 patients, I haven’t yet treated a hair transplant patient that didn’t ask the question:
“Is this going to work?”
So, in this article, I will answer that question and discuss the effectiveness and success of hair transplant surgeries.
▶ Yes, hair transplants work.
▶ Tens of different studies and research prove that the majority of hair transplants are the most successful hair loss treatment.
▶ And annually hundreds of thousands of people successfully get hair transplants and move on with their life with a full head of hair.
▶ But, it’s crucial to work with an expert surgeon (preferably a dermatologist) and adopt the right habits
The first step, of course, is to go over what exactly the surgery is:
Table of Contents
First off, what exactly is a Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant surgery is pretty simple on the surface: we harvest hair from the donor area to implant it into the bald areas.
Yet, the surgery itself can take 4-8 hours, you might start preparations from months ago, and you’ll need to stick by some rules and guidelines for 12 months. When you involve all this work, it becomes much more demanding and intimidating, and even complex at times.
Let me briefly explain each of these steps so you can get a sense of what awaits a hair transplant patient when they make the decision:
You can just show up at the clinic and get your hair transplant, but it is not suggested.
That’s because, going into surgery, we need to make sure your body is in its best shape to undergo a transplant operation.
For example, at UnitedCare, we ask you to start using Oral Finasteride 90 days before the operation and encourage Vitamin C supplements. Also, we don’t recommend the consumption of certain drugs and substances to ensure success such as cigarettes and nicotine, alcohol, Minoxidil, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and a few others.
If you’re going in for a hair transplant surgery soon, you can use our Care Assistant tool to see what you’re allowed (and not allowed) and make sure everything’s in order.
Once the day of the surgery arrives, you are first briefed on what’s going to happen from then on by your physician. Your hairline is drawn and local anesthesia is applied to your scalp before the actual surgery begins.
The surgery can proceed differently depending on the technique and surgical procedures your physician is using:
A Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) is a hair transplant procedure where a strip of tissue full of hair is cut from the donor area to harvest grafts.
First, your surgeon will extract a strip of tissue from the donor area (usually from the back of the scalp). Then, the hair transplant surgeon and their team will harvest individual hair follicles from the tissue and get them ready for the implanting part.
Once that’s done, individual hair follicles are implanted in the balding area to
FUT is not preferred by most hair transplant clinics because it can leave visible linear scars in the donor area, since to harvest hair grafts a tissue is removed from this part.
That’s why only around 33% of all hair transplant surgeries are done using the FUT method. And the main reason behind some clinics choosing this technique is due to it being relatively easier and taking less time than FUE.
The most popular hair transplant technique, Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is a more skill-demanding and time-consuming operation that generates more natural results due to this extra work.
The main difference from Follicular Unit Transplantation comes in the follicle harvesting part, as there are no cuts to your scalp in this method, but a special punch tool is used to extract individual follicles from your scalp one by one.
Then, the harvested grafts are planted in the bald areas and the operation is done.
FUE is more advantageous and should become more common, not only because it doesn’t leave permanent scars, but because it produces much more natural-looking results and the healing phase is much quicker compared to FUT.
Once the implanting is done, bandages are applied to your donor area and the surgery is completed.
Now it’s on you:
If you asked me, I would say hair transplant aftercare is twice as important as the surgery itself.
I know this might sound out of the ordinary. But when you think about it, the success of the whole operation depends on whether or not you enable your body to adjust itself to all the changes.
I’ll talk more about this later in the article.
Again, there are numerous medications and practices we encourage our patients to adopt for the following months to ensure the success of the hair transplant. Again, you can use our care-assistant tool or our post hair transplant care article to understand what is asked of you.
Now, let’s try to define what “success” really looks like in a hair transplant.
Defining “Success” in Hair Transplant Surgeries
Once you get your hair transplant, it doesn’t need to fail horribly to not be a successful operation.
When we measure the success of a hair transplant, we measure the survival rate of the transplanted hair. If after a year or so, you retain the majority of the transplanted hair and have a full head of hair, which is when we can count your hair transplant as a success.
That’s because almost all transplanted hair loss happens during this period, and you start to see visible hair growth from the transplanted follicles around after 6 months, so a year after your transplant is a great time to evaluate the process.
What is the Success Rate of Hair Transplants?
According to hair loss statistics, 57.2% of patients achieve success (desired result) in their first hair transplant surgery, while 33.1% of them consider the process successful after their second surgery.
Only 9.6% of hair transplant patients have undergone 3 or more surgeries to achieve their desired look.
These numbers are highly dependant on the hair transplant technique, the expertise of your physician, and the aftercare guidelines you’ve followed.
For us at UnitedCare, the patients who have successful hair transplants the first time, where most grafts survive and the hairline is restored, is much, much higher, around 90%. The reason for the drastic difference is possibly the FUE technique and advanced methods we use, our expert dermatologist staff, and the importance we put in aftercare.
But not all clinics structure their teams and processes the same way, which can end up creating more as many failures as success.
Hair Transplants can go wrong
Hair transplant failures are real.
And I’m not just mentioning the survival rate of the grafts; there can be surgical complications that cause health problems, poorly designed hairlines and transplants that look unnatural, and even some irreversible effects that might affect you for life.
Your hair transplant can simply be rejected by your body, ending up in undesirable results.
The biggest reason behind these risks is actually simple; a hair transplant is a medical surgery that requires an actual surgeon and a holistic approach.
Most hair clinics are built solely for the purpose of generating money. You can come across clinics that hire inexperienced physicians to run the operations or inexperienced staff that don’t know what they’re doing and even adopt practices that are medically wrong.
That’s usually the number one reason you come across terrible hair transplant results that look worse than before the operation and numerous people disapproving of the method. Unfortunately, these exist.
And the second biggest reason is you, well, the version of you that don’t properly follow up with the aftercare guidelines.
The surgery is the smallest part of the whole hair transplant experience, and the most important part for most expert surgeons is the aftercare.
See, we just harvest grafts and implant hair into the bald areas of your scalp in the operation room. At the end of the day, it’s up to your body and scalp to accept or reject this newly transplanted hair.
If you provide your body with everything it needs during the recovery process and stay away from the unadvised activities and substances, you’re providing your body with the right environment to recover and grow.
So, first, you need to make sure you choose a quality clinic equipped with the right tools and an expert staff that consists of dermatologists and seasoned physicians.
And then, you need to make sure you get the right guidelines from your physician and stick by them for the next 12-16 months until you see hair growth. The right choices will dramatically improve your chances of success for your hair transplant.
How long do Hair Transplants last?
So, the question is, how long do hair transplants last?
Hair transplants are supposed to last forever.
You shouldn’t lose the majority of the transplanted hair follicles (not the hair grafts, hairs fall out and grow consistently) post-surgery, especially after the first 12 months where the most amount of loss happens.
If you already have, let’s say Androgenetic Alopecia, where you keep losing hair as you age, shouldn’t you lose the transplanted hair also?
Surprisingly for most of my patients, no.
To understand why I need to explain where the transplanted hair comes from.
The area we use to harvest hair follicles is called the “safe donor areas” which is usually at the back of your head, just a little above your neck. The reason these areas are called “safe” is that the hair follicles on these parts don’t actually fall out of your scalp due to Androgenetic Alopecia or male pattern baldness.
It’s not the skin on these parts that are resistant to AGA, it’s the healthy hair follicles themselves. So when we harvest and implant these follicles to the bald areas, they are supposed to stay there forever.
In transplant surgeries, there’s a concept called “donor dominance” which implies that the donor tissue will always keep its traits and behavior in the new body/location.
So, the transplanted hair follicles protect their characteristics and end up growing hair on top of your head for a long time (if you go through with the two steps we’ve mentioned before.)
Are Hair Transplants really worth it?
Judging on all the research we have and hundreds of successful operations I’ve been a part of over the years, yes, hair transplants are totally worth it.
Especially if you’re proceeding with the latest technology and advanced methods while working with a dermatologist doctor for your hair transplant, there’ll be no reason to fail.
But the first step, is, of course, diagnosing your pattern baldness and seeing if you’re available for a hair transplant; which we do for you for free at UnitedCare:
UnitedCare provides a holistic approach to FUE surgeries with the latest technologies.
You can get a free consultation right now and restore your natural look with our dermatologists:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do hair transplants work permanently?
Yes, hair transplants work permanently because the harvested hair is from the back of your scalp, specifically, a region called the “safe donor area” that is not influenced by androgenetic alopecia and other genetic types of hair loss.
Which age is best for a hair transplant?
The ages between 25 and 35 are the ages where your pattern baldness becomes more settled and visible, making it a great time to have a hair transplant. Thus, the majority of hair transplants are actually operated on this age group.
Is getting a hair transplant painful?
Most patients feel just a very little pain during the surgery thanks to the local anesthesia. Following the surgery, if you’re getting a FUT transplant, you might feel pain and tightness around the donor area since there is a surgical cut there. If you’re getting an FUE, however, you’re not likely to experience any pain in the recovery process too (with medication support).