Hair Replacement Surgery

Surgical hair restoration or replacement is a fairly simple and safe procedure. It is surgery though, so finding a qualified doctor and being aware of the risks, including infection are important to achieving success.

How does hair replacement surgery work?

The actual process works something like this:

Selecting and Harvesting the Donor Area
First, hair is removed from your donor area. For most people this will be toward the back area of the head. Your specific level of hair loss plays a vital role because if you don’t have enough natural growing hair on your head, you may not be an ideal candidate for surgery.

Closing the Donor Area
Once an appropriately-sized strip of donor hair is removed, the incision is then stitched up. (Typically, these stitches are removed after about 10 days and will leave behind a small scar that can be concealed by your own hair)

Transplanting the Hair Grafts
After the donor strip is removed, tiny grafts are then prepared for hair transplant surgery into your balding areas. Most times the hair grafts at the front hairline will contain between 1 to 3 hairs each. As the grafts are transplanted further back from your hairline the numbers of hairs per graft will increase.

Covering the Hair Loss Area
Most times this is an outpatient procedure and typically takes between 2-4 hours to complete. During which time the client is usually kept awake and alert (anesthesia prevents any uncomfortable feelings of pain). However, most patients who receive hair restoration surgery will require multiple procedures to fully cover their hair loss area with adequate density levels.

Who are the best candidates for surgical hair replacement?

Contrary to what the TV commercials might tell you, not every person who suffers from hair loss will make an ideal candidate for hair replacement surgery. There are a few things to consider before putting on the backless hospital gown:

  • Age – Younger patients (18-25) don’t normally make good candidates because they have recent hair loss that will most likely progress further. Having hair transplants so early can result in the incorrect distribution of a finite amount of donor hair because the doctor has no way of knowing exactly how severe hair loss will be in the future.
  • Extent of Hair Loss – Patients with severe hair loss will often times have difficulty achieving a full head of hair because their ratio of natural growing hair to balding area is too extreme. Frankly, they won’t have enough donor hair to support a full replacement.
  • How do you know if your hair loss is severe? Check out this Norwood hair loss chart. Ideal candidates for surgery will typically be between 2-5.

Finding a Hair Replacement Surgeon

When all is said and done the results from hair transplant surgery should be so perfect that nobody, not even your stylist should be able to tell. But if you want to do it right, you need to find a great hair restoration physician.

The choice might seem obvious, after all everybody offers “natural and safe results" but you probably know that isn’t necessarily the case. Every physician has a totally different experience level. Skill and talent vary greatly, and so will the end results.

If you look in any phone book or online directory you’ll see that there are tons of physicians offering hair transplants. But when it comes down to it, there are only really a few that offer outstanding surgery and results, and for them, we recommend the following online resources:

  • Hair Loss Learning Center – This multimedia site provides extensive and in-depth information about hair loss causes and cures. It is sponsored by the Coalition of Independent Hair Restoration Physicians. This elite group of surgeons is committed to excellent patient education and results.
  • Hair Transplant Network – This long time community provides recommendations for over 50 of the world’s leading hair transplant surgeons. This site also hosts the world’s largest gallery of patient before and after photos.
  • Find surgeons in your area with this interactive map – If there isn’t one in your area the best option is to travel. Generally initial consultation can be done in your area and then the final consultation & surgery will require travel.
  • Does the physician take a holistic approach to hair restoration? Your physician should help you evaluate all your options, surgical and non surgical including hair replacement.
  • Has the clinic made the investment in time and resources to do large sessions of micro follicular unit hair transplantation? Doing outstanding work requires a staff dedicated and trained to use high-powered magnification with the capability of producing at least 2,000 carefully trimmed grafts per surgical session.
  • Choose a hair restoration clinic that is patient focused rather than commercially focused. Some clinics emphasize revenue, speed and volume rather than dedicating the time an individual care needed to produce optimal results.
  • Is hair restoration the primary focus of their practice? Outstanding results require a physician and a full staff who perform hair restoration surgery on a regular basis. Doing hair restoration as a sideline, along with other cosmetic procedures, may hinder their ability to do large sessions of highly refined follicular unit transplantation.
  • How many patients has their physician produced excellent results for? Like any skill, experience over time is critical to acquiring the skill and judgment required to produce excellent results.
  • Can the physician provide at least a dozen set of detailed patient before and after photographs? Do they also have patients who are willing to speak with you and meet with you in person?
  • What is the physician’s reputation on hair loss related discussion forums? To learn what patients are saying about hair transplant physicians and hair loss treatments visit the Hair Restoration Forum.