Having a hair transplant is a big decision.
Although it’s a relatively and increasingly common procedure, it’s important to remember that it is a surgical operation carried out under local anaesthetic.
A hair transplant is a procedure to move hair from a donor area to an area that's thinning or bald. Hair transplants are determined to be a cosmetic surgery and so are not available on the NHS.
If you are considering a hair transplant, it’s probably because you’ve been studying yourself in the mirror and now notice that there is scalp where there used to be hair.
The natural reaction is to restore your head of hair to its former glory. There are many options for those seeking to prevent hair loss of which a hair transplant is one of the most popular.
So, if you thinking about a hair transplant, when’s the best time to do it?
You should ask yourself the following questions...
Am I eligible for a Hair Transplant?
Let’s begin with the basics.
Hair transplants are appropriate for men who suffer from the genetic hair loss condition, male pattern baldness.
This is natural, unavoidable hair loss which usually follows a pattern of a receding hairline and thinning on the crown.
The hereditary condition affects up to two thirds men by the age of 35 and it can start showing as early as age 18.
Hair transplants are generally not good option for men who have lost their hair through chemotherapy or due to medication, nor for those who don’t have enough “donor” hair sites from which to remove hair for transplant.
What are the most effective alternative treatments available to prevent hair loss?
The two most effective treatments at tackling hair loss are Finasteride and Minoxidil. Both are taken by millions of men globally.
Finasteride, a tablet taken daily, restricts a hormone called DHT which is responsible for hereditary hair loss. Studies have shown Finasteride prevents hair loss in over 90% of men, and in many cases leads to some hair regrowth.
The other is Minoxidil, a topical spray applied twice daily, which increases the flow of blood, and by extension, nutrients and oxygen, to hair follicles. Studies have shown Minoxidil prevents hair in up to 2/3 of men.
You can take a closer look at both products here
What Expectations Should I have for a Hair Transplant?
Your donor hair is taken from the back of the head. This is an area that isn’t prone to hair loss. This means that there’s no need to rush to have a hair transplant now.
The important thing to consider is how to put your donor hair to the best use. For this reason it is often recommended to let your hair loss stabilise before undergoing surgery.
Of course, during the time it takes to get to stabilisation, you will continue to shed head hair.
At what age Should I Consider having a Hair Transplant?
It’s advised that you shouldn’t have a hair transplant if you are under the age of 25, even if you experience early hair loss. This is because your natural, or mature, hairline is still forming.
It’s recommended to wait until any rapid hair loss has eased as this will allow your hair specialist to get a good idea of your pattern of hair loss. By the age of 35, hair loss has typically stabilised.
As hair loss will continue in certain areas after the transplant, it important to plan out carefully where to distribute your donor hair so as to achieve the best overall effect over the longer term.
Opting for a hair transplant too early may distribute the donor hair too heavily in one area, leaving an insufficient amount of donor hairs for a later date, if it’s needed in another area.
What is the recovery time for a Hair transplant?
The recovery time for a hair transplant to heal varies depends on the procedure.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) has practically no healing time which is one of the reasons it is so popular. There is no surgical incision and therefore there is no risk of scarring.
However, even with a FUE procedure the guidance is to plan for up to a fortnight of recovery time. After the procedure, your head will be covered with tiny red dots from where the hair follicles were extracted and re-inserted, and there may be a small amount of swelling.
While you should feel fit enough to go back to work after just 1-2 days, most patients choose to take a week or two off. This allows time for their hair to start growing again, and the tiny punctures to scab over and fall off.
What time of year should I have a Hair Transplant?
You can have hair transplant surgery any time of the year.
However, given the advised two-week recovery time, most patients choose to coincide their treatment with either a holiday from work, or a public holiday such as over the Christmas period.
You should speak with your doctor or a qualified transplant surgeon before proceeding with a hair transplant. You may not be eligible for either procedure (FUT or FUE) based on your hair volume or hair quality.
It is important to understand that neither procedure is 100% guaranteed to be successful. You also need to be fully aware that a hair transplant is a medical procedure and the unforeseen complications that may arise.
Written by Dr. Mike Firth, GP and Medical Director
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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