You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. And, for Male Pattern Baldness, that statement is more valid than ever before. To give you a better idea of what we mean, let’s dive into the not-so-distant past:
It’s 1997. You’re 21, living the dream with a thick, full head of hair. People on the street are stopping you, telling you your hair looks just like Brad Pitt’s luscious locks as he rides horseback through the plains of Montana in Legends of the Fall. You walk along, confident enough to go and find yourself your own Susannah.
Soon enough, you blink, and it’s 2021. You’re 45, and you’ve lost more hair than you ever thought possible. So, where do you go from here? Your confidence may be dimming, and you likely miss your gorgeous mane. But, you’ve heard through the grapevine about hair transplant surgery and how it can treat Male Pattern Baldness.
To fill you in, we’ll uncover all of the ins and outs of hair transplant surgery, including whether an alternative path might be better suited for you.
What is Hair Transplant Surgery?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Male Pattern Baldness. However, there are plenty of sought-after treatment options. A popular treatment is hair transplant surgery, which can provide an avenue toward a fuller head of hair and a rebuild in confidence.
Hair transplant surgery is exactly as it sounds—the replacement of bald follicles by transplanting hair taken from another area of the scalp or body. In short, the primary goal of the surgery is to move hair that you already have to an area of your head that is bald or thinning.
With hair transplant surgery, you have the option of having natural growth return to your scalp. It’s your hair, grown 100 percent by you, and the treatment provides a permanent solution to hair loss.
The Process of Hair Transplant Surgery
There are primarily two different commonly-used avenues to complete a hair transplant surgery. Depending on your hair type and the hair loss region, your surgeon will decide which is the best option for you. Both techniques require local anesthesia and follicular removal from a donor area. Donor areas can include the side or back of the scalp, the back, chin, or even the chest. Although both procedures are effective, they can lead to different outcomes in particular cases. Let’s take a look at the two options.
Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS) / Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT)
FUSS and FUT are an equivalent procedure. For this article, we will be using FUSS to describe it in more detail. FUSS requires removing a strip of skin from a donor area, which is later sewn shut. The doctor then divides the skin strip using a microscope into minuscule grafts, with one or several hair follicles per unit. Each graft is then placed into small incisions in the balding area.
The most common concern with FUSS is scarring. If the donor skin is taken from another area of the head, any later scarring can easily become camouflaged with surrounding hair. However, if the surrounding hair is thin or cut on the shorter side, the scar is more likely to be visible. It is also possible for a surgeon to overestimate the number of follicles needed and take a wider strip than needed. In this case, scarring may be wider than what is cosmetically acceptable. If the scar is over 5mm wide, it's deemed a failure and will need to be removed.
As it is the more invasive option, FUSS is also likely to be more painful than its counterpart due to inflammation and tenderness surrounding the donor area. There is also a risk of severing nerves in the scalp, leaving significant pain or numbness as a permanent issue.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
Your other option is FUE, which is when the surgeon removes individual hair follicles with a tiny punch tool. The surgeon will punch the follicles to remove them from the donor area. Small incisions will be made in the balding region to allow the grafts to be placed. The follicles don't need to be removed from one particular area.
FUE is much less invasive, and although it might cause some scarring, it is far less noticeable than FUSS. The patient is also not likely to need any stitches, which is typically the more desirable choice. However, the scalp will be quite tender, with considerable swelling for a few days following the FUE procedure, and there may also be some swelling in the face while the skin heals. Not to mention, FUE is generally the more expensive choice between the two.
Both FUSS and FUE can take several hours to several days to complete. FUE can be done in one session, lasting around eight hours, while FUSS is likely to take more than one visit depending on the surgeon’s work. Regardless, the procedure is manageable, and you can typically go home the same day.
Recovery times vary, but it will generally take at least three days to begin feeling better. Both the donor area and transplanted region will be tender until the sites heal, and it’s crucial to follow your doctor’s directions carefully so you can successfully avoid potential complications.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
Hair transplant surgery is a serious procedure, which opens the door to similar risks that come alongside any average surgery, such as infection, swelling, and bruising.
One of the biggest disadvantages of hair transplant surgery is that it’s difficult to know its outcome due to the long recovery time. After a successful hair transplant surgery, it can take more than six months to recover and see significant changes in your hair growth. If you don’t take your recovery time seriously, it can lead to various problems, including scarring or unnatural new hair growth. Not to mention, hair loss can continue in other areas of your scalp if you have the treatment done while you’re still young. Generally, it’s best to wait until after the age of 40.
Although plenty of hair transplant surgeries are successful and many patients see at least 75 percent of regrowth, there is always the chance of failure. Failure often happens due to the mishandling and drying out of the follicles, which ultimately leads to the lack of growth. Anywhere between 10 and 80 percent of hair growth will return, leaving a broad range for potential failure. Even if your hair transplant fails, scarring will certainly stick around.
The cost of hair transplant surgery depends on your hair type and how many grafts are needed. However, the procedure cost can be pricey, falling anywhere between $4,000 and $15,000. Since it’s generally considered a cosmetic procedure, insurance is unlikely to cover it.
Is There a Better Way?
The good news is if you’re on the fence about hair transplant surgery, or if the risks outweigh the advantages for you and your lifestyle - there are other options. At Your Hair Matters, we do our best to provide men with the confidence they deserve through Men’s Hair Systems, a non-surgical hair replacement solution.
A Hair System is made with 100 percent real human hair. It is customized to match your natural hair pattern, giving you the perfect hair replacement option without needing to go under the knife. Not to mention, while it adheres directly to your scalp, it is designed to function just as natural hair – allowing one to shower, swim, run, and maintain an active lifestyle. Though not permanent, it is a semi-permanent system lasting for 4-8 weeks at a time, then taken off for cleaning before reapplied. New hair systems are required occasionally, though less often if well taken care of. The average hair system does not need complete replacement for 3-9 months – sometimes longer. Although each is unique, one non-surgical hair system typically costs less than $600.
When making the decision to find a solution for Male Pattern Baldness – it is important to be fully informed. Choosing between a surgical and non-surgical solution is personal with different factors such as cost, candidacy, time involvement, and pain. One solution may be good for some, while another may be best for others. Regardless of your path to get here, we’re here to accompany you alongside your hair loss recovery journey.