How does a hair transplant work for Alopecia?

Ismail Yusibov
Ismail Yusibov is the founder and content writer of the AlopeciaTips.

 Fact checked by Jessica Anderson

Written by Ismail Yusibov | Reviewed by Dr. Michael Carter


Hair transplant surgery is a great way to help people who are losing their hair, especially men with male pattern baldness. Hair transplant can fix most types of hair loss, but it can’t help with alopecia areata. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for alopecia areata.


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Hair transplant surgery is a great way to fix male pattern baldness, also called androgenic alopecia. During this procedure, doctors take hair from the back of the head, where it’s not harmed by high DHT levels, and place it in the bald spots. This helps people get their natural, thick hair back.

In this article, I’ll discuss if hair transplants can provide a long-lasting fix for hair loss. For some, hair transplants are the final option after trying other treatments like medications, hormones, and PRP. Hair transplant is a reliable way to maintain healthy hair for many years. However, its success depends on factors like the type and severity of hair loss, its causes, and outcomes.

Let’s get right to it: can hair transplants permanently treat alopecia?

Is hair transplantation a permanent solution for hair loss?

Hair transplantation is a treatment for people who have plenty of strong, healthy hair follicles on the sides or back of their head. Doctors remove these hair follicles and move them to the bald spots. If you do not have healthy hair on your head area or if you do not have a donor area, this treatment will not work for you. Hair transplant treatment won’t work for hair loss that affects all your hair follicles, like in the case of alopecia areata.

If you are dealing with male pattern baldness today, the most effective way to fix it is hair transplantation treatment. Although there are medications that can slow or stop hair loss, you need to use these medications for years to get the best results. Additionally, when you stop taking medications used to treat hair loss, your hair loss will begin again. Therefore, having a hair transplant may be a better choice in terms of saving both time and money.

However, not all kinds of hair loss can be treated with a hair transplant. One example is alopecia areata, which happens when your immune system attacks all your hair cells. Hair transplant works for other types of hair loss because they typically affect only a specific area of your scalp, leaving other parts safe for donor hair. Hair taken from the donor area is usually resistant to normal hair loss, so you don’t need to worry about losing it again. With alopecia areata, all your hair is at risk, including your eyebrows and scalp, so even transplanted hair might fall out in the future.

In modern hair treatments, hair transplant surgery isn’t a cure for hair loss (alopecia) or a way to stop it. However, it’s a key method for people with hair loss to regrow natural hair over time. After a hair transplant, patients enjoy their own natural hair for years.

Whether a hair transplant is right for someone with alopecia depends on various factors, like the type and seriousness of their condition, their age and health, and the amount and quality of hair in the donor area. It’s essential to talk to an experienced hair transplant surgeon to figure out the best plan for your specific situation.

How hair transplant works step by step?

Hair transplantation is not like using drugs. When you take drugs, they try to change the chemicals and hormones in your body. In contrast, hair transplantation is a hands-on method that focuses on making your hair grow back in specific areas.

There are various ways to do hair transplant surgery, such as:

  • Grafting
  • Scalp reduction
  • Flap surgery
  • Tissue expansion

Moreover, there are different procedures for hair transplantation, including:

  • FUE
  • FUT
  • DHI
  • Sapphire FUE

Today, you can have these procedures done in two ways: using robots or in the traditional manner.

Grafting

The most common hair transplant method is called grafting. It involves taking small pieces of healthy scalp containing hair, which we call “hair plugs.” These pieces usually contain 10 to 15 hairs. There are also smaller grafts called micrografts, which have just one or two hairs. The procedure can take several hours, and you might stay awake with numbing medication. Depending on your needs, you may require multiple procedures, and your scalp needs time to heal between them.

In a single session, about 2000 grafts can be transplanted, depending on your hair characteristics. It’s usually recommended to transplant at least 1000 grafts. An adult typically has around 40,000 grafts, equivalent to roughly 100,000-120,000 hairs.

Modern 5000-graft hair transplants usually take about 8-10 hours to complete.

Unfortunately, the hair taken from the back of the head during the transplant procedure doesn’t grow back.

Scalp reduction

Scalp reduction (alopecia reduction), is a procedure that reduces bald patches on the scalp. In this process, the bald skin is removed, and nearby hair-bearing skin is stretched over the bald area. This makes the bald spot smaller and helps surrounding hair cover it better.

Scalp reduction may be beneficial for those experiencing hair loss in a small area. There will be no scar after the surgery, but it can be seen that the person has had a scalp reduction.

Flap surgery

Flap surgery is a multi-stage procedure used to treat hair loss on the front of the scalp. The idea is to move some scalp from one area of your head to cover bald spots. However, this method is outdated and not recommended for hair restoration nowadays. If you’re thinking about getting a hair transplant, it’s best to avoid flap surgery.

Tissue expansion

Tissue expansion is a recommended solution for people experiencing hair loss due to injuries or burns. The procedure is done with local anesthesia. In the first step, the doctor places special balloons, called tissue expanders, on the bald area. These balloons are gradually filled with a saline solution to stretch the scalp. This helps increase the number of cells in the bald skin.

The first phase of tissue expansion takes about 2-3 months. If it’s successful, the doctor moves on to the second phase. The expanded skin is used to cover the nearby bald spot, providing both more hair and a natural look. The doctor then removes some or all of the bald skin and repositions a piece of the scalp, which is still connected to the body (a process known as stripping).

Even though it’s a complex procedure, it has a high success rate, and you’ll see immediate results.

Which hair transplant method works better?

These days, the grafting method is the most popular choice for hair transplant surgeries. If you’re a good fit for it, grafting has a high success rate and provides long-lasting results.

Most popular hair transplant techniques

With the development of technology and hair transplantation becoming a popular procedure, hair transplantation techniques have also increased. In the modern day, Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Direct Hair Implantation (DHI) are the three main techniques used in hair transplantation. These surgeries can be performed by both robotic and traditional methods.

The aim of all three methods is to perform hair transplantation successfully. However, these methods differ in how the hair grafts are removed and implanted. All three hair transplantation methods are graft-based methods, meaning they involve the transfer of individual hair follicles (grafts) from one part of the scalp to another.

FUE

FUE hair transplantation is the process of implanting non-shedding hair follicles into the area with hair loss.

The key feature of this method is how the target area is prepared for the transplantation. Unlike other methods, tiny channels are made on the scalp using small medical blades. Then, the collected hair is placed into these channels.

There are two common types of surgical knives used in the FUE method: sapphire and metal slit knives. When a sapphire knife is used, it’s called the sapphire FUE method, and when metal slit knives are used, it’s simply referred to as FUE or classic FUE hair transplantation.

FUE method in hair transplantation is the most preferred method worldwide. It updates itself in integration with micro-surgical and medical technology that develops day by day.

FUT

The FUT method is a way to transplant groups of hair follicles together, not one by one. These groups typically contain 1 to 4 hairs and are prepared and separated under a microscope. It involves taking hair follicles from the area at the back of the head and behind the ears.

The main difference between FUT and FUE methods is how the hair is taken from the scalp. The rest of the hair transplant process is quite similar.

FUT hair transplantation is an application that provides satisfactory results and is offered to patients who do not have sufficient hair follicles and donor area features for FUE hair transplantation.

Although the FUT method is a successful method, it is a method that is outdated today. After the FUT procedure, scars remain on the head. FUT is also difficult to apply to people who are going bald due to intense hair loss.

DHI

DHI hair transplantation is the most up-to-date hair transplantation method that allows multiple hair transplantations in a single session.

In the DHI hair transplantation method, hair follicles taken from the person’s nape area are generally preferred. Healthy hair follicles at the nape of the neck are carefully removed with the micromotor device. Then, the extracted hair follicles are transplanted to the area where hair transplantation will be performed in a short time. The procedure is performed with local anesthesia.

The most important feature that distinguishes the DHI hair transplantation method from other methods is that it eliminates the necessity of opening channels in the balding area.

After the procedure, there are no wounds or scars, and the patient can go back to their normal routine on the same day.

Which hair transplantation method is more successful?

The DHI hair transplant method is more successful than FUE and FUT. It’s quick, safe, and carries a lower risk of infection. That’s why many people prefer DHI for their hair transplants.

Unlike some other hair transplant methods, DHI hair transplantation allows you to plan how your hair will grow in terms of direction and size ahead of time. In this method, there’s no need to create channels during the procedure, which makes it more comfortable and straightforward.

You can expect to see the best results from DHI hair transplantation within 6-12 months. Plus, there’s no need to shave your head or change the way you dress after the procedure.

What are the risks of hair transplant surgery?

Hair transplant surgery carries various risks.

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Shock loss (temporary hair loss)
  • Unnatural-looking results
  • Folliculitis (inflammation of hair follicles)
  • Graft failure
  • Hair follicle damage
  • Donor area thinning or scarring
  • Allergic reactions
  • Post-operative care complications

What are the side effects of hair transplant surgery?

You may experience short-term side effects after hair transplant surgery. If you have had a new hair transplant, the following side effects may occur in the donor area or the area where the new hair is located:

  • Temporary redness or pinkness of the scalp
  • Swelling in the donor and recipient areas
  • Itching or discomfort in the transplanted area
  • Minor scabbing in the recipient area
  • Shock loss (temporary hair shedding)
  • Numbness or tingling in the scalp

When a skilled doctor does a hair transplant in a clean and modern place, the chances of having side effects or problems are very low. Most side effects happen when hair transplants are done in places that aren’t clean.

So, it’s crucial to pick a clinic with good certificates, happy customers, and a good reputation. Also, make sure the doctor doing your hair transplant is experienced and successful in this work.

Can Alopecia be cured with hair transplant?

Hair loss (alopecia) is not completely stopped or treated by hair transplantation. However, the bald area after hair loss can be returned to its former hairy state by using the person’s own hair follicles.

Today, many types of baldness, such as androgenetic alopecia, can be slowed, stopped, and reversed with FDA-approved treatments such as Finasteride and Minoxidil. However, where drug treatments fail, hair transplantation can be considered a strong alternative.

Hair transplantation cannot cure all types of baldness. Hair transplantation may not be a suitable treatment method, especially in some types of alopecia.

Which types of alopecia can be treated with hair transplantation?

No hair transplant procedure will stop hair loss caused by alopecia. However, hair transplantation eliminates baldness and allows the bald areas on the head to grow back into hair.

Androgenetic alopecia

Male pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia, is a common reason for hair loss in men. It’s mostly caused by your genes and a hormone called DHT. This hormone is higher in men who are genetically inclined to male pattern baldness.

There is no permanent cure for male pattern baldness. However, drug treatments and hair transplantation are approved treatment options for androgenetic alopecia. These methods can stop, slow down, and reverse male pattern baldness.

This type of hair loss usually affects the front, sides, and top of the head in men. However, the hair at the back of the head is more resistant to the effects of DHT. So, it’s often used as a donor area for hair transplant in men with androgenetic alopecia.

Hair transplant surgery is a permanent solution for hair loss in men with this condition. Since the transplanted hair is taken from areas that aren’t affected by balding, it remains unaffected by the balding process. This means the transplanted hair should stay with you for life.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a kind of hair loss that doesn’t scar the scalp and can happen in different parts of the head. It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s own defense system mistakenly attacks hair follicles.

Usually, it creates small, round patches of hair loss on the scalp, about the size of a coin.

In some cases, people with alopecia areata may lose all the hair on their head (alopecia areata totalis) or even all the hair on their entire body (alopecia areata universalis). Alopecia areata can worsen over time and become more extensive.

Unfortunately, hair transplantation doesn’t work for treating alopecia areata. Instead, dermatologists recommend treatments like cortisone shots, immunotherapy, using Minoxidil or Finasteride, or taking Antihistamines to manage it.

Hair transplantation might be an option for those whose hair loss has stopped. However, if the hair loss is ongoing, it’s not advisable because all the body’s hair follicles are affected by this autoimmune condition, making it unsuitable for transplantation.

Traction alopecia

Traction alopecia happens when your hair is pulled too tightly, usually in hairstyles popular among women. These hairstyles include:

  • Ponytails
  • Cornrows
  • Dreadlocks
  • Braids

Using straighteners or hair dryers too much can also harm your hair, making traction alopecia more likely in sensitive areas.

To prevent traction alopecia, avoid tight hairstyles. If your hair is still falling out despite using the right hairstyles, consider seeing a dermatologist. They might prescribe medication to help.

If medication doesn’t work, hair transplantation is an option. The two common methods for this are FUE and FUT. They often focus on the temples, hairline, and sideburns since these areas are most affected by traction alopecia.

Triangular alopecia

Triangular alopecia is a type of hair loss that often starts at the front of the scalp and typically shows up either at birth or during early childhood. There may be hair loss or thin hair may appear in the affected area.

The good news is that triangular alopecia usually doesn’t come with any discomfort, and it doesn’t get worse over time. It tends to stick around throughout your life and doesn’t spread to other areas of your scalp.

While it’s common to develop this condition from a young age, it can also appear in adulthood. If you notice it, it’s a good idea to consult a dermatologist for the right treatment.

It’s important to note that triangular alopecia isn’t related to excess DHT, so popular hair loss medications like Minoxidil or Finasteride aren’t effective for treating it.

Currently, the most successful treatment for triangular alopecia is hair transplantation. This procedure involves moving healthy hair follicles from other parts of your scalp to the bald area, helping to restore your hairline.

What medication do you take after hair transplant?

If you’re losing your hair, you might have heard of medications like Minoxidil, Dutasteride, and Finasteride. These medicines are known to work well for hair loss.

Many patients who use these medications, but don’t see the results they hoped for, often consider hair transplantation surgery as a last option. The main question on their minds is whether they should keep taking these medications after the surgery.

It’s a good idea to keep using medications like Finasteride and Minoxidil after a hair transplant surgery. They can help your transplanted hair grow faster, prevent further hair loss, and reduce the chance of hair shock loss after the surgery.

However, it’s not necessary to use Minoxidil or Finasteride after the surgery. When you get a hair transplant, the transplanted hair is taken from areas on the sides and back of your head that are not affected by DHT, which causes hair loss. So, stopping the medication won’t affect the transplanted hair. But continuing the medication for about 2 weeks after the surgery can make your transplanted hair stronger.

End of article

Although hair transplantation is a definitive solution for androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), it does not completely stop or prevent future hair loss. Hair transplantation involves transplanting hair follicles taken from DHT-resistant areas of the head to bald areas. DHT-resistant hair is expected to be unaffected by shedding.

If the cause of hair loss is different (for example, an autoimmune disorder such as alopecia areata, etc.), a doctor’s opinion should be obtained to understand whether hair transplantation surgery will have a positive effect.

Ismail YusibovIsmail Yusibov is the founder and content writer of the AlopeciaTips.

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