Hair loss affects the majority of men and a significant number of women as well. While some individuals may be comfortable embracing the change, others feel quite anxious about it. Hair replacement treatment can be a big help in renewing confidence about the image you project to the world.
Whether your hair loss has been brought on by age and genetics, hormonal changes, disease, or trauma, a fuller head of hair can restore a younger appearance and simply feel more compatible with your sense of yourself.
Are You a Candidate for Hair Replacement?
All hair replacement techniques rely on existing hair to serve as donor sites, so to be a successful candidate you need to have hair growing at the back and sides of your head. The color and texture of your hair can affect the outcome, too: light-colored or course-textured hair offers better coverage than fine or dark hair when transplanted. A consultation with Dr. Swenson will help clarify what procedures are appropriate for you, what outcome you can realistically expect, and what follow-up surgery may be needed.
What to Expect from Hair Replacement
Hair can be replaced by several different methods, alone or in combination. The most common technique is to remove bits of hair-bearing scalp from one section and graft them onto the target area. These can range from mini- or micro-grafts containing as few as one or two hairs to strip grafts containing dozens of hairs. Large grafts are divided into smaller units that can be inserted into the scalp in a natural growth pattern. Usually several grafting sessions are required to achieve the desired coverage, with several months’ healing time needed in between.
Another technique is “flap surgery,” which can cover a large area more quickly. A section of hairless scalp is removed and an adjacent “flap” of hair-bearing scalp is lifted—still connected at one edge—to stretch and suture over the bald area. The resulting scar will be hidden under hair.
One of the newest techniques is tissue expansion. An inflatable device inserted under the scalp alongside a bald section is filled with a saline solution over a period of two weeks, triggering the growth of new skin cells. This expanded skin is then used to cover the bald section next to it.
Hair replacement surgery usually is an outpatient procedure; the type of anesthesia depends on what techniques are used. Recovery time is influenced by the complexity of the surgery, but you can expect swelling and bruising at first. The scalp may feel achy and tightly stretched at first after flap surgery or tissue expansion. You’ll probably be able to wash your hair in a few days, but vigorous activity should be avoided for several weeks.
It can be startling to discover your newly grafted hair falling out after six weeks or so. This is normal, however—new hair should grow back in a couple more months. However, it’s likely that follow-up surgery will be needed to fill in grafted hair or to remove any surface irregularity left after flap surgery.
Most hair replacement isn’t covered by insurance, except for reconstructive surgery necessitated by disease, burns, or other injury; check with your insurance carrier.