FUE Hair Transplant: A Review of the Hair Restoration Method
It’s a moment that almost every guy will face: The self-discussion about whether or not you’re losing your hair. Think it’s only you? Think again. According to the American Hair Loss Association, almost 70% of men will experience some form of hair loss by the time they turn 35. If you’re starting to lose your hair, you’re in the majority.
No one likes parting with their hair, so naturally, they seek out ways to hold on to it as long as possible. This is why FUE hair transplants have become immensely popular. Let’s take a look at what a FUE hair transplant is, results you can expect, and whether it’s worth the money.
What is a FUE Hair Transplant?
A FUE procedure hair transplant is a popular and proven method of hair restoration. It should not be confused with a FUT hair transplant surgery. FUT, or Follicular Unit Transplantation, is different from a FUE hair transplant in the removal process. A FUT will remove a strip of tissue that has hair follicles inside, leaving a linear scar across the donor site.
FUE Stands for Follicular Unit Extraction
FUE, or Follicular Unit Extraction, is an equally popular method of removing and replacing hair. And a fix for male pattern baldness. But depending on whom you talk to, a FUE is better than a FUT. Unlike a FUT, a FUE has to remove every other individual donor hair using a punching tool.
Similar to a FUT, a follicular unit extraction will leave scars but they are said to be less noticeable since the hairs are removed from random places all of the donor site and not one long line of tissue. Again, these opinions will vary based on the person you’re talking with.
Follicles Are Extracted From a ‘Donor Area’
As mentioned above, hair follicles are removed one at a time from the spot on your head known as the donor area. The horseshoe of hair that begins at your temple and wraps around the side and back of your head is immune to hair loss. Surgeons will take from this area, with an emphasis on the back of your head. These hair follicles are strong and resistant to falling out.
Follicles Are Inserted Into The Transplant Area On The Scalp
Once extracted, the hair follicles are transplanted in the pre-designated areas that establish your new hairline. Hairs are also placed throughout the area that was subject to the hair loss such as the crown of the head.
What To Expect From a FUE Hair Transplant
A FUE hair transplantation is considered a minimally invasive surgical procedure. Preparing you for surgery, the team will shave your head and apply a medication that will numb the skin, similar to local anesthesia. Your doctor will then begin to remove individual hair follicles with a punching tool; it will enter the skin and dig out the healthy hair follicle.
From here, the surgical team will clean and prepare the points of entry for the hair transplant. Again, the area where the hair follicle will be transplanted will be numbed. A slit or hole is created in the spots for the hair transplants, then one by one each transplant is delicately placed within. Your head is going to be covered in red dots. Don’t worry; these red bumps will heal and your hair will cover them. Some FUE recipients claim they can still shave their hair pretty close and the tiny scars aren’t visible. Remember that results will vary.
How Long Does The Surgery Take?
A FUE hair transplant will take between 3 to 9 hours; it all depends on the size of the graft and transplant that you’re getting. The more hair that you’re having transplanted, the longer it’s going to take.
What is The Recovery Time?
Immediately after the surgery, your scalp will be bandaged and it is going to be very sensitive. Both your scalp and your eyes could be slightly swollen. Anti-biotics, pain medication, and anti-inflammatories are normally prescribed to help. These symptoms will last for up to a week.
After two to four weeks, the hair transplants will fall out. Again, don’t worry as this is normal as your hairs are entering a resting phase. It will take some time, but the new hair growth will be highly noticeable within six to nine months. By the end of the first year, you’ll be able to truly appreciate the results of the hair transplant.
How Much Does FUE Hair Transplant Cost?
The cost of a FUE hair transplant has decreased over the years as the technology has improved; however, there is no set universal price. It depends on how many grafts, or individually transplanted hair follicles you need. Again, the more hair transplants you need, the greater the cost is going to be.
You can find surgeons willing to perform the surgery for as low as $3,000. The other end of the price spectrum is close to $25,000, but this price is pretty rare nowadays. If you’re average on the hair loss scale, getting a FUE hair transplant performed in the United States might cost you around $6,000 to $10,000.
The Long-term Results of FUE Hair Transplant
Obviously, if you’re going to put yourself through a small surgery that gets followed up with red marks and an episode of feeling self-conscious, you want to make sure it’s worth it. The number one question that all people ask following a FUE hair transplant is whether or not the transplant is permanent.
While some expert-based websites claim that a FUE hair transplant is a permanent solution, others are not so quick to say the word “permanent.” If there’s one thing that all experts can agree upon, it’s this: the donor hairs from the back of your head are naturally resistant to hair loss. They don’t have the same issues with being sensitive to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the primary cause of hair loss.
Once these donor’s hairs are set in place, they are most likely going to grow and continue growing for many years. This is especially true if you follow routine hair care guidelines such as using minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine) and finasteride (brand name: Propecia).
FUE Hair Transplant Before and After Comparison
As you can imagine, results will vary from person to person. Your new hairline, thickness, and density of the hair will depend on several factors including the coarseness of the hair used and post-surgery care.
In general, the majority of user reviews are positive. Once the hair transplants are completed and healed, the new hairline is going to be set, and considered “permanent.” As mentioned above, the full extent of the results can’t be seen until a year after the surgery so patience is a requirement.
What the FUE Hair Transplant Reviews Suggest for a Successful Operation
Immediately after surgery, your FUE hair transplant is similar to an open wound so you’ll want to take great care to avoid any complications. Obviously, do not touch your hair transplant or new hairline as tempting as it might be. During the first two weeks, try to limit physical activity so you don’t sweat too much as this can increase the risk for infection.
Find an Experienced Hair Restoration Surgeon
Considering the price tag and recovery time, you’ll want to make sure you find someone who can do this correctly with no room for error. The best place to start is word-of-mouth. Do you know someone who has had the FUE hair transplant? How does it look? Would that person recommend getting it done by that surgeon?
Next, you can take a look at the recommendations from a certified organization such as the American Hair Loss Association and Hair Transplant Mentor. These two, in particular, are considered authority websites so if you see their logo or seal of approval on a particular surgeon’s website, that’s a good sign. Here are a few authority websites where you can search for a trusted surgeon that is near you:
- Hair Loss Association of America
- Hair Transplant Mentor
- International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons
Use Topical Minoxidil or Other Treatment to Halt Further Hair Loss
After your hair transplant, your surgeon will recommend using minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine) and finasteride (brand name: Propecia). DHT is a hormone that is responsible for hair loss. Minoxidil is a topical medication that kills DHT on the skin. Finasteride is an oral medication that blocks the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Both are going to be very important for ensuring the best result after surgery.
FUT vs. FUE hair transplant comparison
The only difference between the FUE and FUT hair transplants is how the donor’s hair is removed. While the FUE hair transplant uses a punching tool to remove individual hairs, the FUT method will take an entire strip of tissue. The result is a long scar; however, it is covered up by the surrounding hair. The only issue is if you want to shave your head.
Once the hair follicles are collected, the transplant procedure is the same for both methods. Slits are created and the hair follicles are placed under the skin. The same instructions will be given for healing regardless of which method you have performed.
What Are the Possible FUE Hair Transplant Side Effects?
Naturally, since this is a minimally-invasive surgery, there is a risk of complications and side effects. These side effects can be avoided or minimized by following the steps that the surgeon gives you post-operation.
Again, as this is technically an open wound, there’s always a chance for infection. Your surgeon will most likely prescribe antibiotics to minimize the risk. You’ll also be expected to properly clean the area and avoiding touching it with dirty hands.
Bleeding of the Scalp
This is quite common and nothing to worry about as it is a part of the healing process. Bleeding can last up to two weeks but scabs usually form within the first week. This goes away on its own as you follow post-surgery care instructions.
Swelling of the scalp
Sometimes fluid builds up after surgery, resulting in swelling. This will resolve itself within a week. If it lasts longer than this, contact your surgeon.
Crust in the Areas Where Follicles Were Removed or Implanted
You’ll be provided with a special shampoo and conditioner after your surgery, and you’ll use this to remove the crust that will naturally build up at the donor site and where the hair was transplanted.
Bruising of the Eye Socket
Sometimes the swelling of the scalp can move down to the forehead and above the eyes, resulting in swollen eyes. This can be avoided by following the surgeon’s instructions. If it does happen, it resolves itself within a few days.
Aside from using your medicated shampoo and conditioner, you can try taking anti-histamines and using a medicated moisturizer.
Numbness On or Around the Scalp
Numbness is to be expected post-surgery and it can last for up to a month. If the numbness continues after a month, contact your surgeon for a check-up.
These pimple-like formations are completely normal; however, if you have a lot or if they are painful, contact your surgeon.
Loss of Transplanted Hair (usually temporary)
The donor’s hair is supposed to fall out during its resting phase, but it will return during months three through ten.
Hair That Does Not Look Natural
This is pretty rare if you have a good surgeon. Remember that your hair won’t look its best until a year after the surgery.
Is it safe to get a FUE hair transplant in another country?
Yes, FUE hair transplants are common in countries all over the world. People from the U.S. will often travel to India, Turkey, Canada, or other countries for treatment
Medical tourism trips to Turkey, Canada, India, and South Korea are very common for people from the United States. The cost is much less, and the results are just as good. Be sure to research the surgeon that you’re considering.
FUE hair transplants are a safe and effective way to restore lost hair. Many experts warn against considering FUE hair transplants during your 20s and early 30s as you could continue to lose hair in other places. If you’re in your late 30s or older, start with one of the reference websites listed above to speak with a certified FUE hair transplant surgeon.