What to expect
Thinking about having a hair transplant? You’ve heard of many famous celebrities having hair transplants and seen the mind blowing before and after pictures of this amazing cosmetic procedure, but how does it really work, and what should you expect if you are thinking about going ahead and making the jump? Research is the most important thing when thinking about having a hair transplant and it is really important that you are prepared for the highs and lows after the operation. The following is an honest breakdown of what to expect, are you ready?
The week leading up to the procedure
Diet and lifestyle are everything! You need to prepare your body for what is about to receive. Avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, eating spicy food, taking painkillers or taking supplements for the 7 days leading up to the procedure. No caffeine is allowed on surgery day, a small price to pay for the confidence that new head of hair is going to give you!
The day of the procedure
WOW! The day has come! It’s all getting very real and you’re nervous, and rightly so! You’re about to go through one of the most (positively) life changing experiences of your life, and the nerves you feel come through nothing more than the excitement of what’s to come. You meet the surgeon and their team, they reassure you that you are in good hands. You have a choice, shaven or unshaven? Both are an option depending on your hair loss but either way the hairline of your dreams is drawn you’re ready for the magic to happen.
There are three parts to the operation during a hair transplant, the extraction of grafts, the opening up of channels in your scalp and the implantation of the hair follicles to your recipient area.
In the first part of the procedure, the grafts are extracted from your donor area (the back of your head where the hair follicles are strongest). You will receive anaesthetic injections (that many people describe as similar to the pain of a tattoo). After the injections you will feel minimal pain, just the gentle pressure of the surgeon’s hands while hair grafts are being extracted from the back of your head. When the grafts are extracted, you’re already a third of the way there. In honesty, the hardest thing about it is being in the same position on your front for one or two hours, a small price to pay for the results you’ll have in a few short months.
The second stage of a hair transplant involves small channels being opened in the area where you wish to receive the hair transplant. Again local anaesthetic is applied, however, this time in the recipient area, and by now you’re used to the small amount of (tattoo like) pain that this includes. Every time your surgeon makes an incision, they will count it by touching a foot clicker, thus ensuring exactly the right amount of channels are made for the grafts they are about to receive. Before you know it, you’re two thirds are the way through the process!
In the third and final part of the procedure the precious grafts that have been taken from the donor area are implanted into the recipient area. You can relax. No more anaesthetic is needed as your head is already numb and it’s time for the surgeon and their talented technicians to complete the masterpiece that is your hair transplant. Sit back, chill, listen to the music, watch Netflix, even fall asleep if you like, in a short time you’ll have the hairline (or crown) of your dreams.
The Recovery – 2 weeks post procedure
LOOK AFTER THOSE GRAFTS! You’ve got this far, and you’ve been through the procedure, don’t let it all go to waste. Sleep on your back and upright for at least the 7 days, a travel pillow is advised. For the first few days ensure that you spray the recipient with the saline solution provided by your doctor every 30 minutes and keep those grafts moist. Still avoid alcohol and smoking! After a few days, it really starts to tighten up, scabs are forming and it’s tempting to pick, right? Avoid the temptation, you’re nearly there and the grafts are nearly safe! Continue with the washing regime advised by your surgeon and before you know it the scabs will be gone and those beautiful hairs are revealed. Look at that, hair where you never thought there would be hair again. The grafts are safe, indulge in life, exercise, have a drink, you’ve done the hard bit!
Heartbreak – 2 to 4 weeks post procedure
You have the head of hair that you’ve been dreaming about, but don’t get too attached, because it’s soon to be ripped away from you! Heartbreak is on the horizon and slowly but surely, shedding will occur due to the trauma the scalp goes through after a hair transplant. You’re back to square one as your balding areas have reappeared, but fear not, this is all part of the process!
The ugly duckling – 1 to 3 months post procedure
In this period of your recovery it has never been more important to keep the faith. The hair follicles go into a temporary ‘sleep mode’ and you will see little or no progress for quite a while. This can hard to take because up until now you’ve seen nothing but improvement, and at this stage you don’t really see a change in the recipient area. You may shave your existing hairs in order to avoid an uneven look and although the recipient area may still be a little pink from the operation, this will improve as the week’s progress and the donor area should look pretty much as it did before the procedure.
Hope – 3 to 4 months post procedure
There you go, the hairs have started to show! The growth stage of a hair transplant has started and is based on two main factors: the ‘popping’ through of new hairs and their maturation. The ‘popping’ through of new hairs refers to when the hairs first start to show (looking little dots on the scalp) and maturation is the process of the hairs thickening and looking more natural. At the end of month 3, around 10% to 30% of the transplanted hairs will have ‘popped’ through and you will be excited for what’s to come! They are a little wirey and you have a lot of gaps but the hair follicles are waking up and you can expect the growth to accelerate over the next few weeks and months.
The magic – 4 to 9 months post procedure
Day by day, it just keeps getting better and better! By month 4 approximately 40% of the hairs have penetrated the scalp, 50% by month 5 and roughly 60% to 70% of the hairs should have made an appearance by the end of month 6. At the end of the 9th month you should be able to see 90 to 100% of the transplanted hairs and you could not be more pleased with the life changing decision you have made! The progress doesn’t stop there though, as maturation of all the hairs still needs to occur and it’s just going to keep thickening up! Buzzing!
Maturation – 9 to 18 months post procedure
The majority of the hairs have popped through and you couldn’t be happier, but it’s not quite there yet. Just as a baseline, after 6 months the new hairs are seen to be 40% matured and most patients are happy with the result at that stage. The hair still won’t lie flat however, and it appears at frizzy and very fine. However, between 9 and 18 months all your hairs will begin to mature and you can just enjoy the ongoing progress towards your perfect head of hair.
Most patients will see full growth by the end of the 12 month but it is important to point out that everybody is different and some people will see results much quicker (or slower) than others! This timeline is just a rough average of what you should expect in the 18 months following a hair transplant. If you find yourself seeing quicker or slower progress it does not mean that the outcome will be any better or worse than anybody else. All patients are unique in a physiological sense and everybody will see a different growth cycle. This is why many experts in the field will say that final, full results are not seen until 18 months after the procedure.
Remember, this is a rough guideline and this article has been written purely to give you an idea of what to expect if you are thinking about / going through the recovery process of a hair transplant. You need to hang in there, trust the process and wait for the magic to happen! If you’re interested click here, it might just be the best decision you will ever make.