In 30 seconds…
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure to treat your hair loss, which involves moving hair from a “donor” area of your scalp to cover a bald spot. In the UK, a hair transplant is carried out at a private clinic and costs anywhere between £1,000 and £30,000.
Men considering a hair transplant also have the option of other medical treatments for hair loss that are cheaper and less intrusive.
Male pattern baldness (MPB) affects the majority of men at some stage in their lives, and increasing numbers are turning to hair transplants to regain a thicker head of hair. Though it’s been known to give great results, there’s no denying that a hair transplant is an expensive procedure with certain risks attached.
In this article, we sum up the key facts about hair transplants: what the surgery involves, potential side effects, and the cost of the operation. And, if you decide a hair transplant isn’t for you, we’ll discuss some alternative hair loss treatments to consider.
What is a Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure where hair is removed from an area of your head that still has healthy growth and transplanted to the part of your scalp that has little or no hair growth left. The treatment is usually only suitable for men suffering from MPB and not other forms of hair loss.
For a successful hair transplant, you need to have enough healthy hair left on your head to “borrow” – if the bald area is larger than the hair-covered area then a transplant is probably not the right solution for your hair loss.
Hair Transplant Surgery Explained
A hair transplant usually takes one day (four to eight hours) without the need for an overnight stay at the clinic. It’s carried out under local anaesthetic, so you’ll be conscious but won’t feel pain.
Currently, there are two main types of hair transplant surgery to choose from: Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (or Excision – FUE).
FUT vs FUE
FUT, also called the “strip method”, is the older type of hair transplant. First, the donor area on the back of your head is trimmed. Next, the surgeon removes a thin strip of skin and hair from the back of your head and the wound is closed with stitches. The surgeon divides the strip into tiny sections (called “hair grafts”), each with one to four hairs.
Each hair graft is then placed into a tiny cut in the scalp, in the pattern that was designed in consultation with the surgeon beforehand. This means that you will now have new healthy hair follicles (the “capsules” in your scalp that produce hair) in areas where the existing follicles have stopped growing hair, and this should result in better coverage in the future.
FUE is a more recent innovation in hair transplant surgery. With this procedure, the back of the head is shaved and individual hairs (with follicle) are removed one by one. After that, the operation is the same as in FUT – the hair grafts are inserted into tiny cuts in the scalp.
The advantage of FUE is that you end up with lots of tiny unnoticeable scars rather than one large scar that you’ll probably want to cover. So you’ll have a wider choice of hair styles after surgery.
Recovering From Surgery
After having a hair transplant, you’ll need to take several days off work to recover and be very careful of your scalp for at least two weeks. The clinic will probably give you a saline solution to apply to your scalp, and the surgeon may also prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory drug to reduce the risk of infection.
After about six days you can usually wash your hair gently. There may be redness or scabbing on your scalp: this takes around two to three weeks to heal after an FUT procedure and one to two weeks after FUE. If the procedure has been successful, you’ll usually start to see new hair growth after six months. However, the full results won’t be clear for 12 to 18 months.
Side Effects and Risks to Consider
Common, temporary side effects of a hair transplant are a tight, achy, swollen scalp and scabbing around the transplanted hairs.
There’s also a small risk of bleeding on the scalp, infection, or an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic. In addition, in rare cases it’s possible that the transplant will not take (i.e. the scalp rejects the new hair follicles) or that you’ll experience shock hair loss, where your natural hair falls out because of the trauma of the procedure.
Of course, there’s a further risk that you won’t be happy with the results of the transplant and the way your new hair looks, even if everything else goes smoothly. So you might need one or more further transplants, particularly if you’re young and your hair continues to thin over time.
How Much Does a Hair Transplant Cost?
As a hair transplant is cosmetic surgery, the procedure isn’t available on the NHS. The cost of a hair transplant in the UK at a private clinic is estimated to be anywhere between £1,000 and £30,000, but is usually between £3,000 and £7,000. Factors affecting the cost include the extent of your hair loss and the quality of the clinic. FUE treatment is generally more expensive than FUT.
For a safe and successful operation, check that your chosen clinic is registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and that your surgeon is listed by the General Medical Council (GMC). He or she should also be registered with a specialist body of cosmetic surgeons, such as BAPRAS.
Should You Consider a Hair Transplant in Turkey?
Thousands of men now travel to Turkey each month for hair transplants, and the industry is worth a huge $1 billion to the country’s economy. Patients are attracted by the lower prices in Turkey, with a hair transplant costing around £1,500 on average.
It’s certainly possible to get positive results from a hair transplant procedure in Turkey, and there are plenty of experienced surgeons out there. However, it’s important to do your research and make sure that the clinic and surgeon you choose are licensed by a legitimate governing body.
You could also make contact with men who have already had the operation and find out their experiences. This will help you make an informed decision.
Alternative Treatments for Hair Loss
There are various reasons why you might decide that a hair transplant isn’t the right solution for you. Perhaps you’re not keen on having surgery, the operation is beyond your budget, or it’s not convenient to take the time off work. Fortunately, there are still effective treatments open to you that are proven to halt or even reverse hair loss.
You could try a once-daily Finasteride tablet that helps to fight the hormone responsible for much of the hair loss associated with MPB. Or there’s topical Minoxidil, which improves blood flow to your hair follicles for stronger, healthier hair growth. Interestingly, if you do have a hair transplant there’s a good chance that you’ll need to use Finasteride or Minoxidil anyway – to prevent further hair loss.
These treatments are easy to order online and work with your existing hair for a naturally fuller scalp. Combined with a healthy diet rich in micronutrients, such as selenium, zinc, and biotin (vitamin H), Finasteride and Minoxidil provide effective and less intrusive treatment for hair loss.
Finasteride & Minoxidil
This powerful combo promotes hair growth by blocking DHT – a hormone linked to hair loss – and by increasing blood flow around your follicles.
If you’ve got some spare cash squirreled away and a good quantity of “donor” hair on your head, a hair transplant could provide an effective solution to your MPB hair loss. However, it’s important to weigh up the risks beforehand and choose a reputable clinic for the procedure.
Alternatively, if you’re not keen on surgery, it’s good to know that other effective treatment options, like Minoxidil and Finasteride, are available to tackle that bald spot.