What are the Side Effects of a Hair Transplant?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
19th October 2021

In 30 seconds…

Hair transplants are safe, effective, and increasingly popular. Yet, like all surgeries, they can have side effects. Luckily, these are rare – and usually easily managed.

Most commonly, they include bleeding, itchiness and irritation, and crustiness and inflammation. The good news is that these can be easily managed with a combination of good aftercare, personal hygiene, and rest.

Unqualified or unprofessional surgeons, however, can produce poor results. For example, your new hair may not match the surrounding area. At Manual, we can help you find a surgeon you know you can trust.

Knowing the Risks of a Hair Transplant

Hair transplants move healthy hair follicles from one area of your scalp to an area where hair growth is sparse. It’s a procedure that has been tried and tested the world over – and it’s known to be safe and effective, and to deliver outstanding results.

Yet, a hair transplant is still surgery. And like all surgical procedures, side effects are possible. Before you commit to the process, it’s essential to know the risks.

Here, we’re taking you through what you need to know about the possible side effects of hair transplants – and the steps you and your surgeon can take to reduce the chances of them occurring.

What Does Hair Transplant Surgery Involve?

In its simplest form, a hair transplant involves taking hair follicles from one part of your scalp and reinserting them into areas where hair is sparse. These transplanted follicles continue to grow hair in the area where they have been transplanted.

There are two main forms of hair restoration surgery that you should know – and these differ in the chance and severity of side effects:

  • Follicular unit transplantation (FUT). This involves removing a strip of skin from the back of the head. This is then cut into smaller pieces containing one or two follicles which are reinserted into the balding area. The donor area will then need to be sealed – usually with stitches.
  • Follicular unit extraction/excision (FUE). An FUE hair transplant involves removing hair follicles individually and inserting them one by one into the balding area. A different removal technique is used here, known as a micropunch. As it’s less invasive, the chances of side effects have been shown to be lower.

Both methods are safe and proven to work. FUE generally takes less time to heal. However, depending on the area affected by hair loss, FUT might be preferable for you.

What are the Side Effects of a Hair Transplant?

Unfortunately, some side effects are likely in almost all hair transplants. That’s down to the simple nature of the surgery, as both donor and recipient areas will need time to heal. The good news is that, in most cases, side effects are really mild and easily managed.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Tenderness. Usually, the most common side effect is a mildly sore scalp.
  • Folliculitis. When they are moved, hair follicles can become inflamed. You might experience itchiness and irritation as a result. 
  • Skin inflammation and swelling. This can occur in the first week and can affect the scalp and forehead. It usually subsides within a couple of days.
  • Infection. After surgery, you will have lots of tiny lesions on your scalp. This can be attractive to bacteria. In rare cases, infections can occur.
  • Crustiness, scabs, pus leakage, and acne-like symptoms. Sometimes, the transplantation areas can become rough and crusty, and in some cases, a little oozy. This can be a sign of infection, but more often, it’s actually a sign that hair is growing back.
  • Scarring. It’s particularly common in FUT procedures, where strips of skin need to be removed. In FUE, you’re less likely to have a noticeable linear scar, thanks to the micropunch technique.
  • Loss of sensation. A rare side effect, sometimes patients can lose sensation in the transplant area immediately after surgery. It should come back.
  • ‘Shock loss’. This is when your transplanted hair sheds in the weeks after the surgery. It happens simply due to the shock of the transplant. But it will grow back.

Managing Hair Transplant Side Effects

Your surgeon will talk you through the best ways to manage the side effects of your hair transplantation. Usually, they will suggest the following:

  • Painkillers and antibiotics. This will keep irritation to a minimum (and prevent you from touching your hair) while reducing the chance of infection, too.
  • Regular, gentle washing. Keeping your scalp clean and moist will be necessary for helping your transplanted follicles to grow – and to keep them free of bacteria. It will also help remove any crusts. Washing your scalp in the shower is not recommended in the early days, however, as it can dislodge the transplanted follicles.
  • Different sleeping positions. Applying pressure to your scalp during sleep can affect the health of your follicles. You may need to try to sleep upright immediately after surgery.
  • The quality of your surgeon. Perhaps the most significant factor in increasing the chance of hair transplant side effects is a low-quality surgeon. Always ensure your doctor is qualified, accredited, and experienced. 

Other Possible Outcomes

In some cases, there can be more severe outcomes of a hair transplant. These again are much more common with unskilled or rushed surgery. These can include:

  • An unsatisfactory or unnatural look. In some cases, the transplanted hair may not naturally blend with the others in the surrounding area. It could be curlier, for example, or point in a different direction. Similarly, the hairline itself can be unsatisfactorily shaped. Unfortunately, this can be quite difficult to resolve.

This is why it’s crucial to find the right surgeon. Before agreeing to anything, ask to see your surgeon’s credentials, reviews, and success stories from previous clients. Furthermore, ensure that they are a member of the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery or the General Medical Council. At Manual, we can help you find the right clinic for your situation.

  • Continued hair loss. Male pattern baldness – the cause of the vast majority of male hair loss cases – is a progressive condition. That means your transplanted follicles can be susceptible to shrinkage and weakening, and hair thinning may return. The good news is that there are ways to prevent that from happening:
    • Finasteride. It’s a drug that prevents further hair loss by tackling the root cause of male pattern baldness. Many professional hair clinics will suggest you use this after surgery – to encourage new hair growth and to keep balding at bay.
    • Minoxidil. Another medicine that can help promote hair growth. This time it’s topical, meaning that you will apply it directly to your scalp.

Minoxidil and Finasteride can be used as standalone treatments for male pattern baldness too. Book a consultation with Manual to find out what the best option is for you.

Key Takeaways

Every surgery has possible side effects – and hair transplants are no exception. Side effects of hair transplants can include itching, swelling, and infection. But there are easy ways to minimise their risk.

When it comes to hair transplants, you must make sure you use a clinic that will give you the best results. At Manual, we can help. Book a consultation with us to find out your options.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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