Hair restoration is usually performed by transferring hair from the back of the patient’s head to the balding area. The donor area on the back of the head is often referred to as the “safe zone” because this is the region of the scalp that is most resistant to hair loss. Therefore, it is a viable option for transplantation to the lacking areas. However, what happens if there is insufficient or depleted hair in the donor area?
Body Hair Transplant, or BHT, uses the patient’s body hair to fill-in the thinning areas on the scalp. The body hair often comes from the beard, chest, back, legs or arms. In some cases, BHT is performed alone but it is usually performed in combination with Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) or Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) to increase the density of the hair. Unlike the hair follicles on the scalp, body hair is more difficult to extract since the hairs may only have 1 or 2 follicular units. Therefore, it takes more grafts for optimal coverage on the scalp. Nevertheless, some patients find body hair transplant to be a solution for hair loss issues.
BHT can also be used to cover scars from the donor site of a previous hair transplant. Patients with hair loss at the hairline and temples may be able to successfully use the finer leg hairs in these areas for coverage in balding areas. Since beard hair is typically coarser, it creates a nice density to camouflage surgical scars.
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Due to the different characteristics of body hair, BHT for baldness is typically used as a last resort. Hair follicles on the body are deeper and the orientation is different than the scalp. Body hair tends to be more wiry and curly and its growth may peek at 5 centimeters in length. Due to these differences, body hair may not produce the same natural-looking results that a traditional hair transplantation can provide. Transferring these hairs to the scalp will usually not change the characteristics of the hair follicle. Furthermore, body hair may not be as long lasting as donor hair from the back of the head since they have a different growth cycle. While these aspects can affect the degree of success for BHT and cause it to vary, new techniques are being researched to perfect body hair transplant.
A Recent Study on BHT for Baldness
The results published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal in November 2016 suggest that hair restoration using the FUE method to harvest body hair for baldness may be a viable option for certain patients. However, it is important for the surgeon to match the characteristics of the body hair with the hair on the patient’s scalp. The surgeon must pay close attention to the hair color, texture, curliness, follicle diameter, shaft angle and growth rate of the donor hair. Therefore, a body hair transplant procedure can be quite extensive as well as costly.