Hair transplant is a wonderful option for people who wish to permanently restore lost or thinning hair. However, it is important for individuals considering a hair transplant to understand what hair restoration can and cannot accomplish. Having realistic expectations helps set accurate goals which can contribute to a successful outcome. Realistic expectations make individuals less likely to feel disenchanted if their expectations are not met. What are the ways to set realistic expectations for a hair transplant?
What Is the Safe Zone?
First and foremost, patients need to realize that a hair transplant is not the process of growing new hair. The transplanted hair is just like it sounds: hair transplanted from one area of the body to another area. Donor hair from the head can only come from one section and that is the back of the head. This area of the head is often referred to as the “safe zone” and does not have the same genetics as other parts of the scalp. Therefore, it is not subject to the same hair loss for male and female pattern baldness. Patients should never assume that the small ratio of donor hair can cover the larger areas impacted by hair loss.
Hair Density and Caliber
Patients should keep in mind that donor density (hair per centimeters) and the caliber of hair follicles make a difference when it comes to realistic expectations and the final outcome. In general, the more donor hair that is available per square centimeter, the more hair that can be moved to the lacking areas. There is a limit to the amount of hair which can be removed in a single session and the amount which can be removed in total. Additionally, the caliber or diameter of each hair shaft can determine the appearance of the transplanted hair. Thick and coarse follicles will appear thicker when transplanted and provide the patient with more coverage. On the other hand, a patient with thin or fine hair in the back will have an equal amount of transplanted hair that appears thin when transplanted.
Maintaining Natural Hair after Surgery
Patients must also understand that hair loss is a progressive and ongoing condition that manifests itself as thinning hair and eventually results in hair loss. Although the transferred hair follicles are permanent, the natural hair will continue to shed without proper treatment. It is not necessary to wait until full baldness occurs since medications can be used, in combination with hair transplant surgery, to maintain existing natural hair. Minoxidil and finasteride are two of the most common medications used to maximize hair density. Choosing not to use these products, not following the product directions or the inability to use them due to side effects or complications may result in the need for additional hair transplants. These products are designed to maintain the density of the natural hair and their continued use is necessary to maintain the results gained from using them.
Other Factors in the Final Surgical Outcome
There are other factors which make a difference in the outcome of a hair transplant surgery and should be considered by the doctor and patient when setting realistic goals. These factors include:
- Not expecting the same hair density or hairline as their teenage years because hair density and hairlines change as patients age
- The perception of hair density can be swayed by the contrast of the hair and scalp as patients with dark hair and a light scalp may have more noticeable thinning hair
- Patients with curly or wavy hair have more dense hair follicles and gain better coverage than someone with straight hair
Overall, knowing the facts about hair transplants can provide a positive experience, a healthier head of hair and fulfilled expectations on the part of patients.