In the movies, you can tell if a character is vain, an authority, a lover, a bad person, or simply funny and ridiculous just by his hair. That’s how important the hair is for a person — it’s almost like a mirror of who he is. It should be no surprise then that people, especially men, who suffer hair loss, will do everything to bring back their full, healthy, bouncy hair. In fact, one study found that nine out of ten men cite baldness and thinning hair as their top concern. Men stress over it and sometimes are obsessed with it. There are shampoos, scalp creams, and oral medicines that help grow hair. Hair growth formulas are a billion-dollar industry. However, when hair becomes too stubborn to grow, a hair transplant process is not far behind.
The United States is the largest market for hair restoration with over 100,000 procedures performed there in 2010. The International Society for Hair Restorations reported that the US is not alone in this trend. Globally, nearly a million procedures were performed in 2012. And the numbers are expected to increase in the coming years. Especially because a study published on WebMD showed that two-thirds of men suffer some degree of hair loss starting at age 35, even earlier for some. About 25% of men who suffer from male pattern baldness begin going through hair restoration procedures at 21. Luckily, with new technology like neo-grafting or Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), most patients are happy with the result and find the process worth it. But this is no magic. Anyone who decides to give it a go must know how to manage his expectations. Below is a list to help patients and potential candidates to keep it real. What really happens after your hair transplant surgery?
Yes, there is pain
You won’t be getting a full head of hair overnight or ever again. Remember that this is transplant, meaning transferring existing hair in other parts of your body to a more visible area like the head. It doesn’t pave the way for new hair to grow. After the surgery, your scalp will still be tender and pain medications may be required. An antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drug will likely be prescribed. One U.S. hair clinic that branched out worldwide with an affordable hair transplant clinic in the Philippines, Dubai, and Hong Kong encourages patients to sleep with their head elevated on pillows. You may also have to wear a surgical dressing or a ball cap over the scalp for a few days. The donor area may experience soreness and numbness.
There will be falling off
Do not panic when you notice some transplanted hair falling off. This happens within two to three weeks after surgery. This is because hair follicles enter a dormant phase. By this time, redness and swelling is usually over. But don’t worry, you would notice growth in a few months. According to WebMD, most patients will have attained 60% of hair growth after six to nine months. Within 12 – 18 months, hairs would have grown more than an inch. So don’t stress over hair fall and be patient with your hair restoration expectation.
There could be a take 2
Eight months after your hair transplant surgery, 90% of the traces of the procedure are mostly gone and hair can already be groomed. But between 8 to 12 months, the patient is evaluated. This is to find out if a second procedure is necessary. Second surgery is a possibility because balding is progressive among some patients. It also takes years before the hair loss pattern is established. A second procedure does not necessarily mean that something went wrong and the first one was a waste of time and money. More often than not, surgeon’s request a second procedure to achieve full restoration.
Don’t worry about the scalp too much
Aside from feeling tender, the scalp may be sore and swollen. Swelling up to the forehead frequently occurs especially if the transplant area is large. You will also occasionally spot ingrown hairs but that is temporary and easily controlled. Expect a temporary decrease in scalp sensitivity and will correct itself as nerves regenerate.
Don’t forget the donor
Soreness begins to disappear after three days to a week. Sutures begin to absorb after two weeks. After a few more weeks, knots at the ends of the absorbable sutures shed off. But after two to four months, residual numbness in the donor area will be gone.
Healing time varies
There are risks and side effects to a hair transplant process. This is why choosing the right surgeon is important. There could be scarring or infection. And while there are timelines to look forward to, remember that some people heal faster than the others. For some, stubbles of hair growth will begin after two months but might take longer for some. Closely working with your surgeon is important to track progress correctly.
You will regain confidence
Balding and thinning hair can lead to low self-esteem and even depression. Some men suffering from hair loss even find it hard to look at themselves in the mirror sometimes. But when hair restoration is successful, patients regain their confidence with every growth of hair noticeable. They don’t even have to worry about people who do not support their decision because a study by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery showed that 60% of men cannot even spot a hair transplant.
There are always risks involved in life-changing decisions such as a hair transplant surgery. Before you decide to proceed, have all necessary tests performed. Ask all the questions you want, ask about side-effects if any, and post-operation expectations. Manage your expectations well and do not think you will look like 20 again. It normally takes a year before patients can see the results so be patient and learn to let healing take its natural course. Sooner or later, you would find happiness in grooming your hair and you will feel renewed.