Cost, time and side effects of a hair transplant… get the scoop

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American Hair Loss Association predicts that almost two in three men in the US will have to deal with hair loss in one way or the other by age 35. And almost 85% of men will have thinning hair when they’re 50 years old. So, the chances are that you’re already part of this gang or will get there before long. 

Whether you’re beginning to feel your hair thinning or already have a bald spot, it’s probably affecting you every day. Hair loss can make you self-conscious and even dent your self-esteem. If you’re experiencing hair thinning or have been living with a bald spot for quite some time, you have a few options for reclaiming some of your lost hair.

Getting a hair transplant is one of those options.

Hair transplants in a nutshell

A hair transplant surgery adds more hair on your scalp patches where the hair is thin or where you’re balding. In this procedure, the hair is taken from your scalp or other body parts where the growth is thick. After the hair is taken, it is transplanted or grafted to the scalp’s section where you’re balding or have thin hair.

But like any other surgical procedure, hair transplants can break the bank. Aside from the procedure’s exorbitant financial costs, hair transplants come with side effects, potential complications and sometimes long recovery periods. So, you have to keep everything in mind before making the final decision of getting hair restoration.

In this explainer, we’re going to take a deep dive into every aspect of a hair transplant surgery. After reading this guide, you’ll definitely be able to make an informed decision. Let’s get started now.

The variety in hair transplants

In the 70s, hair transplants would’ve made you look like a gross doll. Back in the day, hair transplants were basically hair plugs located on those scalp portions that had thinning hair or balding spots. These hair plugs usually had a bunch of hair in small groups. 

So, if someone with hair plugs got a short haircut, these hair patches would get noticeable and unnatural. But things started to improve in the 90s — thanks to progress made by medical science and technology, hair transplant surgeries gave more aesthetic results.

Today, hair transplants can be done following two approaches — Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). Let’s give you a rundown on both of these approaches.

FUE 

This is a more modern approach in the world of hair transplants. This surgery involves removing single hair follicles and transplanting them on those scalp areas that are affected by hair thinning. For doing this surgery, the surgeon uses small micro punches so that the hair from the donor region of your scalp is removed with little to no scarring. Since it’s quite a meticulous procedure, FUE can take a lot of time when compared with FUT — and that’s why it’s often suitable when the surgery site is small.

FUT 

In this approach, hair transplants require harvesting a healthy hair strip from your head’s donor area. Generally, the donor area is taken from the portion located near the back of your scalp where having less hair won’t be so much noticeable. The strip of the hair is then attached to the scalp portion where hair thinning is evident. The biggest downside of this hair transplant approach is that it scars your skin. And having a scar on your skin becomes a pretty important consideration for many people.

The working of hair transplants explained

Both the hair transplant surgeries — FUE and FUT — are outpatient procedures. During the procedure, you’ll receive local anesthesia that’ll numb your scalp — that means you’ll remain awake during the surgery.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a hair transplant procedure will take anywhere between four and eight hours. On the other hand, a few complicated surgeries may even take a few sessions that’ll stretch over a single day. Once the procedure is over, you’ll likely be bandaged and provided with a few instructions on taking care of the surgical site by yourself.

Is getting a hair transplant costly?

Does hair transplant surgery cost a bomb? Well, the cost of the surgery depends on numerous factors. By and large, these factors range from where your surgery will be performed to the case’s complexity and the choice of the surgery variety — FUT or FUE.

Having said that, you’ll have to spend thousands of dollars. If online estimates are to be believed, the cost of a hair transplant ranges anywhere between $3,000 to $15,000. So, the bottom line is quite clear — hair transplantation isn’t cheap by a long shot.

A bunch of surgeons’ websites even detail the procedure’s cost up front. But that cost is usually a ballpark figure, which may be inflated depending on your case. And since hair transplants usually fall under the “cosmetic” category, your insurance company won’t help you in any financial way. If, however, your hair loss is because of an injury or illness, then the insurance company may cover you.

If you’re looking to get a hair transplant surgery on the cheap, then it’s better to consult your insurance company first. Basically, you need to check your coverage options much before you step into the procedure room.

Post-surgery care and recovery period

When it comes to any surgery, there are not just financial costs to it — there are even physical costs to pay. For example, if you’ve been bandaged after the surgery, you’ll need to be extra careful when you remove the dressings yourself at home. Why? Because dressings have a nasty and painful way of getting stuck to the wound.

Besides, you may even end up experiencing swelling in those scalp regions where the hair transplant has taken place. Some surgeons generally give steroids to reduce the effect of the surgery. And if you think you can wash your hair the next day after your surgery, then you can’t do that. Basically, once a hair transplant is done, you’ll be allowed to gently wash your hair only after a couple of days. Likewise, the doctor may even advise you not to wear any t-shirts or pullover shirts for a few weeks.

Depending on your case, the doctor may want you to follow a strict post-surgery topical minoxidil regimen. But it’s better to closely follow all the instructions related to the topical product — otherwise, using the medication may cause severe side effects including irritation at your scalp’s surgical site.

The length of the recovery period from a hair transplant surgery usually depends on the type of surgery you’ve chosen. For instance, if you’ve opted for an FUT procedure, then you can expect to resume your regular activities in a matter of two weeks or less. If, however, you opt for the FUE procedure, you can get healed in a period of two weeks; and then you can expect to resume your physical activities in another two weeks.

The complications in hair transplants

Before your hair transplant takes place, your doctor will give the low-down regarding all the possible complications that may happen. The most common complications that may happen post-surgery are as follows.

The alternatives to hair transplants 

No doubt, a hair transplant is a possible way for restoring hair. There’s even a less-invasive option that has worked for many people out there. The best part of this alternative? You don’t have to go under the knife.

There are two FDA-approved medications for treating hair loss among men. Both of these medications have proven to be super-effective in most cases — these medications are minoxidil finasteride. These drugs can slow down hair loss and even improve hair density. Years of scientific research have gone behind developing these drugs that’ll prevent hair loss. When it comes to consuming these drugs, finasteride is orally taken while minoxidil is topically applied.

Wrapping it all up

It’s absolutely normal to lose your hair and get concerned about it. Whether you’ve been losing hair for quite some time or you’re simply beginning to lose it now, it’s easily understandable that you’d like to do something about this situation.

A hair transplant can be effective for men who want to have those beautiful locks back on their heads — but that procedure has its shortcomings for sure. To top it all off, a hair-restoration procedure is time-consuming, costly and sometimes painful too.

But if you don’t want surgery, you have a couple of less-invasive and more cost-effective alternatives out there. Nonetheless, if you want a hair-restoration surgery only, then it’s best to consult a certified dermatologist or a doctor about all the options available to you.


The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are looking to use finesteride or minoxidil to treat your hair loss, consult with a doctor first. In fact, you can get started with a free online consultation right now