Hair loss has been equated with a loss of vitality, youth, attractiveness and vigor for hundreds and maybe even thousands of years. First used in ancient Egypt as a protection from the sun, wigs became an aesthetic accessory for Europeans as early as 1675. Most often associated as a problem for men, women also suffer from the stigma of thinning hair. In reality, after age 50, we all have varying degrees of thinning hair.
Wigs and topical potions of all sorts were the only options for hair loss treatment until the middle of the 20th century. In the 1950s, doctors began to experiment with surgical solutions and the hair “plug” technique was widely used throughout the 1960s and 1970s. However, the plug method took larger sections of hair, typically 2-4mm, from donor areas in the back of the head and surgically grafted them to the balding area in front. Because the grafts were large and placed in straight lines, a doll-head appearance was the frequent result. Yikes.
Thankfully, hair transplant techniques have evolved tremendously and today’s gold standard for hair restoration is Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT). Natural hair grows out of follicles beneath the skin in groups of 2-4 hairs, called follicular units. Surgeons have figured out that some areas of the human head are genetically immune to balding. But they truly struck gold when they figured out that hair that is “born’ in one of these balding-proof areas will continue to grow even if it is moved to a bald area.
Hair transplant patients are usually given mild sedation and local anesthesia, and the procedure begins by surgically removing one or two long, thin strips of hair from the back of the head. As the patient receives sutures to close the donor area, the strips are taken to an on-site lab where several technicians carefully and painstakingly separate them into 1, 2, 3 or 4 hair follicular units using microscopes. The donor site is prepared with a antibacterial shampoo and then the surgeon uses micro scalpels to create miniscule incisions of varying angles. The ability to use random patterns and angles creates a very natural result that mimics original hair growth. The follicular units are then placed into the “holes,” which need no closure due to their small size.
The process is tedious and time consuming and may require more than one session if the area to be treated is large. The transplanted hair usually looks like stubble for several weeks before falling out around the 3-month mark and then growing in thicker and longer by 6-12 months. Results are permanent and even close inspection reveals no trace of a transplant procedure.
As you can imagine, FUT is not inexpensive due to the expertise, time and staff required. Most providers charge between $4 and $8 dollars per follicular unit. Sometimes the price is reduced as the number of units required increases. But compared to a lifetime of hair loss products, an argument could be made that FUT actually saves money in the long run.
Recovery is quick with the donor sutures being removed after about 10 days and the recipient site being red and swollen for just 2-3 days. When searching for a provider, it is highly recommended to select a doctor whose only business is providing hair transplant surgery. Due to the challenging and exacting nature of the procedure, only those professionals who specialize in FUT should be trusted to deliver satisfying results.
Lucky for you, it is no longer 1982. With research, patience and a willingness to invest in a more youthful you, modern hair transplant surgery provides natural and permanent results. Or, if you are like Larry David, you can always choose to be that diamond in the rough.
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