Hair Replacement Surgery - Hair Loss & Hair Transplant Surgery Guide

For many men with male-pattern baldness, treatment consists of a number of steps until the right formula is found. First, most try Minoxidil as the most cost-effective, accessible and easy to apply medicine. If it works, they can carry on using it. However, Minoxidil does not work for around one third of users. The next step for these men is often to try the privately prescribed drug Finasteride. This is taken in tablet form and tackles the root cause of male pattern baldness by blocking the active chemicals within the body.

So what happens if neither Minoxidil or Finasteride work? The next avenue of exploration for many men is hair transplant surgery. In this article, we will look at the hair transplant surgery process and the reasons why some men may choose it. We will also look at how much it costs and whether there are any disadvantages to the procedure.

What is hair replacement surgery?

In most cases of male-pattern baldness, hair loss occurs according to a similar process. The hair first begins to disappear in the temple areas. Next hair loss becomes visible on the crown. Finally, individuals with male-pattern baldness are left with a fringe of thicker hair around the back and the sides of the head, with most baldness occurring on the top.

Hair transplant surgery, therefore, begins with a fairly simple idea: what if we could take the hair still growing at the back of the head and transplant it onto the top?

As with most simple ideas, the concept of hair transplant surgery has been talked about for a long time. In fact, the first hair transplant was attempted in 1952. But whereas the original idea is still the same, every aspect of the treatment has been refined, until over the last decade or so, hair transplant surgery has evolved and become far sophisticated. In every way - the skill of the surgeons, the techniques and procedures, the quality of the equipment and surgeries – the treatment has made vast steps forward.

How does the treatment work?

First of all, the surgeon identifies the ‘donor area’, usually the area of the back of the head where the hair remains thickest. Then the surgeon takes skin grafts which include the hair from the back of the head and transplants them onto the bald areas, usually the top.

Hair transplant surgery requires real skill, patience and attention to detail from your surgeon. Normally, skin grafts are categorised as either ‘micrografts’ or ‘minigrafts’. Micrografts consist of single hair transplants that are normally used for the more visible areas and to create a hairline across the front of the head. Minigrafts consist of transplants of around 5 hairs at once, which are used to repopulate larger areas on the crown of the head.

How are the grafts attached? Your surgeon will create small incisions in your scalp. The skill of the surgery is to angle these incisions in the right way so as to create a natural effect. 

The hair that is transplanted keeps on growing because the skin has been transferred with it. Therefore, the hair still has the growth potential it would have had if it had stayed on the back of the head.

Why choose hair transplant surgery?

One of the reasons that many men choose hair transplant surgery is because it is the only way to thicken the hair on their head without having to maintain treatment over a long period. With medicines such as Minoxidil and Finasteride, you have to apply a lotion or take a tablet every day. And if you suspend or stop your treatment, male-pattern baldness will continue.

As well as being a single procedure, the treatment is also relatively straightforward to undergo for the patient. It lasts no more than a few hours, requires a local anaesthetic and is virtually painless. You do not even require bandages when you leave the surgery.

Hair transplant surgery also has the advantage of providing regrowth within days. Also, Minoxidil and Finasteride will not cure your baldness, they will only strengthen and thicken the remaining hairs. So if you male-pattern baldness is already extensive, you may not have enough hair left for medicinal approaches to make a big difference. Therefore, hair transplant is the preferred option if you want visible results.

How does it look?

In the early days of hair transplant surgery, it is fair to say that most transplants did not look great. Imagine how the hair on a plastic doll’s head looks, and you’ve probably got the right idea. So what has changed nowadays?

Modern surgeries mean that surgeons have much better equipment and techniques for tackling detailed cosmetic procedures. Hair transplant surgery is now done using microscopes, so the work is very precise and there is far less wastage of hair when it is transferred from the donor area.

It is important that you take time finding the right kind of surgeon and learning about the transplant techniques that they use. Your surgeon should have gained a qualification from one of the following bodies: the Royal College of Surgeons, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons or the British Association of Cosmetic Surgeons.

Because hair transplant surgery effectively repositions existing hair, your hair will never look as it did before male-pattern baldness began. Unfortunately, there is no turning back the clock to a full head of hair! However, for the majority of people, it can be a real improvement and help them to regain their confidence and self-esteem.

Are there disadvantages?

One of the main advantages of hair transplant surgery is that it is not a long-term treatment. It is a relatively straightforward outpatient procedure and the results are usually visible within a few days.

However, in some cases, hair loss can continue. This is because, even though the transplanted hair can continue to thicken and grow, the existing hair around it may continue to weaken. This can look odd if it is allowed to continue, because the hair on your head can become patchy.

The only solution for this is more surgery, which can sometimes be required a few years after the first procedure. Obviously, this is not necessarily the end of the world – but it is worth considering, especially as hair transplant surgery can be an expensive treatment.

How much does it cost?

There is no single set price for hair transplant surgery. The best surgeons may be in greater demand and so may charge more for their expertise. Others may have invested in more advanced training, techniques and facilities, so they may be more expensive for this reason. Costs can also depend on the extent of work required and the number of grafts that need to be performed.

It is important that you shop around and find a surgeon who comes recommended and who you feel comfortable with. Some surgeons may offer a free initial consultation to discuss your treatment and expectations.

Usually, however, most hair transplant surgery costs between £2,000 and £5,000, depending on how many sessions you need with your surgeon.