What Is A Hair Graft And How Is It Created?
Hair grafting can be a life-changing procedure for men who’ve endured hair loss. Hair loss is common in men, especially as they age, and it can diminish self-esteem. However, isn’t just for men — women can also suffer from thinning hair in certain portions of their head, or patchy hair loss from certain conditions or surgery. In general, hair grafting is good for anybody who has a hair loss in a specific area or the head vs. global hair thinning. During a hair transplant, a surgeon removes existing hair from your scalp and moves it to a part of the scalp with no hair or very thin hair. The hair-bearing tissue removed is referred to as a hair graft.
There are two types of hair grafting procedures: strip harvesting (also called strip excision) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). There are benefits and drawbacks to each procedure, so it’s important to look into the pros and cons closely if you’re considering hair grafting.
Below, we’ll talk about the different types of hair grafts as well as the basics of the procedure.
What is a hair graft?
A hair graft, or commonly referred to as a hair transplant, is the small amount of tissue that is removed from the hair bearing part of your scalp. During a hair transplant, the graft is cut into smaller pieces that a surgeon then inserts into a bald or thinning portion of your scalp.
How is a hair graft created?
How a hair graft is created depends on whether you’re opting for strip excision or follicular unit extraction (FUE).
During strip excision, your surgeon removes a six to ten inch strip of skin from an area of the scalp where hair grows naturally. Then, they sew your scalp closed with stitches. Strip excision allows surgeons to harvest a very large number of grafts in a brief period of time.
During FUE, your surgeon will use an FUE device to dissect individual follicular units. These units are then conserved and primed for insertion into your scalp. Usually, FUE yields about two to three hairs per unit, but the surgeon does not need to remove a donor strip to create a hair graft.
What are the pros and cons of skin excision and FUE?
The main benefit of FUE is that it helps you avoid scarring in the donor area. This makes it the better option for men who wear their hair short or cropped. Also, if you’ve previously undergone a strip excision, there may not be enough scalp laxity left to do another excision. In this case, FUE is the better option.
Strip excision has been used much longer for hair transplants. For this reason, many people trust it over newer methods as not all surgeons are experienced with FUE. It can also be less expensive, depending on where you’re getting your procedure done.
What happens during a hair transplant?
Whether you’re going with strip excision or FUE, a hair transplant procedure is the same once the graft is extracted.
During hair transplant surgery, your surgeon clean the area where the graft goes. Then, they’ll create holes or slits for the hair graft. From there, they’ll place each graft in individually.
The length of the procedure depends on the size of the transplant. Most procedures last anywhere between eight and ten hours.
What is recovery like?
Immediately after your hair transplant, your scalp will be tender for a few days. You may need pain medication to manage as well as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. You’ll also need to wear bandages over your scalp for one to two days.
The recovery process for a hair transplant is fairly short. Most people can return to daily activities in about a week. The best way you can ensure a smooth recovery is following any medical advice your surgeon gives you.
The hair transplanted during surgery does not remain on your scalp long term. It falls out a few weeks after your surgery, but hair growth should resume within a few months.
What are the risks?
While hair grafting is usually very safe, every type of medical procedure comes with certain risks. Bleeding and infection are the most common risks immediately after surgery. Inflammation may occur when new hair starts to grow.
These complications can easily be treated, so contact your surgeon immediately if you experience any unusual pain or discharge.
Sometimes, people lose some of their original hair in the area where the graft was placed. This is called “shock loss.” While it can be concerning, the vast majority of the time it is not permanent and hair will begin to grow as normal within a few weeks.
Hair transplantation is generally a very successful, complication-free process that can bolster your self-esteem if you’ve suffered hair loss. Both types of hair grafting – strip excision and FUE – have benefits and drawbacks. To determine what’s right for you, talk over your options with a board certified plastic surgeon.
While the process can sometimes be lengthy, most people who undergo successful hair transplants are happy with the final results.
Ready to get started? Dr. Leif Rogers is an Ivy League-educated plastic surgeon with extensive experience in hair grafting procedures. If you’re interested in talking over your options, reach out here and someone will be in touch.