Are Hair Implants a Viable Solution for Men with Hair Loss?

Are Hair Implants a Viable Solution for Men with Hair Loss?
Dr. Patrick Carroll, MD
Medically reviewed by Patrick Carroll, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 3/6/2020

Not long ago, a receding or thinning hairline wasn’t something you could do much about. You could choose a hairstyle that covered up the thinning or bald spots, or take another approach and embrace the hair loss by shaving your head.

Today, balding men have a variety of options. If your hair is starting to thin or recede, you can stop further hair loss using treatments like finasteride and minoxidil. If you already have thin or balding spots, there are topical products that can add a little extra bit of aesthetic thickness.

There are also hair implants — artificial or natural hair that can be added to certain parts of your scalp to create thickness in areas where your hair is thinning, fill in receded parts of your hairline and give you a full, thick and complete head of hair again.

Are hair implants a viable solution? Yes and no. While procedures like a hair transplant, which use your own natural hair to fill in thin areas or recreate your hairline, are safe and usually have good results, artificial hair implants usually aren’t the best option for balding men.

Hair Implants vs. a Hair Transplant

Before we get into the details of each procedure, it’s important to know that hair implants and a hair transplant aren’t the same thing.

The term "hair implants" usually refers to artificial hair products that are implanted into the scalp in place of real hair. Usually, hair implants are used to add volume to balding areas or add hair to patches of the hairline where it’s receded.

An example of a hair implant is a product like Biofibre, which is a safe type of artificial hair fibre that can be implanted in a minor surgery.

"Hair implants" can also refer to old-fashioned hair plugs, which were an early form of transplant used to reverse the effects of balding.

Hair plugs have some major disadvantages, the biggest of which is the artificial look of the hair that results from large amounts of hair follicles being transplanted in each "plug." For the most part, hair plugs aren’t performed anymore as a hair restoration procedure.

Instead, most of today’s hair restoration surgeons use a procedure called "hair transplant" to move hairs from one part of the scalp to another.

Hair transplants are safe, widely practiced and fairly effective. In most cases, a hair transplant can be used to thicken up patches of thinning hair or completely restore a receding hairline with hair that looks and feels completely natural.

There are some limits to the effectiveness of a hair transplant. For example, for a successful transplant, you need to have the ability to actually grow hair on the thinning sections of your scalp as well as enough healthy hair for the transplant.

Additionally, if you’re completely bald and only have a horseshoe-like pattern of hair remaining on the back of your scalp, a hair transplant probably won’t be able to give you a thick, full head of hair.

The biggest downside of a hair transplant for some people may be  the cost. Procedures are generally thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of hair that needs to be transplanted and the complexity of the procedure.

Because of this, it’s usually cheaper and more effective to preserve the hair you still have, instead of letting it shed and "fixing" the issue with a hair transplant.

Remember, Hair Implants and Transplants Don’t "Cure" Baldness

While a hair transplant or artificial hair implants can add hair in areas where it no longer grows naturally, neither option is a lasting "cure" for baldness.

This is because male hair loss is primarily caused by dihydrotestosterone, or DHT — a male sex hormone that causes hair follicles to miniaturize and stop producing new hair over time.

Our guide to DHT and male hair loss explains the relationship between DHT and male baldness in more detail. If you’re starting to notice hair loss and want to learn why and how it’s happening, it’s worth a read.

If your hairline is receding or the hair on top of your head is thinning, a hair transplant won’t stop this from happening. All it will do is add hair back to the areas of your scalp that it’s transplanted to.

For example, if your hairline is receding and you decide to transplant hair from the back of your scalp to your hairline without doing anything to address the root cause of the hair loss, there’s a risk you could continue to lose hair even after the transplant.

This can result in some very unusual, unnatural-looking hair loss patterns, especially if the front of your hairline is made up of transplanted hairs that are invulnerable to male pattern baldness, while the rest of your scalp is made up of thinning, DHT-affected hair.

To address the main cause of baldness, you’ll need to use a DHT blocker like finasteride. Many hair restoration surgeons may advise you to take this after your hair transplant, sometimes with another hair restoration agent like minoxidil.

Using a DHT blocker after a hair transplant may reduce (and in some cases, completely stop) the speed of further hair loss. This means there’s less risk of the non-transplanted patches of hair starting to shed and ruin the results of your procedure. 

In one study of men with male-pattern baldness , researchers found that “therapy with finasteride 1mg daily from four weeks before until 48 weeks after hair transplant improves scalp hair surrounding the hair transplant and increases hair density” 

Do Hair Implants and Transplants Work?

Artificial hair implants and hair transplants using natural hair work very well to beef up thinning areas and add hair to bald parts of your scalp, albeit with a significant price tag.

However, neither option will stop you from losing more hair, meaning you’ll get the best results over the long term by taking action to stop further hair loss using a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor like finasteride to make sure you don’t lose any more of your hair.

Another factor to keep in mind is that the transplanted hair needs to come from an area of your scalp where the hair follicles are immune to DHT. If a hair transplant is performed using follicles that are affected by DHT, there’s still a risk of the hair eventually miniaturizing and falling out.

All in all, hair transplants can have great results. Even artificial hair implants such as Biofibre can potentially improve the aesthetic effects of male pattern baldness. However, neither will prevent further hair loss or cause your existing hair to become more resistant to DHT.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.