Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/14/2022
Two in three U.S. men will experience some hair loss by the age of 35, and by age 50, approximately 85 percent will have “significantly thinning hair,” according to the American Hair Loss Association. In other words, there’s a good chance you’re part of this club.
And whether you’re just beginning to notice your hair thinning or if you’ve got a shiny bald spot, it’s likely affecting your daily life, making you self-conscious and possibly affecting your self-esteem, according to the journal, Current Medical Research and Opinion.
Luckily, there are plenty of options out there if you’re interested in reclaiming some of the hair you’ve lost to time and life.
Hair transplants are one of those options.
If you’re considering getting a hair transplant, the information below can help you make a more informed, confident decision about whether the procedure is the right option for you.
A hair transplant is a cosmetic procedure that involves harvesting hairs from a certain part of your scalp (called the "donor site") and transplanting them onto a different part of your scalp.
In short, getting a hair transplant means taking hair from areas of your scalp that aren’t affected by male pattern baldness and moving it to areas that are thinning or bald.
Hair transplants work because not all of the hair on your head is affected by DHT, the primary hormone that causes baldness. By moving DHT-resistant hairs from the back and sides of your head to the front, a hair transplant surgeon may be able to give you a thicker, fuller head of hair.
Originally, hairline transplants involved removing and transplanting hairs using "plugs," which were groups of several hair follicles in clusters.
While hair plugs worked as a way to fill in a receding hairline, they typically looked unnatural due to the fact that hair grafts were grouped into separate areas, sometimes with a noticeable gap in between each "plug," according to an article published in the journal, Clinical, Cosmetic, Investigational Dermatology.
Today, hair transplants are much more sophisticated. Surgeons can harvest hairs using FUE or FUT methods (which we’ll explain a little further down the page) and transplant them in groups of one to three hairs, creating a hairline that looks and feels natural.
From an aesthetic perspective, a hair transplant performed by an experienced surgeon will look and feel just like a natural hairline, assuming you have enough donor hair available and the ability for hair growth on the areas of your scalp that need it.
There are two generally accepted approaches to hair transplants: Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). Each method produces a similar result, albeit witha few differences.
FUE is a more recent development in hair restoration surgery. It involves removing singular follicular units — or individual hair follicles — and transplanting them to a new area. To do this, the surgeon uses very small “micro punches” to remove the hairs from the scalp with minimal scarring, according to an article published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery.
The advantage of FUE is that it doesn’t produce a large scar. Instead, it creates hundreds of tiny scars that are much less visible after healing, especially for people with light hair that might not be able to completely cover a traditional "strip method" hair transplant scar.
FUT involves harvesting a strip of healthy hair from a donor area on your head, generally near the back where it is less noticeable. This strip of donor hair is moved to the thinning part of the scalp and attached.
The advantage of FUT is that, according to an article published in the World Journal of Plastic Surgery, transplanted hairs have a higher survival rate than hairs transplanted using the FUE method. However, the downside of FUT is that it creates a larger scar on the back of the head that’s visible with some short or shaved haircuts. It is also important to note that the success of either procedure depends on the surgeon or dermatologist performing the cosmetic surgery.
Understandably, FUE can take longer than FUT and is often most suitable for smaller areas of treatment. However, minus the scarring — which shouldn’t be visible if the hair on the back of your scalp is dark and thick -- both procedures produce the same natural-looking results in the hairline and crown area.
If you're interested in learning about hair implants vs. hair transplants you can read our blog on hair implants for men.
“I tried several different options before but Hims combined approach of all four methods by far created the best results.”
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“Cost effective and affordable. My hair keeps growing thicker, fuller, and at a fast rate.”
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“I decided to jump right in and I'm so glad I did. I definitely feel ten years younger!”
“In just as little over two and half months, I can really see the difference in thickness and in color.”
“4-months strong and my confidence boosted back up to 100% using Hims, future me really does thank me.”
“I’m a 34 year old father of two and have been using Hims for over a year now. My hair is back to what it was in my mid twenties.”
Both FUT and FUE hair transplant surgeries are done in an outpatient setting. You’ll generally receive local anesthesia to numb your scalp but will remain awake during the surgery. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates the procedures take anywhere from four to eight hours, and some transplants could take a few sessions over more than a single day.
The procedure involves removing the healthy hair and transplanting it to the affected area. After, you may be bandaged and provided with details on how to care for the surgical site at home.
Ballpark estimates are anywhere from $,000 to upwards of $15,000 or even more. However, as with any medical procedure, how much you pay for hair transplant surgery depends on numerous factors, including: the local market (or where you live and where you have your surgery performed), whether you opt for FUT or FUE, whether you have to travel for your surgery, the surgeon you choose and the complexity of your case.
Because hair transplant surgery is generally considered cosmetic, it’s unlikely your insurance company will help pay for it. If your hair loss is due to an illness or injury, however, coverage may be possible. If you’re looking at hair transplant surgery, the best thing to do is contact your insurance company to see about your options for coverage.
In addition to financial costs, there are physical costs to any surgery. If you’re bandaged, you’ll need to be cautious when removing the dressings at home, as they can stick to the wounds.
You’ll also experience swelling in the origin and areas of the scalp where the hair has been transplanted. Your plastic surgeon may give you steroids to lessen this effect.
You’ll be able to gently wash your hair two to three days after the procedure, but will likely be cautioned against wearing pullover shirts (including t-shirts) for several weeks.
Your doctor may also start you on a topical minoxidil regimen post-surgery, though you’ll want to follow their instructions closely as any topical product could cause irritation at the surgical sites.
Recovery time varies on whether you opted for FUT or FUE. In FUT procedures, you can expect your surgical areas to heal in two to three weeks and you can resume regular activity in a similar amount of time. In FUE, your surgical sites can heal in one to two weeks and you can resume regular physical activity then, according to an article published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery.
Your surgeon will discuss the possible complications in hair transplant surgery with you. Common complications may include:
Pain and swelling
Cyst development at the suture site
Heart problems during surgery
Before you consider a hair transplant, you should also know the following:
If your hair is genetically sensitive to DHT, it may continue to fall out after you get a hair transplant. This could mean that the hair around the transplanted areas gets thin, while the transplanted hair remains thick and healthy.
A hair transplant doesn’t create new hair. Instead, it involves moving hairs you already have into a new location. If you’ve already lost most of your hair, you probably won’t be able to restore your original hairline and hair thickness with a transplant.
However, for most men, a hairline transplant can produce a significant improvement in the appearance of your hair. Just make sure you have realistic expectations based on the amount of hair you still have left.
While surgery is a possible course of action for hair restoration, there are less invasive (and more affordable) options that have also been shown to work — and they don’t require you to go under the knife.
Two medications are approved by the FDA to treat hair loss in men and have been shown to be effective: minoxidil and finasteride. These hair loss treatments can slow hair loss and increase hair density, according to an article published in the Journal of Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery. Both drugs — minoxidil, which is typically applied topically, and finasteride, which is taken orally — are backed by years of scientific research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
There is also a topical finasteride option available. If you’re not ready to commit to taking a pill every day for hair health, applying a topical solution directly to your scalp may be the right option for you. Additionally, topical finasteride is also backed by research that says it works just as well as the oral option (according to an article published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.)
Getting a hair transplant is a significant decision that requires research and patience. Like all medical procedures, it’s important that you understand the effects, costs and limitations of the procedure before you go ahead.
Hair restoration surgery can be effective for men looking to take back their luscious locks, but it’s not without its caveats. It’s costly, it can take some time to heal and the process can be somewhat exhausting (and perhaps a bit painful). But the results are real, and they generally work.
Want to take action today? Our guide to stopping a receding hairline explains the root cause of male pattern baldness and lists a range of tactics you can use to stop hair loss and keep as much of your hair as possible.