Of the millions of Americans who are stricken with thinning hair, over 100,000 decide to seek treatment through hair transplantation every year—and that’s a conservative number. For decades the amount of hair transplants per year, worldwide, has been on the upswing. The reason is obvious enough: Technology. Or rather, the myriad technological advancements in the field, including ARTAS, the robotic FUE procedure, and other breakthroughs for harvesting only the most promising follicular units.
But how long, exactly, does an entire transplant process take? What is the timeline for a hair transplant? Some of that depends on the kind of transplant your doctor thinks is right for you, while other factors are influenced by your overall health, and what stage of hair loss is being treated. In general terms, patients can expect the recovery time to take around 12 to 18 months.
Shown below are before and after hair transplant timelines for two of the most common methods for hair transplantation, FUT, and FUE.
Follicular Unit Transplantation
The FUT, or strip hair transplant, is a process in which a surgeon removes follicular units in strips from the donor area and transfers them to the recipient area. These strips are typically sutured closed and covered with the patient’s existing hair. First developed in the early 1950s, FUT was once considered the king of the hill for hair restoration surgery. And indeed, it is still being used to great success, though advancements in FUE technology have displaced it, so to speak, from its proud throne.
The FUT Timeline
- At an initial consultation, your doctor may recommend FUT surgery; this will probably take one day.
- On the day of surgery, a hairline will be designed that best suits patient characteristics such as facial features, race, and gender.
- Depending on the level of the patient’s hair loss, FUT surgery takes between 4 and 8 hours.
- For about one week after the procedure, the recipient area may turn slightly red and emit mild pain; these issues normally subside on their own but may also be treated with pain medications.
- During these first few days, patients will also need to wash their hair in the manner prescribed by the clinic.
- After about ten days the donor area is healing nicely, and it’s time to remove the sutures.
- Also after about ten days, some patients may begin to actually lose their donor’s hair; this is a common occurrence, and the hairs will grow back within a few months.
- Three to six months after surgery, a patient’s “shock loss” of the donor’s hair may continue, though the hair will grow back.
- After four to six months new hair growth is visibly apparent.
- In eight months the implanted hairs are completely grown and will continue to thicken and grow until about the thirteenth month after surgery.
Follicular Unit Extraction
FUE defines the process of extracting follicular units individually from the donor area and implanting them into the treatment area. A big advantage here is that the process does not leave a linear scalp scar. FUE surgery first came on the scene in 1988. Since then it has branched into several different modes and methods via one technological breakthrough after another.
The FUE Timeline
- There will be a consultation beforehand to determine what kind of transplant is the best for your particular condition.
- If FUE is chosen, the surgery takes between 4 and 8 hours.
- As with FUT, the treated area may turn red, with mild swelling, during the first week after the procedure.
- Also during this first week, swelling may develop around the eyes and on the forehead; this condition will subside by the end of the week.
- After seven days the donor area is healed, showing little to no signs that surgery has taken place.
- At the one month phase, the patient’s hair follicles may start to lose their shafts and shed; this is a normal part of the FUE process and is no cause for alarm.
- As time progresses to the second and third months, the transplanted hair will have noticeable growth and continue to thicken over the following months.
- By four to six months all of the patient’s new hairs are grown in and are still getting longer and thicker.
- After one year to around eighteen months, the final results of the FUE transplant are in place.
Because hair transplants continue to get more successful every year, more and more people of both genders are scheduling consultations out of hope that something can be done for them. It’s a reasonable hope considering the times, along with the number of clinics on the fast track to incredible hair transplantation results.