Frederick Watkins, M.D., F.A.C.S. Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Are Hair Transplants Painful?

The story of Samson and Delilah championed the belief that long, natural-looking, healthy hair is the ultimate symbol of masculinity and strength. From ancient Greek images of Mt. Olympus gods sporting long, thick, wavy hairstyles to celebrities like Jason Momoa and Brad Pitt, long hair with a non-receding hairline on men appears to be coming back in style in a big way, partly fueled by the COVID-19 lockdowns of the past two years. Studies examining the psychological impact of male hair loss and thinning hair show that most men associate hair with attractiveness and youthfulness. In addition, men with a full head of hair tend to be more confident and relaxed when interacting with other men and women. Even gray-haired men prefer a head full of gray or white hair over losing hair. Unfortunately, many men can experience various degrees of hair loss beginning in their 30s or 40s. Although medications are available to treat male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), these medications are more successful with hair loss prevention than hair restoration. Today’s hair transplant procedures for men have come a long way from hair plugs and graft surgery. Washington Medical Hair Clinics offer state-of-the-art hair replacement and restoration techniques that are minimally invasive and fully approved by the FDA. We also provide our hair transplant patients with excellent recovery assistance to ensure they are satisfied with the final results. Request a free consultation by calling our hair transplant clinic at 1-888-793-4769. If more convenient, you can complete our online contact form to discuss your questions with a hair transplant surgeon at Washington Medical Hair Clinics.

Is a Hair Transplant Painful?

One of the first questions we get asked during consultations with patients is “does hair transplant hurt?” For people who have lower pain thresholds than others, the honest answer is–hair transplants are no more painful than any other minimally invasive surgical procedure. In fact, most hair transplant patients are surprised at the brief level of discomfort they experience during and after treatment. Before the actual hair transplant surgery begins, your surgeon will prep and numb the donor region and recipient regions with local anesthesia similar to the way dentists numb the mouth with novocaine. The pinching sensation of the fine needle entering your scalp lasts only a few seconds because the numbing agent takes effect almost immediately. As a result of the scalp being completely numb, patients feel nothing during the hair transplant procedure. The effects of local anesthesia generally last throughout your procedure day.

What are the Two Types of Hair Transplant Methods Offered at Washington Medical Hair Clinics?

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)

A hair restoration technique involving the transplantation of permanent hair (donor’s hair) to balding locations of the patient’s scalp, follicular unit transplantation is recommended for men who have moderate to significant male-pattern baldness. During a FUT procedure, the surgeon will remove a section of permanent hair called your donor region that is then divided into individual follicular units. These donor area graft units are placed on prepared recipient sites for assimilation with the scalp. To maximize growth elements contained in each graft, our surgical team uses special microscopes to precisely dissect follicular units without compromising the integrity of hair follicles. Our surgical team can transplant thousands of hair grafts in one session so that patients enjoy the benefits of a full head of hair as quickly as possible.

Follicular Unit Extraction

Follicular unit extraction (FUE technique) differs from FUT in several important ways. For example, FUE does not involve surgical removal of follicular (skin) units. Consequently, patients do not need stitches, and recovery time is faster than FUT recovery times. During an FUE procedure, our surgical team removes individual hair follicles singularly instead of multiple follicles at one time. This precise technique is accomplished with an automated, pneumatically-operated handpiece equipped with a powerful magnification device. The handpiece makes rapid rotational spins over each hair follicle to extract the follicle. Once a hair follicle is ready for implantation, the surgical team  implants the hair follicles in the locations predetermined by our surgeon Men who would make good candidates for FUE include those who want to wear their hair short (FUE does not cause linear scarring), have mild hair loss, or are interested in body hair transplantation for eyebrows, etc.

How Long Does Pain Last After a Hair Transplant?

Men undergoing follicular unit transplantation will naturally have a longer recovery time than FUE patients. Generally, discomfort after FUT lasts a few days post-op. Some patients may require pain medication during that timeframe. With numerous small wounds on the scalp going through the healing process, the scalp will appear slightly swollen and become itchy as recovery progresses. Discomfort after an FUE hair transplant procedure typically diminishes within a day, since no actual incisions are made and stitches are not used. Most patients report feeling normal the day after an FUE procedure. Some swelling may occur that does not impact the ability to go about your daily activities. The majority of patients do not require pain medication.

What Should You Do to Recover Correctly From Hair Loss Treatment?

Depending on certain medical factors, your doctor may have you wear bandages after hair restoration surgery for a short time to reduce the risk of accidental irritation to the scalp. If needed, you can take acetaminophen for discomfort (according to your doctor’s guidance) or be prescribed pain medication. Pain or other adverse symptoms that persist longer than what your recovery program determines to be normal should always be reported to your doctor as soon as possible. Tips for recovering from a hair transplant include:
  • Keeping your head as upright as possible to reduce fluid accumulation, swelling, and other side effects
  • Using cold compresses occasionally to decrease swelling and alleviate slight discomfort
  • Avoiding vigorous exercise (aerobics, weight lifting) that could exacerbate swelling due to elevated blood pressure
  • Not wearing helmets, hats, or other headgear over transplanted hair until your doctor says it is OK to wear them

When Can You Expect Results from a Hair Transplant Procedure?

The average time it takes for most hair transplant patients to see new hair is between six and 12 months. The normal hair growth cycle consists of the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. Extracted hair follicles will enter the resting (telogen) phase of the growth cycle upon transplantation. This means the follicles need to complete the anagen phase before hair regrowth occurs. Depending on a patient’s genetics, overall health, and other physiological factors, some patients may see a fuller head of hair sooner while others may take slightly longer than average to achieve desired hair regrowth. To support hair growth after an FUE or FUT procedure, patients may be prescribed Minoxidil (Rogaine®), which can be bought at any pharmacy store) or Finasteride (Propecia®) by their doctor. Finasteride is an FDA-approved, prescription-only medication for treating androgenic alopecia in men. It works by reducing scalp levels of a hormone that can cause hair loss when too much of it exists in scalp tissues. Minoxidil promotes hair growth by extending the linear growth rate of hair follicles. It also enlarges the diameter of hair follicles and shortens the hair growth cycle by restricting the telogen phase and lengthening the anagen phase.

How Long Do Hair Transplants Last?

FUT and FUE are intended to be permanent solutions to androgenetic alopecia. Since the hair follicles extracted during a FUT or FUE are removed from areas of the scalp resistant genetically to hair loss, a hair transplant procedure should, theoretically, provide permanent hair growth. However, there are some limitations and factors that can determine different outcomes for different patients, such as a patient’s hair type, age, and lifestyle. During your consultation, your doctor will discuss these and other factors to give you a better understanding of how long your hair transplant could last.

When Can You Return to Work After Hair Loss Treatment?

Most men go back to work within three to five days of FUE or FUT. Patients who work in construction or in a physically rigorous industry may need to remain off work another day or two, or until the doctor determines the patient is able to return to work without negatively impacting their healing time. To learn more about follicular unit transplantation or follicular unit extraction, please call Washington Medical Hair Clinics today at 1-888-793-4769 or use our contact page. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions about our hair transplant procedures and what to expect during and after treatment.
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