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Hair transplant

A hair transplant is a procedure to move hair to an area that's thin or bald.

It's not available on the NHS because it's cosmetic surgery.

Having a hair transplant is a big decision. Find out as much as you can, so you know what to expect.

Read more about deciding whether cosmetic surgery is right for you.

How much a hair transplant costs

A hair transplant in the UK can cost anywhere between £1,000 and £30,000, depending on the extent of hair loss, the type of procedure you have, and the quality of the clinic and its team.

Who can have a hair transplant

A hair transplant is suitable for people with permanent baldness, the type that runs in families.

It's not usually suitable for people with other types of hair loss, such as the type that causes bald patches (alopecia areata).

What to think about before you have a hair transplant

If you're thinking about having a hair transplant in England, check the Care Quality Commission (CQC). All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery in England must be registered with the CQC.

Be careful when searching the internet for clinics that do hair transplants. Some pay to advertise their services on search listings.

Choosing who will do your hair transplant

It's important to find a surgeon who is qualified and experienced in carrying out this type of surgery.

All doctors must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). They should be listed on the specialist register and have a licence to practise.

Also, check the British Association of Plastic Reconstruction and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) website to see if the surgeon is a "full member" on the specialist register for plastic surgery.

Ask your surgeon:

  • about their qualifications and experience
  • how many hair transplants they've performed
  • how many hair transplants they've performed where there have been complications
  • what type of hair transplant they would recommend for you and why
  • what sort of follow-up you should expect if things go wrong
  • what their patient satisfaction rates are

Read more about choosing a cosmetic surgeon.

What a hair transplant involves

A hair transplant is usually carried out under local anaesthetic and sedation, which means you'll be awake but will not feel any pain.

There are 2 types of hair transplant.

Follicular unit transplantation (FUT, or strip method):

  • a thin strip of skin with hair is removed from the back of your head and divided into pieces, each containing 1 to 4 hairs (hair grafts)
  • the grafts are placed into tiny cuts made in the scalp
  • the site where the hairs are taken is closed with stitches
  • you'll have a scar on the back of your head, but it should not be visible unless you have very short hair

The head does not need to be shaved – only the area where the skin is removed is trimmed.

Follicular unit extraction (FUE):

  • the back of the head is shaved
  • individual hairs are removed 1 by 1 (grafts)
  • the grafts are placed into tiny cuts made in the scalp
  • you'll have lots of tiny scars, but they will not be very noticeable

Hair transplants usually take a day, but you should not need to stay overnight.

If a large area is being treated, you may need to have 2 or more sessions a few months apart.

Your surgeon will tell you how to look after your graft. You should be given a spray to use to help recovery and hair growth.

Recovery

Most people are able to return to work about 3 days after having a hair transplant.

You need to be very careful with your transplanted hair for the first 2 weeks after your operation. The grafts will not be secure.

You may be told to cut down on exercise in the first month to reduce scarring.

After 2 to 5 days: any bandages can usually be removed, but you should not touch the grafts.

Day 6: you should be able to wash your hair gently by hand.

After 10 to 14 days: any non-dissolvable stitches can usually be removed .

After a few weeks: the transplanted hair will often fall out, and later start to grow back.

After 6 months: new hair will usually start to appear.

After 12 to 18 months: the full results should be seen.

Side effects to expect

It's common after a hair transplant to have:

  • a tight, achy and swollen scalp for a few days
  • temporary scabbing where the hair was transplanted
  • a single scar or a number of very tiny scars

What could go wrong

A hair transplant is generally a safe procedure, but as with any type of operation there's always a small risk of:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic

Your surgeon should be able to treat these problems quickly.

There's also a small risk the transplant will not take and the hair falls out, or a noticable scar may form.

Your surgeon should explain how likely these problems are and how they would be treated.

Your hair might continue to thin around the transplant. Your surgeon should plan the design of the transplant to make sure the hair looks natural as time passes.

What to do if you have problems

Cosmetic surgery can sometimes go wrong and the results may not be what you expected.

You should contact the clinic where you had your hair transplant as soon as possible if you have severe pain or any unexpected symptoms.

If you're not happy with the results, or you think the procedure was not carried out properly, speak with the surgeon who treated you.

Contact the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if you have concerns about your care. If you need to, you can make a complaint about a doctor to the General Medical Council (GMC).

The Royal College of Surgeons also has more information and advice about what to do if things go wrong.

Page last reviewed: 6 August 2019
Next review due: 6 August 2022