Is a hair transplant worth the cost?
Reviewed by our clinical team
There’s no denying that losing your hair, especially from a young age, can be a hugely distressing thing to go through. And while there are a variety of hair loss treatments available for male pattern baldness, lots of men consider and opt for hair transplants.
While a hair transplant might seem like a drastic solution, recent years have seen celebrities going public about their hair transplants, making the procedure more appealing.
In this article we’ll look at the benefits of a hair transplant, how the hair transplant procedure works, and the potential costs involved.
What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure used to move hair from one part of your head to an area that’s thin, thinning or bald.
Male pattern baldness, the most common cause of hair loss, is caused by over-sensitivity to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes hair follicles to shrink and stop functioning. After surgery, the newly introduced follicles should grow as normal and, provided the donor patch was healthy, not fall foul of the effects of DHT.
Hair transplant procedures
The concept behind a hair transplant is fairly straightforward. Small healthy hairs are removed from an area of a man’s body that is genetically resistant to balding (often from the back of the head). These hairs are then transplanted or “grafted” onto the balding area under local anaesthetic. Once implanted, they will be ready to grow again to replace the lost hair and, in theory, continue to be resistant to balding.
The procedure itself can vary in length, but hair transplants can take up to and over 10 hours.
There are two types of hair transplant - follicular unit transplantation (FUT, or strip method) and the follicular unit extraction (FUE).
Follicular unit transplantation
An FUT hair transplant involved removing a strip of skin with hair from the back of your head and dividing it into smaller pieces. Each of these pieces would usually have between one and four hairs. These pieces (known as grafts) are then inserted into tiny cuts made in the scalp.
The back of the head is stitched back up, you might have a small scar, but it shouldn’t be visible unless the hair is trimmed quite short.
Follicular unit extraction
The FUE hair transplant involved removing individual hairs from the back of the head. These hairs are then placed in cuts made in the balding patches. With this technique you might have lots of little scars, but they won’t be very visible.
Recovery and side effects
Side effects can vary from person to person. Some people might experience a tight, achy or swollen scalp and there’s the potential for scabbing where the hair was transplanted. Depending on the technique used – there may be some scarring in the donor area of the scalp. But hair should grow normally once it has been transplanted.
Most people who have a hair transplant can go back to work around three days after having the procedure, depending on your swelling etc. But you still have to be very careful with your transplanted hair for at least the first two weeks as the grafts may not be fully secure.
The stitches will usually dissolve/can be removed within two weeks, and after a few weeks the transplanted hair will usually fall out and start to grow back.
It’s good to remember that it can take up to six months for new hair to start to appear and up to 18 months before you see the full results.
Do hair transplants work?
Hair transplants can work for many men. However, the effectiveness of a hair transplant largely depends on:
- The quality of the transplant
- The nature of hair loss
If you’re going to get a hair transplant, research the clinic and its chosen technique beforehand. Get advice from trusted medical professionals, and consult your GP throughout the process. Although some men may be tempted to save money by getting a cheap hair transplant, this can be very risky. A badly done transplant, like any badly done surgery or cosmetic surgery, could lead to long-lasting damage like severe scarring and dangerous infections.
When to get a hair transplant
If you’re thinking about getting a hair transplant, it’s important you do it when you still have hair that can be transplanted into the balding areas.
Who can have a hair transplant?
Generally speaking, hair transplants are suitable for people with permanent baldness, for example male pattern baldness. It’s not usually offered to people with other types of hair loss which tend to be temporary, for example alopecia areata.
How long does a hair transplant last?
The main consideration, however, is that one hair transplant procedure is not always a lasting solution to hair loss. The younger you are, and the more severe your hair loss, the more likely it is that you will continue to lose hair after a transplant.
How much is a hair transplant?
Hair transplants are not covered by the NHS, so you will have to access on privately. Prices will vary depending on the nature of the transplant needed, but also might be impacted by the clinic you choose and its location.
A hair transplant in the UK can cost up anything from £1000 to £30000, so for most people it’s a hugely expensive option. So there are big financial considerations to be taken into account before taking the leap.
Other hair loss treatments
For everyone else experiencing hair loss who is reluctant to spend thousands on surgery, there are other options in the form of prescription hair loss treatments, such as:
Propecia, or it’s generic version Finasteride, is a treatment that contains the active ingredient finasteride which works to block the action of DHT. By blocking DHT, Finasteride and Propecia slow down the hair loss and in some cases cause regrowth.
Minoxidil, a well-known brand of this being Regaine, usually comes in a lotion or foam and is applied to the areas of the head affected by hair loss. It’s not 100% clear how this treatment works, but it has been found to be fairly effective at slowing hair loss.
Bear in mind, though, that these sorts of treatments must be taken on a long-term basis and – once stopped – hair loss can often resume.
To conclude: is a hair transplant really worth the cost? It looks like for some men, yes. And for others? Well, that’s for them to decide.
For more hair loss solutions, read our article on hair growth treatment or visit our Online Doctor service to request Finasteride or Propecia online.