Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant is often regarded as the most effective long-term solution to replace hair in bald regions. This includes conditions like androgenic alopecia (male and female pattern hair loss), damaged skin from burns, physical trauma or disease. FUE can also lower the frontal hairline or thicken the eyebrows.
However, as with most procedures, the longevity of the results is always an important concern. How long do the results of FUE hair transplant last?
Male/Female pattern hair loss – Androgenic alopecia
Before discussing FUE hair transplant, we should have some basic understanding of the most common cause of hair loss – Androgenic alopecia.
Androgenic alopecia is a result of hair follicles shrinking from dihydrotestosterone (DHT) damage. DHT is a hormone produced when our body breaks down the male hormone testosterone. When DHT travels to the scalp, it damages the hair follicles, causing them to shrink. This shortens the active growth phase of the hair and reduces the thickness of the hair shaft. Eventually, the follicles become too small to be viable and will stop producing hair, leaving a bald spot.
The balding always begins at similar regions and spreads outwards – which is the centre of the crown, hence the name “pattern baldness”. In males, the frontal hairline also recedes starting from the region above the temples.
FUE Hair transplant – How does it work?
FUE hair transplant involves the individual grafting of small “follicular units” of 1 to 3 hair follicles from a suitable donor area to the balding regions, thus restoring hair to these regions. The donor areas are usually at the side or back of the head, which are the least susceptible to DHT damage.
During the procedure, follicular units are extracted from the donor region using a specialised hair punch. The grafts are individually examined and sorted based on the number of follicles in the graft. These grafts are then skilfully planted into the balding regions to restore hair density.
Initially, the transplantation may shock the new follicles into shedding their existing hair, which is perfectly normal. After the initial shock has passed, the scalp will recognise the presence of the new hair and heal around them, creating new blood vessels to supply nutrients to these transplanted follicles. These follicles will eventually become fully incorporated in the scalp and start growing new hair, becoming practically indistinguishable from the original hair.
FUE hair transplant usually takes 4 to 8 hours to complete depending on the number of grafts. It is performed under local anaesthesia to minimise pain and discomfort.
Are the results permanent?
The short answer is: yes, FUE hair transplant is pretty much permanent once the transplanted follicles has successfully survived the transplantation shock and established themselves in the transplanted region.
This is because hair growth and health depend largely on the follicles. Damage to the existing follicles on the balding areas will not affect the newly transplanted follicles. Hair follicles that survive the transplantation will typically remain healthy in their new homes. Most of the time, the results last for life as long as patients take good care of their transplanted hair.
However, in practice, there are some key factors that determine if transplanted hair can last for a lifetime.
- Stage of hair loss/Health of donor follicles
Perhaps the most important factor in determining the longevity of transplanted hair is the health of the donor follicles. If the donor area has strong, healthy hair follicles with good vigour, the rate of survival is high and the transplanted follicles are less susceptible to damage in the long term. The healthier the transplanted follicles, the more likely they will last for a lifetime.
Conversely, transplanting weak, unhealthy follicles can lower the graft survival rate. Not only that, the transplanted grafts are less likely to last very long even if they do survive the transplantation. Even though FUE hair transplant can successfully address later stages of hair loss, it tends to have the most optimal results in the earlier stages as there are more healthy follicles in the donor areas. At the latest stages, even the least susceptible areas like the back and side of the head can become affected. With fewer healthy grafts, the likelihood of long-term survival falls. Hence, our doctors will advise those suffering from hair loss to seek treatment as early as possible.
The most crucial time in a FUE hair transplant procedure, other than the actual surgery itself, is probably the first few days after the procedure. Doing your post-care properly during this time will go a long way in ensuring both the short-term and long-term survival rate of your grafts.
- Shelter your head from sunlight and common irritants like dust for 1 to 2 weeks to facilitate recovery
- Pay attention to avoid touching your transplanted region unnecessarily, and prevent from bumping your head into other objects accidentally
- You should not wash your hair using normal methods like the showerhead. Instead, you should carefully clean your scalp with a sponge as instruction by the hair transplant team in after the procedure
- Apply the post-care medication regularly to the scalp to facilitate recovery
The doctor and his team will give detailed post-care instructions on the day of the procedure. Do follow these instructions closely as it can keep your transplanted hair healthy for a long time.
- Long-term maintenance
It is important to remember that DHT production is still ongoing after hair transplant, hence the processes causing hair loss are still present. Even though the transplanted follicles are healthier and more resistant to DHT damage, they may become affected eventually if the root cause of hair loss is not kept under control. Typically, this is done with the help of oral or topical medication.
The most common medication to manage hair loss is topical or oral minoxidil. It works by improving blood flow to the scalp, which promotes new hair growth from both existing and transplanted follicles. Male patients can also consider taking finasteride (propecia), which prevents the conversion of testosterone to DHT, reducing the damage the hormone can do. However, finasteride is not suitable for women as it interacts with male hormones.
In most cases, patients who have undergone hair transplant are able to keep their new hair for 10 years or more, with many still having strong and healthy hair even after a decade. Of course, it is likely that they addressed their hair loss issues early, and took good care of their transplanted hair for years after the procedure.
If you are having hair loss issues and are considering FUE hair transplant in Singapore, do contact The Clifford Clinic at 6532 2400 to arrange a consultation with our doctors. With over 10 years of experience working with patients to manage their hair loss, they will assess your condition and tailor a customised treatment plan for you.