There are around 35 million men enduring hair loss or baldness in the U.S. alone. For 95% of them, the hereditary disease Androgenetic Alopecia, more commonly known as male pattern baldness (MPB), is the cause of their hair loss. In fact, genetics are the cause of 95% of hair loss among both men and women. For the other 5%, hair loss can be due to any number of things from stress to illness, diet, or medications.
Whether genetics are the root cause (pun intended) of your problem or not, hair restoration procedures can be the answer to your balding and thinness problems. Here’s how:
Follicular Unit Extraction
Follicular unit extraction (FUE), is a hair restoration procedure popular for its less invasive nature and rapid healing time. During FUE hair transplant surgery, hairs are extracted in individual groups or “follicular grafts” of one to four hairs. These follicular grafts are harvested using a specialized tool known as a punch which makes a tiny circular incision around the follicular unit. These incisions are typically .7 to 1 millimeter in size.
With a tweezer-like tool, the follicular graft is extracted from your skull. The hair loss specialist will then make similar incisions to the depth of each follicle along your skull at the recipient sites. This is perhaps the most intricate part of the FUE hair restoration procedure. The physician will make these incisions to exactly align with the direction and angle of your hair’s natural growth. Once the recipient sites are prepared, the follicular units are placed into these carefully crafted sites.
One- and two-hair follicular units are typically placed along the front of the hairline. In denser areas such as the crown, three- and four-hair follicular units are more commonly used. The entire FUE hair restoration procedure takes roughly eight hours to complete.
Thanks to the precision involved, the tiny incisions made at these sites will heal over the next few days. The exact healing time necessary varies depending on skin type, but most hair transplant recipients can expect to see the redness abate within four to five days.
Follicular Unit Strip Surgery
Another method of hair restoration is Follicular Unit Strip Surgery (FUSS). In FUSS, hair replacement is achieved by surgically removing a strip of non-balding scalp, known as the “donor zone,” and placing it in a balding area. The donor zone is often located at the back of the scalp and above the ears. The wound will be closed using esthetic stitches, leaving a small scar beneath the hairline.
The surgeon will divide the donor strip into thousands of individual follicular units. Recipient sites are created in the balding areas of the scalp much as they were during FUE hair restoration surgery. The grafted follicular units are placed into the recipient sites, thus allowing hair to regrow in areas of the scalp that were thinning or balding before.
FUSS is more invasive than FUE and has a higher complication rate. The grafting of a full strip of scalp will result in a scar at the back of the head. Although FUSS scars are hidden beneath your hair, some patients opt for scar revision surgery after completing FUSS.
Which hair restoration procedure is right for me?
Ultimately, the type of hair transplant surgery that’s best for you will depend on your particular condition. Your doctor can help you determine if FUE or FUSS is right for you. A major determinant in hair restoration candidacy is the amount of viable donor hair. The follicles need to be not only present, but also active and resistant to hair loss so they can repopulate the recipient sites.
The upside to MPB is that most men only experience baldness in certain areas of the skull, leaving many viable donor sites. In female pattern baldness, however, the entire scalp is often affected, resulting in fewer donor sites. Only a hair loss specialist can determine if you are a candidate for FUE or FUSS.
What are my next steps?
Whether you’re a candidate for FUE or FUSS, the best thing you can do for you and your hair is to make an appointment with a hair loss specialist. Starting the conversation is step one towards regaining the head of hair you desire.