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Arab man showing his hair to represent hair transplant

Hair transplant explained - what happens in the surgery?

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Cagatay Sezgin from Dubai Cosmetic Surgery

If the hair on the crown of your head is thinning or your hairline is receding, hair transplant surgery could be for you.

And you wouldn’t be alone. In 2016, The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery estimated there were 600,000 procedures that year to resolve it – double the figure four years previously.

If you are thinking about having a hair transplant, it’s important you know the potential risks, rewards and how the process works.

Fast facts

  • Best results

    1 procedure

  • Duration of results

    Permanent

  • Back to work

    3 days to 2 weeks

  • Full recovery time

    1 year to 18 months

  • Price range

    10,000 SAR to 25,000 SAR

  • Treatment duration

    4 to 8 hours

  • Comfort

    Local anaesthetic

  • Treatment type

    Minimally invasive

What is a hair transplant?

A hair transplant is classed as cosmetic surgery, where a surgeon takes hair follicles from an area at the back of the head and then implants these onto the crown or front parts of the scalp, or any other area where hair growth has reduced.

There are two types of transplants: follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT). FUE is the more modern and popular method with less limitations and a higher success rate that FUT.

How does a hair transplant work?

The hair transplant procedure

If you choose to have FUT, a small strip of skin will be removed from the back of your head (this is known as the donor area), before being closed back up with stitches. It will then be split up into smaller pieces (as many as 3,000), some with just a single hair.

If you undergo an FUE procedure, your head will be shaved, and individual follicles will be removed straight from the scalp.

In both cases, small holes are then made in your scalp, ready for the hair to be transplanted onto the recipient area – this is known as grafting.

Between 500 to 3,000 hair follicles will be grafted during one session. To ensure it looks natural, this is done individually, which is why the procedure can take anywhere from four to eight hours, depending on how much hair you have.

Once complete, the area the hair has been extracted from will be covered with gauze.

You may have to have more than one session, depending on how large the area is. And if this is the case, they may take place a few months apart.

The result

You’ll be able to remove your bandages between two and five days after the procedure.

  • If you have FUE, you’ll have several tiny scars where hair follicles have been removed.
  • If you have FUT, this will leave one larger scar on the back of your head – although this won’t be visible unless your hair is very short. After around two weeks, any stitches are removed.

Don’t be alarmed when the transplanted hair starts to fall out after a few weeks – this will happen before it then starts to grow back, usually six months after the procedure. It can take anywhere from a year to 18 months to see the final results.

Remember, while hair transplants are more likely to work than not, there is a chance that you may not achieve the effect you were hoping for, and you may also need more treatment in the future.

Arab woman holding her hair to reflect a hair transplant

What else do I need to know about hair transplants?

Does a hair transplant hurt?

A hair transplant won’t hurt during the procedure, as you will be placed under local anaesthetic. Your scalp is likely to be sore afterwards, but you will be given medication to help with this and may have an injection to keep any swelling down.

You may experience some minor pain after the surgery, but this is easily treated with over-the-counter medication. It should only last a few weeks at the most. In the unlikely event that side effects persist for longer, you should speak to your doctor.

Who is it suitable for?

A transplant is usually suitable for men with naturally thinning or receding hairlines. While it is more common in men with male pattern baldness, women can also have transplants, in the case of female pattern baldness.

If you’re entirely bald, a transplant is not possible as the donor hair must come from your own head. It’s also not suitable for those with hair loss due to medication or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.

How much does a hair transplant cost?

Hair transplants can cost anywhere between SR10,000 and SR25,000 in Saudi Arabia. The price you pay is dependent on several factors, including the size of the area that is thinning.

How do I find a hair transplant near me?

It is a good idea to research treatment options in your area, focusing on experienced, qualified practitioners with strong patient reviews. Our clinic listings and locator can help you get started.

What are the risks?

If you go to a reputable surgeon, transplants are quite safe but there are small risks, including bleeding and infection, to be aware of. As the scalp has a plentiful blood supply, risk of infection is generally quite rare.

How do you look after your transplanted hair?

For the first two weeks after you’ve had a hair transplant, you’ll need to take care. Avoid washing your hair for the first few days, and it’s advised that you shouldn’t return to work for at least three days. Exercise should also be avoided, or kept to light movement, for around one month.

Alternatives

If thinning hair is affecting your self-confidence but you’re unsure if you want to have a cosmetic procedure, there are other options you can try first.

Hormone modulators like finasteride, dutasteride, or spironolactone can all help. As can some plasma treatments, but with these results can vary. Other alternatives include medications such as minoxidil or undergoing laser therapy.

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