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Understanding the Aftermath and Effects of a Hair Transplant

This article looks at the recovery process for hair transplants

Understanding how a hair transplant works and what is involved in the process, before, during and after, can help you decide what hair loss treatment is best for you. This guide looks at the aftermath and recovery process for a hair transplant, as well as answering questions about side effects and future hair loss.

What Happens After a Hair Transplant?

A hair transplant involves surgery so you will need to rest and allow time to heal after your treatment. You will, however, be allowed to rest at home immediately after the procedure. 

Generally, you will need to minimise any activities you do for the first two weeks but the initial recovery time will depend on the amount of hair you’ve had transplanted, your age and the state of your health. The fitter and more able you are, the less time you should need to recover. 

As well as resting after the procedure you will need to avoid:

  • Drinking alcohol for 48 hours.
  • Sleeping on the area which has had surgery. You will need to sleep propped up with the pillow provided by your surgeon for 7 days.
  • Taking any aspirin or ibuprofen for 1 week.
  • Operating heavy machinery and driving. You will need someone else to pick you up and drive you home after your treatment. 
  • Bending over.
  • Touching the new grafts for the first 5 days unless instructed by your surgeon otherwise.
  • Working during the recovery process. It is recommended you take 7-14 days off work to give you chance to relax and recover properly. This is more important where your job requires physical activity. 
  • Using chemical based products for 2 weeks including hair dye and gel.
  • Going in direct sunlight for 2 weeks and being away from strong sun exposure for 4 weeks. A cap can be used after 5 days.
  • Putting clothing over your head. Buttoned shirts are advised as opposed to t shirts.
  • Swimming in the sea for 14 days and in the pool for 28 days.
  • Wearing a hat for 5 days and a helmet for 15 days.
  • Eating spicy food for 2 weeks

As the anaesthetic wears off you may experience some discomfort so your doctor will prescribe some pain relief medication. The pain should only last a few days and will reside in the treated area as your scalp starts to heal.

Your doctor will give you full details on your aftercare procedure before you leave, and they will schedule an appointment for you so they can check how well your scalp is healing. 

How Long Does Recovery Take?

Complete recovery from a hair transplant is around two weeks, although you can start doing things as normally after 48 hours with restrictions. It is advised you take at least a week off work after treatment, although you may require longer if you work in a physical role. Two weeks is roughly the time it takes for the scalp to heal and you can start exercising and returning to normal activities afterwards. It is still worth being cautious with weightlifting and extremely strenuous activities for up to a month after the transplant but then there should be no restrictions. It is best to discuss your lifestyle with your doctor after your transplant, but you will get the all clear at a follow up appointment when they check the healing process.

Side effects of a Hair Transplant

Some side effects of a hair transplant are common, including: 

  • Mild pain initially after the hair transplant. You will usually be given pain relief medication to help with this. 
  • Swelling usually happens after the first few days of the hair transplant
  • Itchiness but it best to avoid scratching to ensure you don’t dislodge any of the hair grafts.
  • Small amounts of scabbing where the grafts are.
  • Scarring to some extent.
  • Loss of the transplanted hair which is normal. 
  • Bleeding.
  • Bruising around the eyes.
  • Infection or inflammation of the hair follicles. Folliculitis takes the form of small white-headed spots.
  • Thinning of the surrounding hair.
  • Cysts.

Side effects are usually mild and don’t normally last beyond the first two weeks. If side effects got worse or were present for a few weeks you should check in with your doctor. You will normally have a follow up appointment with your doctor after the transplant anyway however to check on the healing process. If you are unsure about any of the symptoms after your hair transplant it is always worth checking with your surgeon. 

Will a Hair Transplant Leave Scars?

Scarring will depend on the type of hair transplant you’ve chosen to opt for. FUT procedures leave a scar in the shape of a line on the back of the head where the strip graft was taken, whereas FUE procedures will involve several small dot shaped scars on the scalp. Any scarring shouldn’t be that noticeable. A good surgeon will perform the hair transplant at the base of the head so it can be easily covered by the newly grown hair. You should ask about scarring upon your initial consultation. Before and after photos of previous work can help you see how the scars will be covered.

How Long Does it Take for Hair to Grow?

The transplanted hair will need to fall out before new hair starts to grow in place. The transplanted hair will fall after a few weeks. Hair growth can take several months so you may not start seeing growth until six months after surgery. By 12 months you should start seeing the results but between 12 and 18 months is when you will witness the full benefits as the hair becomes thicker. It is possible during the earlier months after a hair transplant to lose hair surrounding the treated area. This is known as shock loss, but is only temporary and the hair will grow back as normal afterwards.

Hair Loss Treatments After a Hair Transplant

Hair transplants are effective at preventing hair loss in the treated area. They have a high success rate providing they are carried out properly and that you meet the criteria for a hair transplant. Hair loss however can still occur elsewhere on your head and transplanted hair will thin naturally over time, as will your normal hair. You may decide you need further hair loss treatment or another hair transplant to solve thinning in other areas on the scalp. This is best discussed with a consultation at the required time.