With more than 50% of men over 49 years of age suffering from male pattern baldness according to most statistics and a lot of women having hairline problems as well, it’s not surprising that hair transplantation surgeries have come a long way in the past several decades. The quick progress that these procedures have made, however, also means that a lot of people don’t know exactly how effective they currently are.
So, to make things a bit clearer, let’s go over some of the key questions, including one of the more pressing ones – Is hair transplant painful? The quick answer here is that yes, hair transplants hurt, but not too much and the pain/discomfort from them should be perfectly manageable for most people. But to shed more light on the question, let’s first explain what exactly hair transplants are.
How do hair transplants work?
Hair transplantations are intricate procedures during which hair is taken from areas of the body where hair growth is still active (usually the sides and the back of the head) and is transplanted to the desired bald areas. Some procedures remove and transplant only individual hair follicles (follicular unit extraction – FUE) and others – entire strips of skin (follicular unit transplantation – FUT). Either way, the local anesthetic prevents any significant pain during the procedure itself.
The transplanted hair isn’t supposed to stay there permanently, instead, it falls off 2-3 weeks after the procedure. However, it’s followed by renewed hair growth in the treated area. Most patients have 60% hair regrowth by 6-9 months and 100% regrowth by the end of the year.
The procedure has become much more effective in the last several years compared to the 1990s and the 1950s when it was first attempted. A typical hair transplantation surgery takes 4-8 hours and includes anesthetic for the pain. And that brings us to the main question:
Are hair transplants painful and how much do they hurt exactly?
Yes, hair transplants do hurt a bit. During the procedure itself, the patients receive a local anesthetic so they don’t feel pain as much as mild discomfort – a pricking sensation as if from the touch of a pen.
After the surgery, most patients experience skin redness, tenderness, and a bit of pain for a few days but it’s nothing unmanageable. The majority of people don’t require any post-op pain meds but some prefer to take something light for the pain and/or anti-inflammatory meds. Usually, people are able to go back to work and to their standard everyday lives in a couple of days.
What to do after hair transplant procedures?
Other than taking your pain and anti-inflammatory medication, you’ll also want to avoid alcohol for ~5 days after the procedure, you’ll need to sleep at a 45 degrees angle for the first 2-3 nights to avoid swelling, and you might want to do ice compresses on your hair once per day for the same reason.
However, all this depends on the type and scope of the procedure so your doctor will tell you exactly what you need to do.
Are hair transplant scars permanent?
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) typically doesn’t result in any scarring other than the minuscule dots from where the hair follicles used to be but those disappear once new hair starts to grow.
Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) does require stitches for ~10 days and leaves a linear white scar. These scars can be treated with standard scar medications or you can use the FUE method to graft hair follicles over the FUT scar in order to hide it more quickly.