Hair transplants have been around for a while, since the mid 20th century. However, modern hair transplants are still pretty new. They were developed in the mid 1990s, when surgeons discovered that they could isolate, extract, and transplant individual hair follicles.
The first modern hair transplantation surgery was named FUT (follicular unit transplantation). Until recently, this procedure was considered to be the gold standard when getting a hair transplant.
What is a FUT hair transplant?
FUT stands for follicular unit transplantation. In this procedure, a surgeon removes a strip of skin with healthy hairs from the person’s head. The wound is closed, and hair follicles are extracted from the strip of skin.
Healthy hair follicles are transplanted into the areas of the scalp, like the temples and crown of the head, that have been affected by hair loss. The American Academy of Dermatology Association says that this whole process is likely to take between 4 and 8 hours.
FUT is a great solution for people with mid-to-late stage androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness). If you let your hair loss progress to this stage, chances are that starting an FDA-approved hair loss treatment won’t work that well for you. Treatments like minoxidil, finasteride, and low-level laser therapy are likely to work best for people with early-to-mid stage pattern hair loss.
If you’ve been using an FDA-approved treatment and still feel like you’ve lost too much hair, a FUT hair transplant can also be a good solution. This surgical procedure can increase your hair density and restore your hairline while the FDA-approved treatment will prevent further hair loss from occurring.
Just be aware that a FUT hair transplant is not a cure-all. If you have a hair transplant and only have early-to-mid stage androgenic alopecia, you’ll keep losing hair unless you continually use a hair loss treatment.
Where are FUT hair grafts taken from?
The strip of skin removed during FUT is usually taken from the back of the scalp. Longer skin strip extractions may also run along the lower sides of the scalp. The hair follicles at the back and lower sides of your head typically aren’t affected by androgenic alopecia.
The size of the extracted skin strip can vary. According to a study in the Dermatology Online Journal, the strip is usually 1 centimeter wide and 8 to 14 centimeters long.
While the width of the strip is unlikely to be much wider (1.5 centimeters is usually the maximum width), the length can vary substantially. A report published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery says that the size of the strip is based on the person’s hair density. For example, if the goal is to transplant 2,000 hair grafts and the person has a low hair density, the skin strip could be as long as 25 centimeters.
Is the FUT scar healing process long?
You can go back to work a few days after having your surgery. However, FUT hair transplant recovery can take a while. Your scalp will likely feel swollen and a bit painful for the first few days after your procedure.
After the first week, you’ll likely feel itchiness and mild discomfort around the scar site. This will go away with time, and will get a lot better when stitches or staples are removed. The UK’s National Health Service says that stitches can usually be removed after about 10 to 14 days, while a study in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery says that staples are removed after 15 days.
Even when stitches or staples are removed, you’ll need to be careful after surgery. Make sure to always keep your scalp clean to prevent infection. Your doctor might recommend that you limit physical exertion for a while. They might also tell you to limit any activities that involve stretching your neck, like yoga, as this can affect the wound healing process and may increase the size of the scar.
When can I expect to see my FUT hair transplant results?
The American Academy of Dermatology Association says that most people can expect to see the results of their hair transplant in 6 to 9 months. However, it can take a full year for some people to see results.
Many doctors now recommend that people use minoxidil, one of the three FDA-approved treatment options for androgenic alopecia, before and after their transplant. According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, minoxidil may be able to help accelerate hair regrowth following your transplant.
What is the cost of a FUT hair transplant?
A FUT hair transplant can cost quite a bit. According to a review published in the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) Digital Commons, hair transplants range from $2,500 to $20,000 per surgery. Another review from the PCOM Digital Commons reported that the FUT hair transplant price per graft ranged from $3 to $9.
The cost of a FUT transplant varies for various reasons. You should consider:
- The country your procedure is in
- How experienced your surgeon is
- The number of grafts you’re having transplanted
- Your feeling regarding permanent scarring, as follow-up procedures may be required if you wish to hide the FUT hair transplant scar
Most FUT transplants involve the transplantation of around 1,500 to 2,500 hair grafts. This means that the cost of your transplant is likely to range between $4,500 and $22,500. Usually, you can find cheaper procedures offered in countries like Turkey, India, Thailand, and Korea.
FUT follow-up procedures
If you enjoy wearing your hair short, you may not be happy with the permanent scarring that FUT causes. The FUT hair transplant scar occurs to everyone who receives the procedure.
Ideally, FUT leaves a long, thin linear scar that can be easily hidden when your hair grows out, but some scars are worse than others. Larger scars may occur if:
- The extracted piece of skin was larger, wider, or longer than average
- There were post-procedure complications or infections
- The FUT hair transplant post-op instructions weren’t followed properly (e.g., you exercised too early on following surgery)
Additionally, a study in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery says that FUT transplant scars can appear small at first, then widen in the weeks and months following surgery.
If you’re worried about having a large FUT scar, don’t be – scarring doesn’t necessarily need to be permanent. Your doctor might suggest a variety of different options, including surgical scar revision, laser scar removal, scar tattooing, or another transplant surgery.
Out of all of these options, another hair transplant using FUE (follicular unit extraction) is the most popular option. FUE is a procedure similar to FUT, but involves the extraction of individual follicular units, rather than a strip of skin. According to the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery study and a study in the Dermatological Surgery journal, the hair for this procedure can even be extracted from alternative parts of your body, like your torso or beard.
If your intention is to have FUE to hide your FUT transplant scar, you’ll need far fewer grafts, which means that the transplant cost will be much cheaper. But if you’re intending to use FUE for both scar masking and as a second hair transplant (to deal with advancing hair loss) , you might be looking at a cost similar to your original surgery. The PCOM Digital Commons review reported that FUE hair transplants can cost $6.50 to $12 per graft.
Choosing a FUT vs FUE hair transplant
You’re probably wondering why you would get FUT, then FUE, when you could just get FUE. And honestly, it’s a reasonable question to ask yourself. The answer really depends on how many hair grafts you need and how much you’re willing to spend on your transplant surgery.
FUE hair transplant pros and cons
FUE is an excellent hair loss surgery. Since it only uses punch grafts that are around 1 millimeter in size, the healing process and recovery time are much faster than FUT. The pain and level of post-procedure discomfort you’ll experience are much lower, too.
However, choosing FUE may limit your treatment options. FUE has only been around for the last 20 years, making it harder to find a good surgeon who has enough experience. FUE is a lot more difficult than FUT because of the tiny size of the punch grafts used to extract follicles. In FUT, individual hair follicles are extracted, but the surgeon can do this with much more ease as they can put the strip of skin under a microscope.
If you’re already using a hair loss treatment and want to use your hair transplant to restore the hair around your temples and hairline, FUE could definitely be the right choice for you. However, FUE isn’t usually the first choice for people with substantial hair loss. FUE is a time consuming procedure that’s strenuous for the surgeon. According to a review in Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas, only a limited number of hair grafts can be transplanted in a single day. Most surgeons can only transplant around 2,000 FUE grafts in a day.
If you have late-stage androgenic alopecia, this means that your surgeon would need to perform multiple days of FUE transplants to give you results you desire. To reduce the time and cost of such a situation, most people who need to have a substantial number of hair grafts transplanted are recommended to have FUT first, then FUE.
FUE vs. FUT hair transplant scars
You might think that FUE sounds like the ideal procedure since it doesn’t leave a scar. But this is actually not true. According to a study in the Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, FUE still causes some scarring.
Post-FUE, people usually see hypopigmentation in the form of tiny, circular, discolored marks. This scarring is likely to be most obvious in people who have more melanin in their skin. These marks can be hidden using a cosmetic procedure like scalp micropigmentation. This is the same type of scalp tattoo that is recommended for people who are trying to hide their FUT scars.
A good FUT hair transplant results in a tiny, white, linear scar that can be easily hidden. You could expect your partner and hairdresser to notice it, but unless you like wearing your hair very short, most people won’t ever know it’s there.
Is a FUT hair transplant right for me?
FUT hair transplants are a great solution for anyone with extensive hair loss. If you’ve only just started looking at hair loss treatments and you’ve realized that your hair loss has gotten out of hand, a FUT transplant could be the ideal choice for you. FUT hair transplants are also a great choice for people with early-to-mid stage hair loss symptoms who don’t have the money to spend on a FUE procedure.
However, FUT hair transplants are not a permanent way to counteract androgenic alopecia. People who are still experiencing the early-to-mid stages of pattern baldness will need to use a hair loss treatment like minoxidil, finasteride, or low-level laser therapy in order to prevent their hair loss symptoms from progressing. If you choose not to use an FDA-approved treatment, you’re very likely to need a second hair transplant later on in life.