What Are Hair Plugs?
There are many reasons why someone can lose their hair, but androgenic alopecia, male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss have effects such as a receding hairline, bald spots and thinning along the crown.
If thicker hair is a thing of your past, you might consider cosmetic surgery to restore natural-looking locks. But are hair plugs the best option? To find out more, VEGAMOUR spoke to a surgeon and looked at the evidence — plus, find out what products you should use to encourage thicker looking hair.
The Science Behind Hair Transplant Surgery
Humans lose between 50 and 100 hairs daily, which usually goes unnoticed because new hair growth coincides. But if no new hair grows through, someone might be experiencing a different type of hair loss. Hereditary hair loss, traction alopecia, alopecia areata and specific cancer treatments can trigger permanent hair loss, which can be hard to accept.
If you've consulted with your doctors and concluded that your hair just isn't going to grow back, hair restoration surgery might sound tempting. Hair transplant surgery involves a surgeon removing hair follicles from an area of the head that has thicker looking hair to where hair is sparse.
What Are Hair Plugs?
Hair plugs were the hair transplant option of choice from the 1950s. Hair transplant and plastic surgeon Dr. Harikiran Cheruki explained, "Hair plugs are small pieces of skin that contain a little hair. These plugs are transplanted to the balding area where they will eventually grow new hair."
The plugs would cover the balding areas, but this aesthetic surgery often produced patchy and unnatural results. Patients were often left with a doll-like appearance, which did even out over time.
Plus, hair plugs of the past had plenty of potential complications. Side effects included:
- Excessive bleeding
- Ingrown hairs
- Unnatural results
By the early 2000s, medical technology had advanced, and hair plugs had fallen out of trend. They were replaced with more modern hair transplants.
Alternative Hair Transplant Options
Hair plugs have become almost obsolete, and the procedure has been replaced with follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT). The FUE and the FUT transplant procedures involve transplanting individual hair follicles that usually contain between 1 and 4 hairs. The approach vastly differs from the original hair plugs because surgeons can remove follicles and individual hairs one at a time rather than in big clumps.
Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT)
"FUT is the traditional hair transplant method which involves removing a strip of hair-bearing skin from the back of the head. The donor strip is then dissected into individual follicular units, which are transplanted to the balding areas. This method typically results in a linear scar at the donor site," Cheruki said. The FUT hair implant method first appeared in scientific literature in 1995, and by the early 2000s, it had become so popular it had replaced hair plugs.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
An FUE transplant is currently the most popular and most performed hair transplant technique. "FUE is a newer hair transplant technique that involves extracting individual follicular units from the back of the head. The follicular units are then transplanted to the balding or thinning areas. This method is less invasive than FUT and often results in quicker healing time," confirmed Cheruki. "However, it is more expensive and requires more time to harvest the donor hair." Compared to hair plugs and FUT, the FUE method has many benefits:
- Improved hair density
- Fast recovery time
- Less recovery time
- Natural-looking results
In FUT and FUE, real hair from the patient is used to ensure hair restoration. Synthetic hair implants are currently banned in the United States because they can cause inflammation and infection.
The Hair Restoration Process
Hair transplant surgery is generally an outpatient process, and, depending on your medical history, most people can go home the same day that the procedure takes place. Traditional hair plugs didn't produce the natural look patients receive from today's practices. Here's more about both FUT and FUE hair transplant surgeries.
How Does FUT Work?
The FUT procedure includes a surgeon cutting an appropriate size strip of skin (hair grafts) from the scalp to cover the bald spot. The surgery can take between four and eight hours, and this type of hair transplant is generally faster than the FUE process. The process will likely look like this:
- Your surgeon will redraw your desired hairline and recipient area and mark the area of hair extraction. They'll take photos for your records, and local anesthesia will be applied to the scalp. You might also be offered a sedative.
- The hair at the donor site will be trimmed.
- Your surgeon will cut out the strip of hair that will cover balding areas while you stay awake.
- A technician will remove individual follicles and prepare them for transplantation.
- Sutures will be used to close your scalp.
- In a pattern that looks natural, the hair follicles will be inserted into the balding areas.
- Antibiotics will be administered, and bandages applied.
Most people wait between 6-9 months before they start seeing results. The following conditions make a good FUT candidate:
- Age: FUT is typically performed on people over the age of 25.
- Hair thickness: Those with a high hair follicle density generally respond best to treatment.
- Placement: If you've lost hair around the front of your head (in an M shape), FUT could be a good option.
- Hair color: People with hair color that's a similar shade to their skin make the best candidates as there is less color contrast.
How Does FUE Work?
The FUE procedure is currently the most popular option for all types of hair. Benefits include:
- Fast healing time
- Less pain post-surgery
- No significant scarring
- Suitable for those with poor hair thickness
With FUE, the back of the head is shaved, and individual follicles are removed, one by one, which can take several hours. The individual follicles are then placed into tiny cuts made by your surgeon where new hair is needed. The process should only take a day, and you will likely be given a spray to help with recovery and encourage hair growth. In approximately six months, the newly transplanted hair will start to thrive.
Risks and Considerations of Hair Transplant Surgery
A hair transplant is typically a safe procedure, but as with any surgery, there's always a chance of:
- Allergic reaction to the anesthetic
It's also a good idea to have realistic expectations and to discuss possibilities with your surgeon. There's always a possibility that the transplant won't take, or you might experience significant scarring. To avoid this, always go to a reputable medical provider and discuss all options with your surgeon.
Read More: Is Lemon Juice Good for Your Hair?
Natural Alternatives for Hair Thinning
If you're struggling with hair shedding but aren't experiencing baldness or extreme symptoms, consider GRO Hair Serum. The non-greasy serum uses potent plant-based ingredients to support a healthy and balanced follicular system. It also soothes the scalp and revitalizes hair roots. Clinical studies show that in just 90 days, users experienced increased hair density and reduced signs of shedding.
If you've lost a significant amount of hair and, after medical consultation, you know it won't grow back, hair transplant surgery could be your best bet. However, it can be costly, and you might have to travel to receive the best care.
Though some hair loss is unavoidable, taking a 360-degree approach to your hair health is best. Maintain a nutritious diet, be mindful of stress and maintain good sleep hygiene. Also, use plant-based topical and nutritional supplements to help encourage thicker, fuller looking hair.
More From VEGAMOUR
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- Why Exercise Should Be Part of Your Hair Growth Routine
- Seasonal Hair Loss Explained
- Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss: How to Tell the Difference
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