Hair transplant procedures have come a long way from the days of those way-too-obvious hair plugs. While the exact technique will differ depending on which hair transplant method — follicular unit extraction (FUE) or follicular unit transplantation (FUT) — a patient chooses, the transplantation process usually starts with extracting and harvesting hair from the back of the head, where the scar will easily be hidden by the hair above it. But what about patients who don’t have enough hair for a scalp transfer? A body hair transplant (BHT) may be the answer.
What to Know About Body Hair Transplants
Oftentimes, body hair transplant patients who have hair excised from a donor site on the body to the scalp are repeat customers. “The number one reason for a BHT is lack of scalp donor supply from previous procedures,” explains Gary Linkov, MD, a New York City-based board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in hair restoration. In other cases, patients may need a BHT from the start. “Ideal candidates can also have naturally thin, patchy hair with low density and/or injury to the scalp affecting the normal donor areas,” he shares.
Either way, typical donor areas include the beard, abdomen, chest, and back. Follicles from the arms and legs are typically not used because hair in those areas tends to be a bit too thin to be moved to the scalp.
Body hair transplants can also work the other way. Patients may wish to transplant hair from the scalp to the face or body (think: eyebrows, chest, and pubic area). This is a potential treatment option for those who have lost body hair as a result of chemotherapy, injury, and/or genetics.
Body Hair Transplant Procedures
Prior to a body hair transplant procedure, patients should avoid blood thinning medications and refrain from drinking or smoking. Additionally, the surgeon will advise patients on how to care for their hair in the lead up to surgery. Some donor sites may need to be shaved and regrown shortly before transplantation.
While the length of a hair transplant procedure largely depends on the donor site and how many grafts will be needed, body to scalp transplants can take up to 10 hours, which is longer than the four to eight hours usually needed for scalp transplants. The downtime and recovery associated with both procedures, however, is comparable. Bleeding, swelling, and bruising are to be expected, and the transplanted hairs should be handled carefully for the first five days to allow them to set properly.
The length of procedure, recovery timeline, and aftercare for scalp to body transplants is similar to body to scalp transplants, but Dr. Linkov says a key difference is that scalp hairs tend to grow at a more predictable rate post-transplant than body hair.
Body Hair Transplant Results
It can be daunting for patients to hear that they won’t see the results of their hair transplants for weeks or even months, but the good news is those results are permanent. Depending on the area that the hair was transplanted to, you may need to avoid strenuous exercise, getting your hair wet, and/or cutting it for five to seven days. After about three weeks, the shafts of the transplanted hairs will start to fall out and hair regrowth will start around four to six months post-op. Patients can expect to see final results for all forms of body and hair transplants within 10 to 12 months.
Body hair transplants encompass both scalp-to-body and body-to-scalp procedures, and they’re a good option for patients who don’t have a viable supply of hair on the scalp or want to transplant hair to an area other than the scalp. Aftercare and results are similar to traditional hair transplants, and permanent results will be seen in about a year.
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