Kids who grew up in the ’80s are likely familiar with candy buttons — row after row of tiny candy dots stuck to a roll of paper you chewed off one at a time. Back in the day, that’s pretty much what hair transplants looked like, too — row after row of hairy, suspect-looking punctuation marks gathered in a dubious runway formation with embarrassing sections of scalp peeking through. While hair plugs were standard operating procedure in the last century, Dallas-based cosmetic surgeon Dr. Sam Jejurikar is happy to report that was then and this is now.
Dr. Jejurikar explains that while hair restoration is still a medical procedure that should only be performed by a specially trained surgeon, the science of hair transplant technology has evolved over the years into an art form. In the hands of a competent hair restoration surgeon, the results, once painfully obvious, are now nearly undetectable.
Am I a Good Candidate for a Hair Transplant Procedure?
In the Oct. 2021 Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, Robert H. True, M.D., wrote: “A hair transplant can be performed for any person with sufficient hair loss, good donor area hair, a healthy scalp, in good general health, and who has reasonable expectations. When the hair transplant is done by a well-qualified, trained, and experienced surgeon, results are natural and enduring.”
Historically, men have sought out hair restoration surgery more often than women. According to studies conducted by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery for its ISHRS 2022 Practice Census, of all hair restoration surgeries the prior year, 87% were performed on men and 13% were performed on women. However, as surgical techniques continue to advance, an increasing number of women suffering from hair loss are opting for surgical solutions.
The most commonly cited cause leading people of all genders to opt for hair restoration surgery is patterned hair loss (alopecia) — male pattern hair loss or androgenic alopecia, and female pattern hair loss, although not every person who suffers from one of these conditions is a viable candidate for hair restoration surgery. Candidates who are precluded from hair restoration surgery have been identified as having one or more of the following physical conditions: diffuse unpatterned alopecia, cicatricial alopecia, unstable hair loss, or insufficient hair loss.
Additionally, patients deemed either too young or medically unfit for surgery will generally not be given the OK for the procedure until such time as their bodies have sufficiently matured or upon recovering their health and receiving the go-ahead from a physician. Likewise, people who harbor unrealistic expectations — and those with psychological issues, including body dysmorphic disorder or trichotillomania — are not considered appropriate candidates for hair restoration surgery.
Dr. Sam Jejurikar Explains What To Expect From a Hair Restoration Consultation
Hair restoration surgery is never a one-size-fits-all procedure. That’s why a patient’s initial consultation with a prospective surgeon is so important. If a doctor is only trained in one method of hair restoration surgery, be cautious. There are several surgical options available, and some are better suited to individual hair loss conditions than others.
During your initial consultation, a surgeon should examine your scalp to determine the type and extent of your hair loss as well as your individual hair growth patterns. They should also gather information on your family hair loss history and obtain a thorough medical history background from you that includes information on any prior hair replacement treatments or surgery, any health conditions such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, blood clotting deficiencies, propensity for scarring, and any medications you’re taking (such as blood thinners) that might have adverse effects on surgery. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, will likely also be taken into account.
Finally, expect a prospective surgeon to discuss your recovery goals and expectations for your final hair restoration outcome. Dr. Jejurikar cautions that while there’s every reason to expect excellent results, you should be wary of surgeons who overpromise.
The ‘Before’ and ‘After’ of Hair Restoration Surgery
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to hair restoration surgery, that’s certainly the case. During your initial consultation with a prospective hair restoration professional, ask to see a gallery of before-and-after photos of their actual patients. Dr. Jejurikar says a reputable cosmetic surgeon will be only too happy to show you examples of their satisfied clientele. After all, pictures of positive outcomes speak for themselves.
So You’ve Decided To Get Hair Restoration Surgery. What’s Next?
Once you’re comfortable with a prospective surgeon, ask them to explain the planned procedure in detail. Find out which form of anesthesia will be used, and don’t be afraid to ask about any potential risks. Get an idea of how long your surgery will take and where it will be performed. Also, be clear about the cost of the procedure, including surgical personnel and facility costs, associated medications and dressings/bandages, and follow-up visits.
And again, don’t be afraid to discuss your expectations to make sure that you and your surgeon are on the same page regarding your results.
Dr. Sam Jejurikar on ‘Cutting Edge’ SmartGraft Technology
Thanks to advanced technology, an alternative nonsurgical hair restoration solution called SmartGraft is now available for many patients for whom traditional surgery was once the only option. SmartGraft is a precise, minimally invasive procedure employing a special grafting device that extracts grafts from the donor site. The procedure can be performed in an outpatient setting in one office visit with very minor discomfort (although the length of the procedure will be governed by the extent of each patient’s hair loss and the desired thickness of new growth).
Dr. Jejurikar reports other benefits of SmartGraft include little to no downtime, faster recovery, and quicker hair growth results. “Hair regrowth typically occurs in phases and your hair will likely shed during the first few weeks,” Dr. Jejurikar explained. “Most patients see a noticeable improvement within six months and full growth within 12 months of treatment.”
Recovery From Traditional Hair Restoration Surgery
After a traditional hair restoration operation, most patients report tenderness and pain in the scalp area. Surgeons generally prescribe pain medications to be taken for several days (or more) following surgery, and the affected area will be bandaged as well. Although most patients are able to return to work two to five days after the procedure, your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication to be taken over the course of several days and up to a week.
While it’s disconcerting, be aware that two to three weeks post-op, your transplanted hair is going to fall out. Dr. Jejurikar says this is part of the normal shedding cycle and is no cause for concern. New hair growth is going to take a few months, so be patient.
What Makes a Qualified Hair Restoration Surgeon?
In a statement on its website, the ISHRS has warned consumers to be wary of “the use of unlicensed technicians to perform aspects of hair restoration surgery, which should only be performed by a properly trained and licensed physician” because it “places patients at risk of: misdiagnosis; failure to diagnose hair disorders and related systemic diseases; and performance of unnecessary or ill-advised surgery, all of which jeopardizes patient safety and outcomes. There may also be a risk that unlicensed technicians may not be covered by malpractice insurance.”
That’s why, first and foremost, Dr. Sam Jejurikar stresses that the hair restoration surgeon you select should be board-certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (or in Canada by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada). Per the ASPS website, for a surgeon to obtain board certification they must: complete at least six years of surgical training following medical school, with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery residency training; pass comprehensive oral and written exams; graduate from an accredited medical school; complete continuing medical education, including patient safety, each year; and perform surgery in accredited, state-licensed or Medicare-certified surgical facilities.
If a prospective surgeon doesn’t meet these qualifications and have the credential certificates to back up their claims, don’t risk putting your health and safety in their hands.