Hair transplants have a high success rate in helping men regrow their hair at various stages of hair loss, but the procedure comes at a cost, and more often than not, the bill is the biggest barrier for men seeking this solution.
Plus, hair transplants are perhaps the most extreme method of hair loss treatment, and like any medical procedure, they come with a unique set of risks and considerations.
So before you decide to fork out the cash for a hair transplant, it’s wise to read up and learn as much as possible about whether this is right for you.
What is a hair transplant?
The modern-day hair transplant procedure involves harvesting individual follicles from hair-abundant areas of the scalp or body, and grafting these into more sparse sections of the scalp, like a thinning or balding area on the crown or a receding hairline.
Hair transplants are an effective and successful method of treating male pattern hair loss, and the procedure is typically performed in a specialist hair loss clinic under local anaesthesia.
How much does a hair transplant cost in Australia?
As a hair transplant is considered a cosmetic surgery, the procedure doesn’t usually qualify for rebates through Medicare or private health insurance, so you may find yourself looking at some relatively considerable out-of-pocket expenses.
Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE estimates, on average, hair transplants cost anywhere between AU$11,000 and AU$18,000 — though, in many cases, it can cost as much as AU$30,000 . The process may also need to be repeated over time as hair continues to thin.
The cost of a hair transplant will also be influenced by the type of surgery your doctor recommends, as well as the degree of hair loss. Basically, the bigger the balding or thinning area, the more the procedure is likely to cost.
Types of hair transplants
There are 2 main transplant methods used today.
Depending on your stage of hair loss, you can decide whether you want a hair transplant that takes the individual follicles — known as Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) — or whether you want a small strip taken out of the back of your head, often referred to as Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT).
FUT hair transplant
Follicular Unit Transplantation is sometimes referred to as the “strip procedure" .
It involves a hair transplant surgeon harvesting hair in narrow “strips," usually taken from the back of the scalp. The strips are then divided into individual follicular units of 1-4 hairs and transplanted onto the desired area of the scalp. This allows for more natural-looking hair regarding both individual follicular units and overall graft distribution.
One significant downside of this type of procedure is that it will leave a scar where the donor hairs were removed. This can be a concern for men who like to wear their hair short.
Follicular unit extraction, or FUE, is a more modern technique, and as of 2017, is the most popular form of hair restoration surgery . The process consists of extracting hair follicles from your skin and then inserting them back in the areas where you want hair to (re)grow.
While FUE leaves tiny circular scars in the donor area in a scatter pattern, these can be hard to detect even with short hair in most patients.
FUE is generally associated with quicker recovery times and reduced scarring. However, the procedure is more onerous and time-consuming.
Risks and side effects
As with any kind of surgical intervention, there are associated levels of pain and discomfort in recovery as well as the potential for complications during hair transplant surgery.
When going under the knife, there’s always a chance things can go wrong. Complications of a hair transplant can include :
- Adverse reactions to anaesthetic
- Excessive bleeding or wound infection
- Nerve damage or loss of sensation in the area
- Raised, reddened, or itchy scars
After the operation, you may experience bruising and swelling, numbness in the area, pain or discomfort, or a tight feeling in the scalp. You will also likely be required to wear bandages that will need to be carefully removed to avoid tearing at the wounds.
As with all surgery, the risk of complication is related to each patient’s personal circumstances and individual medical history.
If you are considering a hair transplant, be sure that your doctor performs a thorough examination to ensure the treatment is appropriate for you, and that you are adequately prepared for anything that might occur both during and after the procedure.
Are the results worth it?
As with most treatments for hair loss, your success may vary. It’s important to have realistic expectations as to what can be achieved, and a specialist doctor will help you understand your likelihood of success based on your individual hair loss journey.
Generally, patients with thicker and denser areas of remaining hair will fare better than those who started with less hair.
Hair transplant procedures can be incredibly effective in helping men regrow their hair and gain a new sense of confidence. It's worth noting, however, that while the grafted hairs will last, the balding process affecting the original hairs will continue unless medication is used after the transplant.
Dr Vikram Jayaprakash is an experienced hair transplant surgeon based in Melbourne.
Alternatives to hair transplant surgery
Not everyone can afford hair transplantation or has the patience or health to deal with potential complications that may arise. Thankfully, there are other options available:
One easy alternative is the use of wigs or hairpieces. Gone are the days of the obvious toupee, it's not uncommon for men and women of all ages to wear wigs.
Talking to a counsellor or doctor about any distress caused by hair loss can also help, particularly with your self-esteem.
Of course, what you use on your hair makes a difference too. We recommend using a specific shampoo and conditioner for thinning hair, like Pilot's Hair Growth Shampoo & Conditioner, which is designed to lay the groundwork for thicker, healthier, and happier hair follicles.
Pilot also offers non-surgical treatment options that include prescription medication and/or topical lotions. And best of all, it doesn't require any face-to-face appointments. Simply complete an online consultation with a practitioner and they will create a personalised hair loss treatment plan just for you. Then, your medication is delivered in discreet packaging to your home.
Lastly, remember that you aren't alone. Hair loss is a common and normal part of ageing, and for some people, this can begin at a young age due to genetics.
While we are almost positive that the coolest things about you aren't what your hair looks like, hair loss can be uncomfortable and upsetting to deal with. You aren't vain for considering all your options, but remember that there are options available.