Are The Scars Of Hair Transplant Permanent?
For people who suffer from untimely hair loss, hair transplant techniques have come as a boon. In the last couple of years, the surgical techniques used for hair transplant have come a long way and many advances have been made to better these techniques. Many people who are considering getting a hair transplant surgery done often have one question on top of their mind – will the surgery leave scars and are these scars going to be permanent? The fact is that scarring is an inevitable byproduct of having a hair transplant surgery as scarring is considered to be the body’s way of healing itself following an injury. You should, therefore, be wary of any clinics that offer a ‘scar-free- surgery option as it is not possible to come out of a hair transplant surgery and remain scar-free. Nevertheless, how noticeable your scar is after the surgery does depend on many factors. Let us take a look at some of these factors and whether or not hair transplant scars are truly permanent.
Types of Hair Transplant Surgeries & Their Impact on Scarring
Whether or not your hair transplant scar is permanent has a lot to do with the type of surgical technique that is used for the hair transplant. As of today, there are primarily two major types of surgical techniques that are widely being used for hair transplantation and each type of technique is known to produce a different type of scarring.
Furthermore, apart from the actual surgical technique, your surgeon also has a big role to play in the amount of scarring you are left with after the hair transplant surgery. The more skilled and experienced the surgeon, the lesser the amount of scarring you are likely to be left with post hair transplant surgery. It is also worth considering that over the years there have been vast improvements in wound-closure techniques, in hair transplant, which also affects the type of scar you are left with.
There are many factors that have to be taken into consideration when determining the surgical technique for hair transplant. These include:
- Hair loss pattern.
- Quality and amount of donor hair available.
- Size of the scalp area where the hair has thinned out.
- Type of scarring one can expect after the hair transplant.
- Cost of the hair transplant procedure.
Ultimately, considering all these factors, you along with your surgeon/physician need to determine which hair transplant procedure is best suited and most effective for you.
FUE or FUT Hair Transplant: Which Procedure Leaves less Scarring?
The two most common hair transplant surgical procedures are the follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and the follicular unit extraction (FUE). Both these hair transplant surgeries have been proven to begin showing visible hair growth in the area of transplant within four to six months. As the hair transplant techniques are different, the resulting scarring from both these procedures is also different. Let’s take a look.
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)
The procedure of follicular unit transplantation, or FUT, involves the removal of a strip of scalp that has the hair follicles from the donor. This strip is generally removed from the back of the scalp and once removed, the area gets sutured together. Due to the suturing procedure, a pale scar of variable length is left behind. Sometimes the scar can run from one ear to the other or at other instances it can be of a smaller size, depending on the size of the strip of scalp that has been extracted. Following this, the hair follicle grafts are then removed from the donor scalp strip and grafted onto the recipient scalp area where required. Here, tiny incisions are placed for grafting of each individual hair. This type of hair transplant is typically an outpatient procedure and is performed under local anesthesia only. The stitches from the transplant are removed after 10 to 12 days. This hair transplant procedure causes more swelling and pain as compared to the FUE process.
The results of this hair transplant procedure, of course, vary from individual to individual. When performed by a skilled surgeon, you will notice that the linear scar left in the donor region will tend to get completely concealed once 2-3 centimeters of hair start growing in that region.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
The follicular unit extraction (FUE) procedure makes use of donor hair follicles that have been extracted from the sides and the back of the scalp. Your surgeon will remove the hair follicle graft one by one by utilizing micro-punch tool. Even during extraction, a small rounded scar will be left at the site of each extraction. The scar left is generally up to 1 millimeter in diameter. Depending on the amount of hair follicles removed in total (one follicle contains around 1 to 4 hairs), this can result in 100s or even 1000s of scars of these puncture marks. After healing, these hair transplant scars start looking like tiny white dots. Once the follicle extraction is finished, the hair follicles are then grafted onto the recipient scalp on the areas required. Here again, small incisions have to be made for the insertion of each individual hair follicle.
FUE is a painstaking procedure and it may take several hours to several days for this type of hair transplant surgery to be completed. Furthermore, the surgery may also need to be repeated several times during a course of three to four months in order to achieve a full head of hair.
FUE, similar to FUT, is also an outpatient procedure and is performed under local anesthesia itself. The difference here is that no stitches are required in FUE and therefore, the recovery time is usually shorter. In the FUE hair transplant procedure, the amount of scarring is more, but since it is spread over a larger area, the scarring often becomes less noticeable with time. Many patients also grow out their hair in the donor region to hide the hair transplant scarring. In the recipient areas, the incisions where the grafts are placed are very small and therefore, any scarring in this region becomes more or less undetectable when the hair transplant process is performed by a skilled surgeon.
Can the Hair Transplant Scars be Removed?
If you feel your scar bothers you or is too visible to the naked eye, then there are many procedures that are available to lessen the size of the scar that is usually left behind during the FUT procedure. However, the success rate of these procedures is not guaranteed and you will still have some scarring that will be left behind.
Another factor that comes into play is that with age, your scalp also starts to sag naturally. This natural progression of the scalp’s skin can make the hair transplant scars appear wider or more visible. Therefore, if you have undergone a procedure to reduce hair transplant scarring, then the results may not always remain the same over the years.
Another method that is sometimes used is to graft hair follicles using the FUE method onto the scar left over from the FUT procedure. How effective this procedure will be for a person is determined primarily by the thickness of the scar left over by the FUT method. In some rare cases, scar tissue can be thinned out by the use of medications, thus making this grafting procedure a more viable option. However, a key point to remember is that the ability of scarred skin to hold onto the hair grafts is not as good as that of healthy skin. Therefore, it is always better to discuss all your options with your doctor before you opt for any scar removal technique.
Concealing the Scars of Hair Transplant
Cosmetically concealing the scarred regions left behind after a hair transplant is also an option you can consider. Of course, the easiest method would be to grow the hair out over the affected donor hair transplant regions. However, there are some types of hair transplant scars, for example, keloid scars, that are harder to conceal. Keloid scars are raised in appearance and grow larger than the original surgical scar that has been left behind. These types of scars continue to grow over months or sometimes even years. However, not everyone gets affected by keloid scars and only some people are prone to such type of scarring. If you already have a keloid scar on your body, then you should inform your surgeon before you undergo any hair transplant surgery.
Some other methods of concealing your hair transplant scars include:
Fraxel Laser Repair. This procedure, often used together with scalp micropigmentation or tricopigmentation, may help reduce the appearance of a hair transplant scar. In this procedure, a Fraxel laser is used to target and remove the damaged skin present on the surface of the scar, thus helping stimulates the production of collagen once again in the dermis layer of the skin in the affected area. Fraxel Laser Repair also rejuvenates the elasticity and appearance of the skin of that area. Due to the fact that the
Fraxel laser repair method was not specifically designed for removing scars left over from a hair transplant, the results of this scar removal method may vary from individual to individual.
Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP). This is one of the most common procedures used for disguising your hair transplant scar. Also known as scalp hair tattooing or hairline tattooing, SMP is a permanent procedure that injects a pigment into your scalp, thus giving the appearance of having thicker hair. Many people, in fact, simply opt for using the SMP procedure rather than going in for hair transplant surgery. Similarly, SMP can be used to color in the scarred areas that are left behind post hair transplant surgery. The color of the ink is chosen to match your current hair color. The biggest drawback to an SMP procedure is that over time once your hair goes gray or lightens, the ink stays the same color, making it stand out in an awkward fashion. There is some discomfort associated with this procedure, similar to getting a tattoo done.
Tricopigmentation (TMP). Unlike SMP, TMP is a temporary procedure which uses semi-permanent ink to make the tattoo. The process injects the ink only into the top layer of the skin, the dermis. The duration the inking lasts in a TMP procedure depends upon the clinic you get it done from, with some clinics having a longer time scale as compared to others. However, in general, the inking lasts for anywhere between six months to three years.
For most people who undergo hair transplant surgeries, it is a safe and effective procedure for bringing back the look of thicker hair, which can work wonders for your self-esteem and confidence. However, scarring is going to be an inevitable part of any hair transplant procedure that you choose, whether it is the FUE or the FUT technique.
The FUE hair transplant procedure, though, may leave you will less noticeable scarring and might be the better option for those who are concerned about the amount of scarring they will be left with post hair transplantation. It is important that no matter which hair transplant procedure you choose, you undergo the procedure only with a skilled and experienced surgeon.
While scarring from hair transplant is permanent, there are many methods which can help you conceal or remove the scar. Covering the scarred region by growing out your hair is perhaps the easiest way of concealing the scars of hair transplant.