Over the past 10 years, demand for surgical hair restoration — i.e., hair transplants — has increased by almost 200%. Among the many reasons this procedure has grown in popularity, is the long list of celebrities who have happily admitted to undergoing hair transplantation to conceal their hair loss, like soccer superstar Wayne Rooney, who documented both of his FUE hair transplantation journeys in 2011 and 2013.
Another reason is that hair transplants are not as invasive as they once used to be. The procedure itself is performed under local anesthesia and sedation, so it’s nearly painless. And, under the care and supervision of a skilled hair restoration team, recovery is typically quick and simple. Here’s everything you need to know about recovering from hair transplantation surgery, important aftercare considerations, and expert tips for ensuring your results last a lifetime.
What Happens During Hair Transplantation Surgery?
Before we dive into the recovery and aftercare process, it’s important to understand what happens during a hair transplant procedure. Here’s a quick overview:
There are two hair transplantation techniques: follicular unit extraction, or FUE, and follicular unit transplantation, or FUT. Both methods are very similar but differ in how the hair follicles are collected.
With FUE, each follicle is manually extracted, one by one, using a specialized device that makes tiny circular incisions less than 2 mm in diameter. The surgeon then makes small holes in the recipient site(s) to gently implant individual hair follicles one at a time.
In contrast, with the FUT method, a thin strip of scalp is removed from the back of the head, making a linear incision that’s then closed with stitches or staples. Then, each follicle is carefully isolated and implanted into the balding or thinning area(s). Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages, but in the hands of an experienced and talented provider, both methods can achieve impressive, natural-looking results.
Hair transplantation surgery is performed under local anesthesia and light sedation to help you stay comfortably relaxed during the procedure. At the Foundation for Hair Restoration, Dr. Epstein uses a computerized wand-like device that slowly injects the anesthesia below the threshold of sensation in the areas of the scalp where the follicles are to be extracted. As a result, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort after the initial injections have been administered.
While hair transplant surgery doesn’t require strong sedation, we recommend that you have someone drive you home after the procedure.
Immediately After Surgery
What happens immediately following hair restoration surgery will depend on the technique you and your doctor choose for your transplant. With the FUE method, you can expect to leave our office without any bandages or compression wraps. If you undergo FUT hair transplantation, your doctor will dress the incision site in gauze to keep the stitches clean and keep any dirt or bacteria from entering the wound.
Right after the procedure, you will be able to see the shape of your new hairline, although the area is likely to be swollen, and there may be some scabbing around each implanted follicle. You may also experience mild pain and discomfort, which can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics and by applying ice for 10 to 20 minutes every couple of hours.
It’s important that you refrain from touching, pulling, or combing your hair during the first few days after the surgery. You should also try to sleep in an elevated position to minimize inflammation and speed up the recovery process. Avoid sleeping on your stomach or on your side. If you would rather lay on your back, rest your head on a soft, clean pillow and resist tossing and turning, as this could dislodge your newly implanted grafts. Do not wash your hair for at least 48 hours after the procedure.
1-2 Days After Surgery
You may be asked to come back to our office a couple of days following your procedure for a quick check-up. Many of our patients are able to go back to work just a day or two after hair transplant surgery. However, you should still refrain from doing any extraneous physical activity that causes sweating, including exercise, for a few more days.
During this time, swelling around the eyes and forehead is possible. Keep taking OTC analgesics and using the ointments given to you by your surgical team to help manage discomfort and inflammation. If you underwent FUT hair transplantation, continue following your doctor’s instructions for caring for your incision and stitches.
In the days following your restoration surgery, grafts will still be very susceptible to damage, so you must continue to avoid touching, combing, or rubbing your head.
5 Days After Surgery
By now, you should be able to wash your hair very gently unless your doctor recommends otherwise. You can find a detailed set of instructions, including recommended products and special considerations, in your aftercare package.
Most of the swelling and discomfort should have subsided. Your grafts likely have also taken to the new transplanted site and shouldn’t be as susceptible to damage. However, it’s essential that you continue treating the area gently and avoid scratching or picking at the scabs that have formed at both the donor and transplant locations — they will fall off on their own.
One Week After Surgery
Any lingering swelling and redness are usually gone by the seventh day. Pain should also be minimal and easily controlled with OTC medications. You may resume your normal activities, including light exercise, provided your surgeon doesn’t advise otherwise.
Two Weeks After Surgery
A couple of weeks following the procedure, you may notice that the transplanted hairs start falling off. Don’t worry! Many patients panic thinking they must have done something wrong and damaged the grafts, but that’s not the case. Shedding is completely normal and to be expected. It is part of the natural hair growth cycle and may continue to happen over the next six weeks. All hairs will regrow from the transplanted follicles within 4 to 5 months.
If you underwent a FUT procedure, your stitches will be removed 10 to 14 days after the procedure.
One Month After Surgery
All of the swelling and discomfort should be gone by now, and your head should be almost entirely scab-free. You can resume your regular routine, including swimming, exercising, and washing your head like normal. Transplanted hairs may continue to fall out and your hairline may look as it did before hair transplant surgery — be patient! New growth is only a couple of months away.
Three Months After Surgery
It’s normal to notice acne-like pimples in the areas where your provider implanted the grafts. This is known as folliculitis and happens because as new hair shafts make their way to the surface, some may become temporarily trapped under the skin, much like an ingrown hair. Don’t pick, pop, or squeeze them! Instead, apply warm compresses to reduce inflammation, and don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Six Months After Surgery
After five to six months, your patience will be rewarded with significant hair growth at the transplanted sites. Your new hairs will likely be very fine and fragile, but they will thicken over time. These are real, natural hairs, so you can wash, style, trim, and even dye them just as you would the rest of your hair. At this point, you can expect about half an inch (1 centimeter) of growth per month.
One Year After Surgery
The final results should be clearly visible about a year following your hair transplant, and you’ll notice that previously balding areas now have significant density and coverage. This is a good time to schedule a follow-up visit with Dr. Epstein to discuss whether you wish to undergo a subsequent procedure.
In the hands of a skilled physician, like world-renowned hair restoration expert Dr. Epstein, a hair transplant is a permanent procedure, so you will be able to enjoy your results for a lifetime. There’s no need to use special products or follow a specific regime to care for your hair, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle will definitely help maintain your results for longer.
Hair Transplant Side Effects
While hair transplantation procedures are very safe, they are a surgical intervention, and as such, carry some risks. These are some rare but potential side effects after a hair transplant:
- Scarring — very unlikely with FUE transplants; more common with FUT transplants.
- Infection or bleeding
- Inflammation of the hair follicles (folliculitis)
- Nerve damage or loss of sensation at the donor or recipient sites
- Scalp itching
- Inflammation around the forehead and eyes
- Crusting or pus drainage
Do’s and Don’ts After Hair Transplant Surgery
After the procedure, the success of your hair transplant depends on you following your doctor’s recommendations. There are also some habits you should avoid and others you should incorporate into your routine to ensure your recovery process is as fast and straightforward as possible. Here are some essential Do’s and Don’ts after a hair transplant surgery.
Do’s After a Hair Transplant
DO sleep in an elevated position using a soft pillow for at least 7 days after the procedure
DO avoid any physical activity that can cause sweating for at least 2 weeks after hair transplant surgery
DO apply ice in the sore or inflamed areas the days following the intervention
DO eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables to promote healing
DO drink plenty of water before and after the procedure, unless your provider recommends otherwise
DO wait at least 5 days until you wash your hair
DO keep your scalp dry, especially during the first few days after the procedure
DO avoid harsh shampoos
DO take medications exactly as directed
DO avoid direct sunlight after surgery for at least 2 weeks
DO wear a hat if you’ll be heading outdoors
DO ask your doctor for product recommendations, including shampoo and moisturizing conditioners
DO relax. While recovery after hair transplant surgery is pretty undemanding, you need to give your scalp a chance to heal. Try to use this time to rest and unwind.
Don’ts After a Hair Transplant
DON’T touch, pull or comb your hair immediately after the procedure
DON’T bend over, blow your nose harshly, or lean forward too much for a week after the intervention
DON’T smoke for at least a month after the procedure. Smoking slows down the recovery process and makes you more susceptible to complications
DON’T wear a hat, baseball cap, or head coverings for at least 72 hours following your procedure
DON’T sleep on your stomach for at least a week following the procedure
DON’T scratch your scalp or pick at the scabs that form after surgery
DON’T apply ice directly to your scalp. Instead, use an ice pack wrapped in a clean towel
DON’T drink alcohol for the first week after your procedure. Alcohol interferes with circulation and may slow down the recovery process
Schedule Your Initial Consultation Today
With over 25 years of experience and tens of thousands of satisfied clients, Dr. Epstein and his team at the Foundation for Hair Restoration are proud to be one of the leading hair transplant providers in the nation.
Click here to schedule a consultation or call us at 305-666-1774 for more information about pricing, surgical and non-surgical hair restoration procedures, or to book a private appointment in person or online with Dr. Epstein today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hair transplant recovery is a relatively short and painless process. For FUE hair transplants, patients can expect to be back at their regular activities within 3-5 days following the procedure. The recovery process for FUT procedures is slightly lengthier because patients have to allow enough time for the stitches and the incision site to heal properly.
It’s recommended that you wait at least 48 hours before washing your hair. However, you may shower or bathe at any time, provided that you keep your scalp completely dry. Your doctor will give you instructions on how and when to wash your hair during the recovery process.
You should wait at least 10 days until you wear a hat or head covering to avoid damaging the transplanted grafts. Once the area is fully healed, you can wear any type of hat or cap, and style your hair however you like.
It takes about two feels for newly implanted grafts to take after a hair transplant. During this period, the grafts are more susceptible to damage, which is why you should avoid fidgeting, combing, or rubbing your hair.
With FUE hair transplants, you may return to your regular activities within a couple of days after the procedure, provided you avoid extraneous physical activities that involve sweating or violent head movements. If you underwent FUT hair transplantation, you should be able to go back to work or school a week after surgery.
Yes! After your grafts have healed completely, you can perform any physical activity that you like, including swimming in a pool or in the ocean.
Shedding is a normal part of hair transplantation surgery. Also known as “shock loss,” hair loss after a hair transplant can happen as soon as two weeks following the procedure and can last for up to 12 weeks. It happens because the newly placed follicles enter a resting or dormancy period as a result of the trauma of being moved from one place to another. This is temporary and, contrary to what many people think, is not a sign that the scalp has “rejected” the implanted follicles. The hairs usually start to grow back and thicken over the next 4 to 12 months.
Unfortunately, not. Hair transplant or not, hair shedding is part of the normal hair growth cycle, which consists of three distinct phases: the growing or anagen phase, transition or catagen phase, and the resting or telogen phase, which is the shedding phase.
The procedure itself is performed under local anesthesia and soft sedation, so you won’t feel any pain. Mild to moderate discomfort can be expected for up to a week following hair transplantation surgery, which can be easily managed with OTC or prescription pain medications.