An oft misunderstood term in the field of hair transplants is “donor hair”: people with hair loss
often imagine clinics full of lavishly-coiffed individuals willingly letting their hair be plucked out for the benefit of strangers.
In reality, the only donor in a hair transplant
operation is you: the donor hair comes from areas of your own head where it is more abundant than the places it is needed in cases of Male Pattern Baldness, the places with the strongest growth are typically anywhere but the front and the crown. Genetic hair loss affects the top of the scalp so donor areas tend to be at the back of the head or sometimes the sides.
Noted Californian hair transplant surgeon Dr Sanusi Umar (pictured) says he has observed
what he describes as a trend for “over-harvesting”. Writing on his website’s blog, he states that this has become “a worrisome habit of many novice FUE hair transplant clinics.”
FUE, incidentally, stands for Follicular Unit Extraction
, and describes one of the most popular hair transplant method currently available. In a nutshell, thousands of hairs are taken from the back of the head and individually re-implanted where they are needed. In the hands of a skilled surgeon, the replanted hair will continue to grow.
Dr Umar correctly states that bad FUE hair transplantation planning can lead to unnatural looking hair; he further claims that a classic example was a recent client of his who had visited another clinic to try and surgically correct his Male Pattern Baldness
. For a start, Dr Umar complains that the 10,000 hair follicles moved around the patient’s head were simply too many, and led to “scars, a depleted donor source, and aesthetically poor results.” The man wasn’t helped, says Dr Umar, by the fact that many of the implanted hairs failed to grow.
Dr Umar is in an unusual position compared to most hair restoration surgeons, and - whilst his concerns are undoubtedly valid - his rather unique modus operandi
does perhaps explain why he is so vehemently against the over-harvesting of head hair. Dr Umar champions the idea of using body and facial hair as donor hair instead, and has developed several tools and techniques to assist his work in this area. Using his patented UGraft procedure
, he claims to have corrected hair loss in some patients using chest and beard grafts alone.
While hair transplants are certainly better than they once were, they do come with a price tag of around £5,000 more still in big-name western clinics but significant less if you shop around and participate in a spot of medical tourism in places like Turkey and India. They are also not recommended for people under 25.
Hair loss treatment first
Following guidance from their hair transplant surgeon, what many men with genetic hair loss do is to first undertake a hair loss treatment course
featuring one or both of the only MHRA licensed and FDA approved medications for at least six months before the operation, to see if they can boost the number of hairs on their head. In some cases, the men turn out to be so impressed with the results that they cancel the operation and continue with their pharmaceutical treatment instead.
The argument that ditching the transplant in favour of this type of regime will turn out to be more expensive in the long run quickly flounders when people realise that the products that form the backbone of a hair loss treatment course need to be taken on an ongoing basis after a transplant, too.
Why? Because the hair in the areas surrounding the transplanted hairs will continue to thin which, if left unchecked can lead to a highly undesirable and unnatural-looking result. The testosterone by-product DHT
which causes thinning hair by attacking the follicles around the top of the scalp in men with a genetic predisposition to male hair loss will continue to attack the old non-transplanted hairs just as ruthlessly as it did before the op. It is currently only clinically-proven treatments that can address this.
Another way of looking at it: if weeds have ravaged your old lawn and you replace part of it with astroturf, the grass surrounding the freshly-laid area is still likely to wither if you don’t get busy with the weedkiller.