Chances are, you’re going to experience some hair loss during your lifetime. It’s a condition dreaded by every middle-aged person, male and female. It’s this dread that fuels the demand for miracle hair growth solutions. You know the ads - Those glitzy animations of hair follicles sprouting out of nowhere like magic beanstalks. Here’s the truth of the matter; most of these elixirs and creams have very little if any scientific research to back their efficacy up. In fact, I’d say much of the anecdotal evidence my patients feed me is generally negative.
Here’s one procedure that’s actually guaranteed to work – Hair transplants. If you’re considering getting one done, here’s a quick primer on what you need to know before you go through with it.
What causes hair loss anyway?
Genetics, really. Male pattern baldness affects about 19 out of every 20 Singaporean males who experience hair loss. Other causes of hair loss include:
- Deficiency in Nutrients
- Excessive Pulling
- Side Effects of Medication or Hair Products
It’s imperative that you get an actual diagnosis from a doctor about the cause of your hair loss. The cliché that prevention is better than cure is actually really accurate. For example, if you’re losing hair mainly due to stress, then I’d strongly urge you to address that issue instead first before considering an actual transplant. Any hair loss treatment that doesn’t address the actual cause is potentially a huge waste of time and money.
What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that takes hair from one part of your body and transplants it to a different part of your body. The first hair transplant was done in Japan in 1939 using individual scalp hairs.
Which type of hair transplant is best for you?
There are two types of hair transplant available in Singapore: follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT).
Follicular Unit Extraction
FUE involves the surgeon shaving the back of your scalp, after which he/she will remove hair follicles individually from it. This area of your scalp will heal in time with some minimal scarring, which almost always will be obscured by the existing hair in that area.
After the extraction, the surgeon prepares the grafts and will create holes with a scalpel on the target transplant area. He/she will then insert each graft in the holes carefully. This is a long and delicate process which will take approximately 5 to 8 hours to finish, depending on the size of the transplant area.
Generally, FUE is generally more in demand due to it not requiring invasive scalp removal.
Follicular Unit Transplantation
In a FUT hair transplant, the surgeon removes a 6- to 9-inch strip of scalp from the back of your head. He/she will then set this strip aside and will sew your scalp closed.
After this, the surgeon and his/her team will divide the removed scalp into 600 to 2000 grafts, each containing 1 to 3 hairs. The procedure after this is then identical to a FUE where the surgeon carefully inserts each graft into the target transplant area. This whole process will take about 5 to 8 hours.
FUT is not as popular as FUE due to Asian skin being thicker and tighter compared to Caucasians, which makes it more prone to scarring. Hence, for the purposes of this article, I’ll be primarily discussing the FUE method only.
Are you a suitable candidate for a FUE hair transplant?
I usually recommend a hair transplant to my patients who:
- Have had a bad, ineffective or unsatisfactory experience with other hair loss treatments.
- Have hair loss on the front of the scalp or on the temples.
- Desire more facial hair, such as a fuller beard or thicker eyebrows.
Suitable candidates for a hair transplant procedure are those that:
- Have no major medical conditions
- Have a healthy donor area with enough hair for extraction
- Have a target transplant area with healthy blood vessels
What things should you expect from an FUE hair transplant procedure?
First of all, one thing you should remember before undergoing the procedure is that it will take a long time. As I’ve previously stated, the whole FUE hair transplant process will take about 5 to 9 hours in total depending on the size of the transplant area and other factors. One reason why it takes so long is because each hair follicle must be extracted individually by hand.
There are many steps to the procedure, but the whole process can be divided into 4 general steps:
- Shaving and Anesthesia
The procedure starts by shaving off the hair from the donor area to at most 1mm in length. Possible donor areas for hair include the back or sides of your head, underarms, and other parts of the body with hair.
After this, an antiseptic solution is applied to cleanse the area followed by a local anaesthetic to numb the area for extraction. This is the only part of the procedure that you will a bit of pain.
- Hair Follicle Extraction
The surgeon uses a special pen (diameter of about 0.6 mm) to extract the individual hair follicles. These hair grafts are then dipped in a special solution and stored for use later in the procedure. There will be some mild discomfort during the process but should be completely painless.
- Hair Follicle Inspection
The surgeon and his/her team will inspect each hair follicle using a microscope. They will then choose the best and highest quality hair follicles to ensure their survival after the transplant.
- Planning and Hair Follicle Implantation
The surgery team will then plan on which hair grafts will go into which part of your scalp. This is to make sure that the resulting hair will look as natural as possible. The surgeon will create holes with a scalpel on the target area and will carefully insert each of the good-quality hair follicles.
After the procedure, you might feel some burning sensation on your scalp for 1 to 3 days. This can be easily managed by taking some painkillers. There will also be some scabbing that will happen on the donor and transplant area but will usually fall off and disappear after a few weeks.
When will you expect your hair to start growing?
After the hair transplant procedure, don’t panic when the implanted hair starts shedding. This is a normal result of stress during the surgery and your hair will start growing back gradually about 3 months after surgery.
You will experience natural-looking hair about 5 to 7 months after surgery, where you should have a good amount of hair growing on your scalp. The best results happen in about 9 months, where you should a full head of hair due to the hair follicles developing fully.
If you have an important event coming up, make sure to have your hair transplant surgery at least 6 months before it.
Is a hair transplant procedure completely safe?
As long as you choose an experienced surgeon to do the transplant, the whole procedure should be safe. Hair transplanting has existed since the 40s and several breakthroughs have been made since then that has made it a very safe and reliable procedure. Just make sure that your doctor has the credentials and experience to perform the procedure and you’ll be safe in his/her hands.
There are risks only if the procedure is done by inexperienced hair technicians. Avoid them as much as possible as the procedure could lead to some bleeding, pain, and infection.
How can you manage your transplanted hair?
It is of utmost importance that you take good care of your hair in the first 14 days after the surgery. This will help prevent infection and also lessen the chance of your hair falling out.
Here are a few tips in managing and caring for your transplanted hair:
- Wait a few days before washing your hair. Recently transplanted hair and scalp will be very delicate so let your scalp heal first before you start washing your hair.
- Wash your hair very gently and use a mild shampoo to avoid damaging your hair.
- Avoid swimming and exposing your hair to the sun.
- Don’t brush or comb your hair for about 3 weeks. Mild pulling of your hair follicles can cause them to dislodge from your scalp.
- Avoid dirty and sweaty environments, as they can infect or irritate your scalp.
- Avoid wearing hats or hoodies until your doctor tells you it’s ok.
- Stop exercising until about a week after the procedure.
- Avoid smoking and/or drinking alcohol. These substances reduce the blood supply to your scalp, which can slow or stop hair growth.
How much does FUE hair transplant procedures cost in Singapore?
You have two options when it comes to FUE procedures, either a manual FUE (done by a surgeon and his/her team) or the ARTAS Robotic FUE (done by a machine). ARTAS costs a bit more, about 50% higher compared to a manual FUE.
In general, a hair transplant in Singapore will cost you from $6000 to $12000. Other factors that influence the cost of the procedure are:
- The total number of hair grafts ($5 to $12 per graft) needed
- The surgeon’s fee
How do you find the best doctors for hair transplants in Singapore?
- The most important contributing factor to the success of your hair transplant is the doctor that will assess, diagnose and operate on you. It is important that the doctor you choose for your hair transplant has experience and expert knowledge on hair loss treatments and has a portfolio of past patients who have experienced success in his guidance.
- Look for doctors who have built a degree of trust with his/her patients and who have a good track record when it comes to hair transplant procedures.
- You should also ask the total cost of undergoing an FUE hair transplant procedure under him/her and compare it with other doctors. If you have a GP that you trust, you can also ask him/her if he/she has any recommendations for a good hair doctor. It is up to you to weigh the pros and cons to the best of your ability.