Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) Hair Transplant: What Is It And How Does It Work?

When it comes to looks, men have their fair share of problems, and balding or thinning hair are usually top of the list of their concerns. Hair transplant techniques to combat baldness have improved dramatically over the years, and as prices have become more affordable, hair loss won’t have to be an issue any longer.

First off, what is a hair transplant? A hair transplant is a cosmetic surgical procedure to counter baldness permanently by transferring healthy, regenerative hair to balding areas. Hair transplants can also be used to address hair loss caused by scarring such as on the beard or eyebrows. Healthy-growing hair follicles are harvested from a donor site and moved to the recipient area where they are implanted. The donor site is usually identified at the back of the head where it’s less visible. There are many different types of hair transplants but ultimately, a successful procedure means that the transplanted hair grows healthily and naturally without noticeable scarring. Previous hair transplant techniques involved removing a strip of skin and hair from the back of the head to be re-grafted onto the recipient area. There’s no need for such drastic procedures anymore, as the most advanced hair transplant treatment today is Follicular Unit Extraction, or FUE.

So what is FUE? FUE takes individual hair follicles from the donor site (harvested in small units) and inserts them into the recipient site (the bald area of the scalp). FUE enables individual hair follicles, to be individually restored onto the bald area. This massively improves the success rate, makes the process less noticeable and creates natural hair-line growth.

What does an FUE procedure involve? Patients are anaesthetised and the surgeon uses a microscope and a micro-needle to make a small circular incision around the follicular unit to extract the hair. This prevents any long linear scars or stitches. Each hair follicle is extracted individually making it a time-consuming procedure. They are then inserted into the recipient area, up to 1500 grafts transplanted in a single session. That means an FUE procedure usually takes three to four sessions; with the flexibility for patients to reschedule into few sessions depending on patients’ own schedule preference. Depending on the surgeon’s technique, the grafts are either transplanted straight into the recipient site after each follicle is harvested, or in a bunch, after the entire extraction process is complete. Harvested hair follicles that aren’t immediately transplanted are placed carefully in a holding solution that may consist of saline, buffers, antioxidants or Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) that contains growth factors and wound-healing properties. These holding solutions prevent follicular units from drying up, so they can be implanted into the recipient site at a later point. After the follicle is extracted, the small hole left behind heals over in the next few days, contracting as it heals. This results in a less-noticeable scar which cannot be detected by the naked eye, even when the patient’s hair is cropped extremely short. The hair follicle grows back as normal in the harvested site. Once it’s grown back the transplanted hair is as healthy as normal hair, and can be cut, styled and dyed as you wish.

Why is the FUE method considered as the gold standard? The FUE method has many advantages compared to other hair transplant procedures. The extraction technique not only avoids extensive scarring, but it also guarantees that the implanted follicles have a reliable and natural environment to encourage growth. With its less invasive nature and potentially faster healing time, FUE is an ideal minimally invasive procedure for patients with hair loss problems. The results are so natural that people wouldn’t know.

The six advantages of FUE

  • Less invasive

Unlike other hair transplant procedures, FUE is less invasive with its extraction techniques. Unlike strip-transplants, no closure of the post-extraction wound is necessary.

  • No scarring

FUE methods do not produce the linear scar associated with normal hair transplants that remains visible above the ears and at the back of the head.

  • Faster healing

FUE hair transplants lead to faster healing and less downtime compared to other hair transplant procedures due to the lack of wound closure, staples or sutures necessary. There is less pain or discomfort, and patients are known to sleep better after surgery and can return to work as soon as the next day.

  • Body Hair Transplantation (BHT) is possible

Harvesting hair from other body parts other than the scalp using FUE methods and transplanting it into the scalp is known as Body Hair Transplantation. BHT greatly increases the number of follicular units available for transplant and is sometimes useful in repair procedures. So FUE provides surgeons with an increased supply of donor’s hair for harvesting when required.

  • Cherry-picking the best hair

With FUE, surgeons can choose optimal follicular units for transplanting by cherry-picking the finer, single hair follicles for the critical hairline and using thicker, more robust hair follicles for other areas of the scalp. Surgeons can also choose to group together smaller follicular units to promote the appearance of more density in a chosen area.

  • Ideal for special cases

FUE procedures are often ideal for small, specialised cases such as eyebrow reconstruction, where hair follicle extraction with minimal scarring is important.

  • Results in a week with FUE

FUE usually heals within a week after surgery, so the patient can expect a full head of hair to have grown after a year.

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