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Hair Transplant Side Effects: What You Need To Know

Hair transplants are the most popular and successful method for restoring permanent hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia. That’s why more than 2.2 million patients around the world had a hair transplant in 2021 [1].

Unlike other types of transplant surgery, hair restoration surgery is minimally invasive. Hair transplantation surgery is usually classed as a low-risk medical procedure as long as medical protocols are followed. In fact, with the latest technological advances in this sector, patients can now enjoy faster hair transplant recovery times than ever before. The Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant has increased in popularity in recent years because it reduces procedural risks and speeds up recovery times. 

While modern hair restoration procedures like FUT (Follicular Unit Transplant) and FUE hair transplants are usually safe and successful, there are still certain side effects of hair transplant surgery that you should know about. In this article, you’ll learn:

  • All the major hair transplant side effects you can expect
  • Potential hair transplant risks and complications
  • How to speed up recovery to reduce the risk of hair transplant side effects.
Table of Contents

Common hair transplant side effects

If you’re considering hair transplantation surgery as a possible solution to restore hair, you’ll want to know as much as possible about what to expect from the experience. That includes any risks and side effects.

The most common side effects of hair transplants are:

  • Scabbing, swelling, and redness – just like when your body heals from any wound, you’ll see some post-transplant scabs and hair transplant swelling around both the donor area and the recipient areas of the scalp
  • Soreness – you may feel some discomfort as the local anaesthetic wears off. Take paracetamol to manage the pain.
  • Scalp numbness – surgery often impacts the nerves in your scalp, creating numbness or tingling for days or weeks after the procedure
  • Slight scarring – as with any surgery, hair transplant scarring can occur. You’ll probably see fewer scars if you choose a highly skilled hair transplant surgeon.
  • Itchiness after a hair transplant– as your wounds heal, you may experience itchiness across the grafted area. Just remember that it’s important not to scratch your scalp at this time.
  • Bleeding and weeping from the recipient site – it may take a few days for the scabs to close up completely, causing your cuts to bleed or ooze a little in the hours and days after surgery.
  • Hair loss from the recipient sitehair transplant shedding (also known as shock loss) is a delayed and often unexpected side effect where transplanted hair follicles fall out around 2 weeks after surgery. Like all these side effects, this is a normal reaction, and your hair follicles will begin to grow hair again soon after. Learn more about shock hair loss after a hair transplant and hair loss after surgery.
Hair transplant scabs 14 days after FUE hair transplantation
Hair transplant scabs 14 days after FUE hair transplantation

Why do side effects occur?

A hair transplant involves a number of small incisions in the skin of the scalp. These tiny cuts in the scalp skin will be subject to natural repair and body healing processes, which include a degree of redness and swelling, scabbing, and in some cases, bruising. Both the swelling and redness should disappear within a week of the transplant. Some heal faster and others a little slower.

The type of side effects can also depend on which type of hair transplant procedure you choose. With the Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) method (which involves the surgical removal of a strip of scalp from the back of the head) numbness and scarring are more likely.

Most hair transplant side effects are temporary. They’ll fade as your wounds heal. However, numbness may last for a number of months after the surgery, so it’s important to be aware of this beforehand.

Hair transplant complications

The hair transplant side effects listed above affect most hair transplant patients. It’s a natural result of cosmetic surgery. However, you also need to be aware of additional risks and complications that can occur [2]:

  • Hair transplant infection – if hair transplant operations take place in an unsanitary environment or if the surgeon is using unclean tools, you’re at risk of developing an infection. This can be painful, and unsightly, and reduces the chance of a successful hair transplant.
  • Hair transplant overharvesting – if your surgeon harvests too many hair follicles from your donor site, they may deplete the area, so you can’t have future hair transplants if you need them.
  • Enlarged scarring – unskilled surgeons can leave large scars that are difficult to hide, even when your hair has grown back. You may be able to have additional hair transplants into scar tissue to cover up large scars.
  • Necrosis -severe infection can kill your scalp tissue, causing your skin to turn black and leathery.
examples of hair transplant overharvesting
examples of hair transplant overharvesting

How can I minimise the risk of side effects and complications from a hair transplant?

There are lots of ways to reduce the risk of hair transplant side effects. It starts with finding the best hair transplant surgeon at a reputable UK hair transplant clinic. Choosing a skilled surgeon reduces the chances of substantial scarring, and makes it far less likely that you’ll experience any complications. Find out more about hair transplant surgery safety.

You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of pounds to get treatment from the UK’s best hair transplant surgeons. Find out how much you should be spending on your transplant in our hair transplant cost analysis.

Aftercare for reducing hair transplant side effects

There are also things you can do before and after your hair restoration surgery to ensure a swift, smooth recovery. These include:

  • Spray your scalp with a saline solution regularly – this keeps it free from infection.
  • Follow your surgeon’s aftercare recommendations closely – this is the best way to make your recovery fast and easy.
  • Take painkillers and anti-inflammatories as suggested by your surgeon – this will reduce pain and swelling.
  • Don’t scratch your grafts, no matter how itchy they get – take an antihistamine, or follow the instructions in our beard transplant post-op itch guide.
  • Tell your consultant about any worrying developments -this includes excessive pus and bleeding for more than 3 days after your surgery.
  • Wash your hair gently after surgery -learn how to wash your hair after a shower.
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet- You are what you eat and that’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that will help you heal post-surgery and facilitate hair growth. Learn more about eating a diet for healthy hair.
  • Rest-It’s important to take some time to rest after undergoing surgery so that you can recover and your new hair grafts can settle in place. This means taking some time off of work and other strenuous activities. Learn more about when to work out after your hair transplant.

Reputable clinics include a comprehensive aftercare programme to help you recover quickly and have a successful procedure. In these cases, return visits to the clinic are usually only needed at 6-monthly intervals after the initial treatment period. 

If any unexpected or worrying hair transplant side effects develop in the weeks and months after your surgery, you must book an appointment with the clinic. An expert will assess your recovery to ensure all is well. 

Reputable clinics will also review and wash your scalp soon after your surgery. This is a good reason to avoid going abroad for a hair transplant. If you do choose to have a hair transplant in Turkey or elsewhere abroad, it’s much more difficult to address any complications.

How long do hair transplant side effects last?

Hair transplant surgeries that are carried out in a sanitary environment by experienced medical professionals will have a relatively quick and easy recovery time. After a few days, side effects such as pain and swelling will have subsided by then.

Hair transplant side effects such as scabbing and the itching associated with it, will stick around for about 7-10 days post-surgery. Most patients who had an FUE hair transplant will find that they are back to feeling like their old selves 5-7 days after their hair transplant surgery. Individuals who have undergone a FUT hair transplant will normally take 7-14 days to recover.

It should be noted that although patients will have recovered from their surgery within a few weeks, individuals will not have noticeable hair growth for months afterward. Learn more about what to expect in the hair transplant recovery timeline.

When should I seek medical attention?

It should be noted that infection is a rare hair transplant side effect especially if you have undergone surgery in a sanitary environment at a reputable clinic. Nevertheless, you should seek medical attention if you are experiencing the following symptoms as they could be a sign of infection:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Excessive swelling
  • Any other unexpected symptoms
  • Oozing of pus or abscesses filled with pus
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
Examples of hair transplant infections
Examples of hair transplant infections

What can I do if I am worried about hair transplant side effects?

Although there can be minor side effects with hair transplant surgery  (much like any medical procedure), it’s important to remember that complications are rare.

In most cases, the whole experience is mostly painless. Good clinics will always offer a high level of aftercare, so any issues will be resolved in your allocated check-up appointments or any extra visits that are required.

The best way to allay any concerns you may have is to book a free consultation with a reputable hair transplant clinic. We’re always happy to discuss the entire procedure and recovery process.

Whether you’re concerned about dealing with side effects when you go back to work after a hair transplant, or you need to repair a hair transplant that’s gone wrong, we can help.

Book your free consultation at the Wimpole Clinic.

Hair Transplant Side Effects: What You Need To Know, Wimpole Clinic

The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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