Help! Why am I losing hair rather than gaining it following my hair transplant?
This is a question many patients ask after a hair transplant. Around the second week following your hair loss surgery, you may experience some hair ‘shedding’ — this is known as shock hair loss, or recipient-site effluvium .
This is nothing to worry about! It is normal to experience shock loss after a hair transplant. Although your newly transplanted grafts appear to fall out, the follicles are healthy — most qualified, experienced surgeons boast a graft survival rate of at least 90% . It takes a few weeks (or even months) for the new growth to come through. Find out how long it takes to see results after FUE.
While shock hair loss sounds dramatic, the shedding is almost always temporary. So, although it might cause you some anxiety initially, as long as you are following your post-surgery care advice, there is no need to worry and the hair will grow back thick, full, and healthy.
What happens during the transplant?
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is a modern hair transplant technique with extremely good results that is cosmetically more appealing than Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), where a scar may be left in the donor area.
During a FUE transplant individual follicles or small clumps of 2-3 follicles depending on the natural hair density, are carefully removed with a specialist tool and shifted to the bald site in order to rebuild the hair growing potential of the bald area.
Local anaesthetic is used during the procedure to minimise discomfort. Anaesthetic is used in the donor site (where the follicle is being removed) and at the graft site (where the incisions to embed the follicle into the scalp are made).
The primary difference between FUE and FUT is that only very small excision is required for FUE. During a FUT procedure a strip of hair is removed, usually from the back of the head. This provides the entire supply of donor follicles. Even with advanced suturing techniques there is usually a visible scar which will impact on the shortness to which the hair can be cut without the scar being seen.
When does shock hair loss occur?
Once the follicle falls dormant, in order to heal and establish itself on your scalp, the hair will be shed. It’s not a sign of a failed hair transplant, and it doesn’t mean that the follicles are being rejected from their new locations.
Shock hair loss is particularly common in women with female pattern hair loss following their hair transplant [1, 3]. It typically occurs between two to four weeks after hair restoration surgery. Patients often lose most, if not all, of the new implants at this stage. As we say though, it’s not permanent! Once the follicle is settled into the scalp it will begin to grow new hair.
Shock hair loss can also occur on male scalps, again within the two to four-week postoperative window. Your hair will begin to grow again and within the year the loss should have settled down as the hair begins to regrow thicker than before.
Why does shock hair loss occur?
Research suggests shock hair loss occurs as a result of anagen effluvium, telogen effluvium, or a combination of both . Telogen effluvium may occur as a result of trauma to the scalp during surgery and can begin anything from a few days to a couple of months after hair restoration surgery. It occurs particularly where hair grafts have been implanted between and around existing natural or ‘native’ hair.
In rare cases, shock hair loss occurs due to a reaction to anaesthetic. Again, should this occur the traumatised follicles will begin to grow again once they have recovered from the surgery.
When can I expect my hair to grow back following shock hair loss?
The new hairs will gradually break through the scalp from around four months after the operation. They won’t be visible at first, although you’ll be able to feel them with your fingertips. They will also grow at different rates, slowly maturing for up to a year or eighteen months before you see the final result of your hair restoration surgery. Shock hair loss is a normal stage of the development of new hair grafts.
Can you avoid shock hair loss?
Shock hair loss is part of the process of the cultivation of new, healthy hairs. The good news however is that the loss is always temporary. All the hairs will regrow alongside the new implants. Both donor and recipient sites can be affected post-operatively and, in most cases of female hair loss, will take around 9-12 months to grow back.
Some research suggests hair growth drugs like Minoxidil and Finasteride can reduce the risk of shock hair loss if they’re used around the time of surgery . You may also be able to mask your shock hair loss with hair thickening spray.
During the regrowth period the hairs will initially be thin and colourless. Over the course of a year they will start to thicken, darken and mature. Applying Minoxidil lotion during this period can encourage new hair regrowth. Minoxidil works by reinvigorating shrunken hair follicles. By increasing their size, they are able to grow stronger and thicker hair and recover from transplant surgery faster.
Find out more about shock hair loss and hair transplant procedures
At the Wimpole Clinic in London we have been performing expert hair restoration procedures for over 30 years. Patients are bound to feel anxious about shock hair loss and the results of their hair transplant as even the idea of the procedure may produce all kinds of worries. Our experienced consultation teams can take you through what to expect following the hair transplant procedure before you decide whether to opt for surgery.
Book a free consultation to discuss any questions or concerns you have about the hair transplant process.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
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