The ins and outs of hair transplants for women

While it is more common in men, women can also be candidates for hair restoration.

Written by
Marni Dixit
Medically reviewed by
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A hair transplant is a procedure used to treat hair loss in both men and women. And while it is more common in men, women can also be candidates for hair restoration if they're concerned about hair loss.

Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is the most common cause of hair loss in women, and it increases as we age. FPHL affects approximately 12% of women aged between 20 and 29 to over 50% of women over the age of 80 [1]. Yep, it's incredibly common to experience hair loss from your 20s up until your 80s.

Studies have found that women place a greater emphasis than men on physical appearance, and with society putting pressure on women to look certain ways, hair loss generates low self-esteem and anxiety in women.

However, because hair loss in men is seen as 'expected and normal' due to the fact more men are likely to experience it, studies have found it does not diminish their self-esteem in the same way [2].

This is not to say that androgenetic alopecia is not an unwanted and stressful thing that happens to men. However, hair loss doesn't appear to affect their body image in the same way as it does for women [1].

If you're unsure if a hair transplant is right for you, allow us to help as we dive into everything you need to know about female hair loss and its solutions.

How does a hair transplant work?

Before you consider having hair loss treatment, there are a few things you will need to consider seriously. These include:

  • Setting realistic expectations. If you don't have much hair, it's unlikely that the transplant will give you a full head of hair. But if you have thick hair, the procedure may be more successful.
  • Thicker and lighter-coloured hair is more likely to achieve better results.
  • It may take up to 9 months before the hair takes root and begins to grow.
  • Smokers have an increased risk of complications. If you smoke, you should consider quitting before undergoing surgery.
  • You may require continued medical treatment following the transplant.

There are a few different hair loss treatment surgeries available, and your surgeon will choose the most appropriate for you. Hair transplant grafts will usually be performed under local anaesthetic, with surgeries lasting from 2-8 hours, depending on the number of hairs being transplanted. 

Usually, between 1,000 and 2,000 hair follicles will be transplanted in one session, but larger areas might see up to 4,000 follicles done [4]. Because these surgeries can take a few hours, you can split these up and have multiple sessions. 

Several surgical techniques may be used during hair transplants. These include:

  • Taking plugs of the patient's own hair from areas where it is growing freely and inserting them into balding areas.
  • Transplanting small patches of skin from sites that have more hair.
  • Scalp reduction, which involves removing areas of bald skin. 

After the hair replacement procedure, patients might experience discomfort including a tight feeling or aching of the scalp, and they may need pain relief [5]. In addition, they will get instructions from their surgeon as to when they may need any stitches removed, when it's OK to wash their hair and when they can start exercising. 

There may be some scarring, and all surgeries come with varying degrees of risk, but the surgeon will explain all of these, should you decide this is something you're interested in.

Is a hair transplant permanent?

Hair transplants are generally more successful than over-the-counter hair restoration products, with 10-80% of transplanted hair likely to grow back fully in around three to four months [1]. However, like regular hair, even transplanted hair will thin over time.

The good news is that hair transplants are usually permanent and can offer great results but it's generally the best treatment for men with hair loss due to the nature of their hair thinning.

Are hair transplants successful in females?

Female hair loss differs from male hair loss in that women tend to experience thinning all over the head, including the sides and back, which are the areas that are typically donor sites for men.

These areas in men are not affected by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which shrinks follicles elsewhere on the head. For many women, those areas are usually unstable and are affected by DHT, so if those hairs and follicles are used from these donor areas and transplanted elsewhere, they may fall out.

There are different reasons a woman might experience hair loss or female pattern baldness, these include stress, anaemia, childbirth, certain medications, medical conditions, hormonal changes, trauma and genetic factors.

Depending on the cause, there are a few different options for the treatment of female hair loss. These include laser treatments, shampoo, medication, topical solutions and nutritional supplementation.

A small percentage of women with female hair loss are good candidates for hair transplantation. They include:

  • Women who have suffered hair loss due to mechanical or traction alopecia, which is caused by repeated tension or pulling.
  • Women who have alopecia marginalia, which appears similar to traction alopecia.
  • Women who have had cosmetic or plastic surgery and are concerned about hair loss at incision sites.
  • Women who suffer hair loss similar to male pattern baldness, which includes hairline recession, and thinning of the crown or top of the scalp, while the donor area isn't affected by androgenetic alopecia.
  • Women who have suffered hair loss due to trauma, or an accident.

Sadly, hair transplants are more effective for people who do not have widespread thinning and baldness. So, a woman is not as likely to be a good candidate for this type of treatment. But, the good news is that there are any other solutions for female hair loss — including one treatment option from Software.

If a woman is considering hair transplantation, they may need to undergo a consultation involving hair analysis and blood tests to determine the reason for the thinning areas.

If you'd like to consider finding treatment for female hair loss, make an appointment with your doctor.

How much does a hair transplant cost?

An important consideration for a hair replacement procedure is the cost. As this type of procedure is usually cosmetic, it does not usually qualify for rebates from Medicare or private health insurance in Australia.

However, if the hair loss is due to burns or trauma and the surgery would be considered reconstructive, it may be covered by health insurance. The cost of a hair transplant can vary anywhere from AU$11,000 to AU$18,000. In some cases, it can cost up to AU$30,000 [6].

Why do more men undergo hair transplants than women?

More men are likely to undergo hair transplants than women because they are usually more likely to be good candidates due to how they lose their hair.

Men are also usually more likely to lose their hair, with up to 50% losing their hair by age 50 [7].

When is there a noticeable change in hair growth?

In a successful hair transplant, there will be noticeable growth around 3-4 or even 9 months after the surgery, with final results being visible around 12 months after. In the 12-18 months following the procedure, patients will often see improved texture and thickness in their newly grown hair.

It is also not uncommon for transplanted hair to fall out after a few months and then regrow. However, once this has occurred, it will grow normally.

Are there any dangers in getting a hair transplant?

Most people will recover very well from a hair transplant, however, some people may experience bleeding, infection, scarring or a patchy appearance. Other complications include:

  • Nerve damage, including permanent loss of sensation.
  • Death of the skin grafts.
  • Tissue death along the wound.

Some patients may also find that the hair grows much slower than expected, while others may even opt for repeat surgery.

How long is the healing process?

After the surgery, the scalp will be tender, and the doctor will likely tell the patient to wear bandages over the head for a day or 2. The doctor may also recommend medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication for the first several days.

Hair transplant patients will likely be able to return to work within 2-5 days and should be feeling back to normal in no time.

Image credit: Getty Images

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