Thousands of people wake up every day and realize they are losing their hair. This usually has the effect of creating mild panic at best, or even complete despair. Once the initial shock wears off the first thing that comes to mind is how to stop the loss or even get their hair back. Many people will turn to hair transplant surgery to address their new found problem. The first question they try to answer is; which hair transplant surgeon is the best?
In order to answer this question, you’ll need to start with the basics. First, you’ll need to do a bit of research to educate yourself about your own hair loss situation. What is your pattern of loss? Are you a Norwood 3? Are you a Norwood 6? What is a “Norwood pattern”? Or perhaps you have hair loss that is not the typical patterned type and is diffuse thinning with no pattern. If so, it may not be genetic or inherited, but instead what is known as scarring or non-scarring alopecia. For non patterned types of hair loss you will need to educate yourself on the many metabolic, nutritional, drug induced or autoimmune causes—to name only a few! But if you do have patterned hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia (AGA) you should be able to fill in areas of hair loss with transplanted hair. Next, you’ll need to learn about the two different methods of donor harvesting to obtain grafts for hair transplant these are known as FUE and FUT .
The Two “Primary Methods” of Hair Transplant Surgery
(Actually Refer Only to Graft Harvesting)
FUE stands for “follicular unit excision”. This is the process of removing individual hair follicle bundles (aka follicular units) , which can contain one to four hairs, from the area of your scalp where your hair is permanent. This is called the “safe donor zone”. The process requires the use of a very small cylindrical punches (0.7 to 1.0 mm in diameter). The removal of each follicular unit leaves a small hole in your skin that eventually heals into a very small and hard to see a scar unless hair is completely shaved. With a short haircut (#2 guard or higher) the visibility of the hundreds or even thousands of these small scars is extremely difficult provided there is a sufficient amount of remaining hair. This procedure is usually best for male patients that wish to have the future option of shaving or buzzing their hair very short—but not down to the scalp. It is also good for patients who are very active and don’t want to protect a donor incision during healing.
The other type of hair transplant donor harvesting method is called FUT. FUT stands for “follicular unit transplant”. Technically, both procedures are follicular unit transplant surgeries, but FUT was the first of the two procedures to exist and the name was coined. When it was first developed, it was a big deal to be able to transplant individual natural groupings of usually 1 to 4 hairs per follicle unit. The difference is that FUT grafts are removed all at once as part of one long continuous strip of donor tissue. This strip is harvested from the back and sides of the scalp with a surgical scalpel. The strip is then dissected into thin slivers and further refined into individual follicular units using high power microscopes.
The area where the strip was removed is sutured closed, and experienced hair restoration surgeons use newer refined techniques which can create a virtually undetectable scar. The appropriately placed FUT incision removes donor hair from the middle of the best, most dense, permanent donor hair where in most cases even short hair effectively hides the scar. With this technique there is only one area of the donor scalp that contains scar—and unlike FUE, scar is not distributed widely throughout the donor zone. Both procedures have their pros and cons but if the patient knows that at no time in their life will they shave their head below a #3 -4 guard, then FUT may be the better choice.
With both donor harvesting methods there are a wide range of names based on medical device marketing for what amounts to the same methods and techniques. These can no doubt confuse you with continued research and exposure to persuasive and sometimes misleading marketing. The sheer number of terms and descriptions you will encounter are too vast to cover in this post. We posted another article here that describes the four types of FUE that you should be aware of and clarifies this subject in more detail.
What Else Should You Know
So the question remains; who is the best hair transplant surgeon? You can boil down the answer for you by further understanding a few more basics. When doing your research, it helps to find a clinic where the doctor will spend time explaining not only the benefits of your procedure, but the side effects of any recommended therapies and potential downsides of surgery or transplantation into thinning areas, as well. Also, it is beneficial to avoid clinics that present the “hard sell”. These are tactics designed to convince you to have surgery sooner, based on the clinic’s schedule, rather than later, after you’ve had enough time to consider your options. If they are trying hard to convince you to have surgery right now, and you have not yet made your decision to proceed, they might not be the right clinic for you.
You can also figure out what to do by asking the various clinics you consult with if you can meet patients in your area so you can see the results first hand. Most clinics will have a list of past patients that have agreed to speak with potential future patients. If you do have the opportunity to meet some former patients, offer to buy them lunch, or at least a coffee as a way to thank them for their time.
One of the most obvious things to look out for is a high quality before and after photo and video gallery. You should look for results where the documentation doesn’t look like it’s from 1987. The photos should be clear and allow you to see the details. If you are able to watch video of patient results, look for HD quality and ask yourself if the results are consistently good. One or two good results out of a full gallery isn’t a good sign. Most of the results in any hair transplant gallery should be impressive.
In the end, there really is no such thing as “the best” when it comes to finding a great hair transplant surgeon—but experience and expertise matter for all types of surgery, including this one. All you can really hope to find is the best hair transplant surgeon for you based on previously stated methods of verification and your own impression. This is because many hair restoration surgeons provide excellent results, comparable to one another. But what you should keep in mind is that no technician can be considered the best hair transplant surgeon because hair transplant surgery should be performed only by a doctor or licensed hair care professional working within their scope of practice.
That is the most important starting point when trying to find the best hair restoration specialist for you. Only a doctor has been trained to maintain high patient safety standards, care for unexpected medical problems, has medical board oversight, and has taken an actual oath to keep your best interest in mind while you’re in his or her care. If your doctor allows technicians to do surgery for them, they are neglecting their oath, and you should shop elsewhere!