You have heard the saying, “He only made so many perfect heads. The rest he covered with hair.” Well, that is little consolation if you once had a luxurious thatch that has receded into nothing. If you are a woman with alopecia (premature baldness), the situation is even more dire; you want to keep your looks AND your hair, and the latter should be as full as possible. But you do not need to tear your hair out (if there is any left); today’s hair transplant surgery can achieve miraculous results. And the cost of hair transplant surgery is surprisingly affordable. The big question remains: How much does a hair transplant cost?
Hair transplant cost depends on the look you want. Hair transplant surgery is charged not by the head or scalp, or even the area to cover, but by the number of grafts needed.
A single graft of hair is between $4 and $6, and the price goes down somewhat as the grafting gets progressively more involved. For example, some heads will be quite attractive and full-looking with as few as 1800 grafts, others, because of hair texture, replication, scalp area and so on, might be upwards of 2500 and more. But, because the price goes down per graft, the average cost of a hair transplant is usually between $1200 and $4000, if no special implantations are needed. This hair will fall out, of course, because all hair, natural and implanted, will do so over time. On average, some 300 to 500 grafts will fall out of a scalp in the course of a year, a replacement cost per year between $600 and $700.
FUE stands for Follicular Unit Extraction, a fancy way to say “we’re taking someone else’s hair and giving it to you.” Yes, there are hair donors out there, people who are paid to let their follicles be “harvested” and implanted into your scalp. Because the hair is not chemically enhanced nor part of an artificial hair “crop,” it has a much more natural look and feel, depending of course on the suitability of the donor. These individuals are scrupulously “matched” with your own hair color, curl and texture; transplantation begins when you and your follicular surgeon are satisfied with the match. FUE hair transplant cost will average about $3500 to $6000, a bit more expensive; $3500 will buy 500 grafts, but FUE hairs will stay in longer and give a fuller look.
Neograft is an FUE process that engrafts hairs via the same technology that plastic surgeons use, with minimal invasion and no sutures or surgery. Because of the speed of implantation, it can cover larger areas of the scalp, resulting in fewer hair graft surgeries. This procedure is sometimes prohibitively expensive, as Neograft hair transplant costranges from $5000 to $10,000 for a complete hair replacement. The hair demonstrates somewhat more resilience, and hair replacements are fewer, but they will still average around $600 a year to replace.
There are two main procedures that remove and replace hair in donation and transplantation, and all hair transplant surgeries will use one of these two techniques:
One is strip harvesting, a technique that surgically removes tiny pieces of hair and follicle-glutted skin from the back of the donor’s neck (where the scars are least detectable), and then dissects them into single grafts.
These are then surgically implanted, one graft at a time, into the patient’s scalp. There are scars left that usually fade with time, although some have reported they do not disappear entirely. The other method is the aforementioned FUE, which is much more costly and time-consuming, but also more effective than the surgical techniques, as no scarring of the scalp occurs.
Hair transplant cost in the USA has not skyrocketed in the present economy; in fact, it has scaled down somewhat from the far more expensive hair transplant procedures in the 80s and 90s. A single graft can, depending on the doctor, be as little as $3 and as much as $15 (natural and matched donors); however, single graft prices do reduce the more grafts are done. Single-graft surgery, while time consuming, is preferable to other and more extensive surgeries if one is only covering a small bald spot or, in women, a frontal area rendered bald by alopecia.
The actual time of surgery varies. Strip harvested hair, inserted directly into the scalp, has an average surgical time of 3 to 4 hours. The more sophisticated FUE technique is closer to 6 to 7 hours. But the timeline does not stop there. The patient may need up to a month of post-operative care because of untoward bleeding, tissue rejection or infections in the lesions on the scalp. FUE reduces the possibility of these, but still there is a recuperative period that needs to be completed, at least 7 to 10 days.
However, the patient is not fully recovered. Eventually all the transplanted hair will fall out. No, it doesn’t mean the surgery has failed or the tissue was rejected. Such hair loss is traumatic but normal for these techniques. Single follicles still remain in the engrafted skin and will begin to grow their own hairs. At this point, a full head of hair should restore itself. Thus, we can see that the entire procedure’s “recovery” time may be up to a year.
Besides the previously mentioned hair loss, the surgical area may become infected and need an antibiotic medication. The infection may include redness and swelling of the forehead. Analgesic creams are effective to reduce this, and there are pain medications in case the discomfort is severe enough. There may also be some itching - the patient should not scratch, as that will only inflame the area.
Despite the cost of a hair transplant and possible side effects, many people attempt to recover their perfect heads - with a hair transplant.