It’s a fair question that tends to pop up in the minds of future hair transplant patients, or even those that are simply considering it – “What happens to my donor area during… or, I guess, even after a transplant?”
For starters, we should clear one thing up. Technically speaking, donor follicles can be taken from any area on the body that, well – grows hair! That said, when most doctors speak of donor areas, they’re usually referring to the back of the patient’s scalp, or the sides. This is because those areas in question are resistant to balding.
With that said, there’s still quite a few other questions that the whole process carries with itself, which is why we’re here to clear up any confusion you might have about the effects on your donor area. Let’s go in-depth!
Before we dive into the complicated questions, we should go over the first steps – naturally, the extraction process itself. Two commonly used techniques for this process are follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE), along with a modified version of FUE called DHI.
FUT is often considered outdated, since an entire strip of scalp tissue, typically from the back or sides of the head, is surgically removed. This strip is then harvested, while the surgical incision made during FUT is closed with sutures, and over time, its scar gradually heal and become less visible.
FUE, on the other hand, involves the extraction of individual follicular units directly from the donor area using tiny punches or a specialized automated device, as is the case with DHI. This technique leaves small puncture wounds that heal relatively quickly, and the resulting scars are usually not very noticeable.
After the hair follicles are harvested, the donor area enters a healing phase. The patient is typically provided with detailed instructions on how to keep the area clean, avoid excessive stretching or tension, and minimize the possibility of infection. Over time, the scars from the incision will gradually fade.
In the case of FUE and DHI specifically, the healing process is usually faster and less complicated. The small puncture wounds heal naturally within a few weeks, leaving tiny scars that will be camouflaged by surrounding hair. It's of utmost importance to follow the surgeon's post-op care instructions to ensure proper healing of the donor zone!
After the initial phase, the follicular units are meticulously transplanted into the recipient part. The area in question is carefully prepared to receive the follicles, as the surgeon creates small incisions or recipient sites in what can be described as a “strategic” pattern, for the sake of mimicking natural hair growth.
The harvested follicles are then placed into these incisions, with attention given to the angle, direction, variation and density of the transplanted hairs. Since donor hairs are chosen based on genetic resistance to balding, they have a higher chance of regrowing hair in the recipient area.
After the hair transplant procedure, proper care of the donor area is key to a healthy healing phase. The surgeon or their team will provide specific instructions tailored to the patient's needs, which generally involve avoiding excessive sun exposure, strenuous activities, or anything that causes stress on the transplanted cores. The patient may also be prescribed topical treatments to aid healing and minimize the risk of inflammation and bacterial buildup.
Simultaneously, as the recipient area’s new hairs grow, the donor area will also regrow hair. Although the density may be slightly reduced compared to the pre-transplant state, the impact varies among people and test subjects, and depends on factors such as the technique used, the individual's metabolism, and the surgeon's expertise.
Moreover, it’s important to note that the overall goal of a hair transplant is to achieve natural-looking results and restore the appearance of hair in the recipient area. While the donor area may experience a minor decrease in hair density, it is still considered cosmetically acceptable.
Following the completion of a hair transplant, ongoing hair care and maintenance are absolutely necessitated! This includes regular hair washing, proper grooming techniques, and an active lifestyle that supports hair growth. It's advisable to consult with the hair transplant specialist regarding the specific care routines for both the transplanted hair and the donor area.