What Are Hair Plugs And How Do They Work?

As you age, your hair tends to go through many changes. It may turn gray, thin or even fall out. If the rate of hair loss starts to exceed the rate of hair growth, this can lead to baldness, which can make many men, and women, feel self-conscious. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat and disguise baldness, which includes hair plugs.

What Are Hair Plugs?

Hair plugs, or a hair transplant, describes a surgical procedure that entails moving healthy hairs from a thicker patch of hair on your scalp, which is referred to as a donor site, to the area that is balding. Multiple hair plug sessions may be needed depending on the severity of the baldness, and the thickness and color of the hair.

Types Of Transplants

There are a few different types of hair plug techniques that differ based on the size and shape of the graft from the donor site. Those techniques are:

  • Micro-grafts – In this method, only one or two hairs are transplanted at a time. During one session, up to 700 hairs, or plugs, can be transplanted to the balding area.
  • Mini-grafts – In this method, two to four hairs are transplanted at a time.
  • Slit grafts – For a slit graft, the doctor will create an incision, or slit, into the scalp, and the graft is placed in that slit. Usually 4 to 10 hairs are transplanted with these grafts.
  • Punch grafts – These grafts are round in shape and generally contain 10 to 15 hairs.
  • Strip grafts – These types of grafts are more rectangular in nature and are usually long and thin. Typically, 30 to 40 hairs are transplanted in this method. During one session, up to 50 plugs can be transplanted to the balding area.

(For more information on hair-loss in men, read Men’s Hair Loss.)

Before The Procedure

Before undergoing surgery, the doctor will need to conduct a consultation. During the consultation, the doctor can show the patient images of what he or she would look like with a hair transplant. If the patient doesn’t have enough hair, the doctor may not recommend a transplant procedure.

If eligible, the patient will need to follow these guidelines before the procedure:

  • Refrain from drinking
  • Refrain from smoking
  • Avoid certain medications
  • Arrange for a ride home (it may not be safe for the patient to drive after the procedure)

During The Procedure

Most surgeries are performed at a physician’s office or at a surgery center, and the patient will be put under local anesthesia. Before the surgery begins, hair on the donor site will be trimmed short to make it easier for the doctor to remove the grafts. The scalp will also be cleaned and the donor site will be numbed. Using a scalpel, the doctor will remove a small graft of hair from the donor site. If the doctor is doing a punch graft, he or she may use a carbon steel instrument to punch out a round-shaped graft from the donor site.

During the procedure, the doctor may inject small amounts of saline into the graft to keep it from losing its strength. After the graft is removed, the donor site will be closed with a few stitches and the doctor will separate the graft into smaller sections. Small holes will be made in the balding area and the hairs will be inserted into those holes.

After The Procedure

Once the procedure is finished, the doctor may clean the scalp once again and will cover it with gauze. The doctor might also place a pressure bandage that must be worn for a few days. Anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics and/or pain medication may need to be taken during the recovery period. Strenuous activity will also need to be avoided for about 10 days after surgery, which includes:

  • Sexual activity
  • Contact sports
  • Vigorous exercise

After the recovery period, the stitches and any bandages will be removed and the hair can be gently washed. Some patients experience a loss of the transplanted hair a few weeks after surgery, but this is normal. After that hair is gone, new hair will grow in its place. Several months after surgery, the new hair should have grown in completely.

Risks

With any type of surgery, there are always risks. Here are some of the risks associated with hair transplant surgery:

  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Wide scars

In some cases, the graft may not take or the plug may die. Or, when the transplanted hair falls out, the hair loss may progress. In all of these cases, additional surgery would be needed.

(For more information on female hair loss, read Women’s Hair Loss.)

Overall, hair transplants are low-risk and, in the end, offer great results for both men and women. Although many people may think that baldness is a problem for men, it’s really a problem for women, too. Age, disease, medical treatments, hormonal changes, genetics, diet and even medications can cause people to lose their hair, and, in turn, their confidence. A hair transplant can not only restore people’s hair, it can restore their confidence as well.

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