The Most Advanced Hair Replacement Techniques

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Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.


October 29 2007

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In ancient Egypt, the accepted cure for hair loss and baldness was to anoint your head with a mixture of animal fats, including fat from a lion, a hippo, and a crocodile. It didn't work to prevent hair loss, but then again, for thousands of years, nothing else did either.

But now, surgical hair restoration can give you a fuller, great looking head of hair, which is good news to anyone who can't hunt down a hippo. Even better, surgical hair replacement is a constantly improving field. Techniques in hair replacement are continually being refined so that you get the natural looking hairline and head of hair you want.

How Hair Transplant Surgery Works

Basically, hair transplant surgery works by taking hair follicles (the tiny structures in the skin that grow hair) from the back of the head and transplanting them to the areas where hair has stopped growing. The first work on hair transplantation was done in the 1880s to treat traumatic baldness, which is baldness caused by scarring or burns.

That basic idea is still the same, but the details of hair transplantation, most notably the size of the graft, have changed. Fifteen and 20 years ago, the size of the hair transplant grafts was much larger. Hair restoration surgeons would remove a relatively large plug of hair from the back of the head and insert it into the scalp at the front. These plugs, which were about the same diameter as a pencil eraser and contained between 15 to 20 hair follicles, were inserted into the bold areas, usually about half an inch apart in an even pattern. The transplanted plugs would survive and grow hair, but the end result was often a spotty pattern that resembled a cornfield and did not look completely natural.
Now, microsurgical hair replacement techniques allow surgeons to transplant far smaller bundles of hair follicles. Hair restoration surgeons can transplant one to five hair follicles at the time in a technique called follicular isolation.

Hair naturally grows in tiny groups of three or four hairs. When the grafts are this tiny, you get a much more natural result. And when these incredibly tiny grafts are inserted into the scalp in a way that mimics how hair really grows, you get a head of hair that looks like it was always there. In one session you can have hundreds of tiny grafts inserted that grow and produce a natural looking
head of hair.

The added benefit to surgical hair replacement is that the area where the hair is taken from heals well with little scarring. Back when hair transplants were ungainly plugs, surgeons usually removed a strip of hair-bearing skin from the back of the head and the incision had to be closed with sutures.

Although strip incisions are still used in some cases, many hair restoration surgeons use micro-surgical techniques to remove tiny hair grafts.

Smaller incisions also mean better, faster healing, and less pain. Many microsurgical hair transplantations can be done with local anesthesia alone.

The benefits of tiny hair transplants extend to those who had the older plug-style transplants. Many hair transplant surgeons can correct the old style plugs and greatly improve your whole head of hair.
Microsurgery hair restoration techniques also allow hair transplant surgeons to create much more natural looking hairlines. These hairlines allow you to style your hair or groom it almost any way you choose. You can do what you want because, after all, it is your hair.