Other Hair Transplant Methods
The most common hair transplant methods include the strip method and follicular unit extraction (FUE).
The Strip Method
The strip method involves removing a strip of the scalp from the back of the head and suturing the area closed under considerable tension. This can lead to post-operative pain and tenderness. Additionally, the sutures or staples need to be removed after a period of healing.
The strip of scalp is then separated by hair technicians into segments of skin grafts containing 1 to several hair follicles, each considered a follicular unit. The surgeon uses a needle or scalpel to create recipient sites in the areas of thinning hair and transplants the skin and hair grafts into the recipient sites. This is considered individual follicular unit transplantation (FUT). FUT appears much more natural than the older technique of implanting larger clumps of hair (commonly referred to as hair plugs).
The strip method is more efficient than some previous approaches, but it's very invasive, requires longer recovery, and results in a linear scar along the back of the head that can be noticeable when the hair is short. There is also more risk of damage to the hair follicles with this method, since the grafts are handled more with forceps and cut under a microscope.
Follicular Unit Extraction
The traditional FUE method uses a surgical punch to remove the follicular units. The units are transplanted to the recipient site using FUT like the strip procedure. The procedure is less invasive with an improved recovery, fewer complications, less bleeding, and no scars. The downside: the procedure is tedious, long, and, therefore, more expensive.
The NeoGraft system automates the FUE process, using pneumatic pressure to extract the individual hair follicles. NeoGraft improves efficiency, comfort, and viability of the follicles. After FUE with the NeoGraft system, the hair follicles are transplanted into the recipient site using FUT to ensure natural results and excellent graft-take.
Men and women also have the option of topical products, such as minoxidil (Rogaine®), to maintain hair and to possibly grow new hair. These offer varying degrees of hair restoration depending on the individual, and require daily application to maintain results. For many individuals, the mess, the ongoing expense, and the temporary nature of the results are significant drawbacks.
For men who experience male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia), the drug finasteride (Propecia®) can be prescribed. Like minoxidil, it does not work for everyone and sustained results are dependent on a daily dose of the medication. Some drawbacks of finasteride pills include expense, side effects, health risks and the temporary nature of the results.
Low-level light therapy (LLLT) for hair growth uses the principle of low-powered light to target cells of the hair follicle. There are several new at-home and in-office devices that use LLLT. These claim to reverse hair loss and start hair growth, but very few of the available devices have been studied in peer-reviewed journals or tested properly to ensure their effectiveness. Additionally, in one study, nearly 20 hours of treatment a day were required to achieve hair growth with one of the LLLT devices, making it a very time-intensive procedure. Furthermore, the researchers did not consider the hair growth to be very noticeable.