Understanding the Procedure: How Hair Transplants Work

Hair transplants move healthy hair follicles from one area of your scalp to a bald or thinning area. Depending on your hair restoration type, your doctor may use strip harvesting or follicular unit extraction (FUE).

In strip harvesting, your surgeon cuts a strip of skin with healthy hairs from the back of your head and stitches it closed. In FUE, your surgeon makes tiny holes in the scalp and carefully places each graft.

Donor Area

Hair transplants move full-size, vigorously growing healthy follicles to areas where hair tends to be thinner. Healthcare providers clean the area that will receive these follicles, called the recipient area. They then make tiny cuts in the scalp that contain healthy follicles. Hundreds of thousands of hairs might be moved to the recipient area during a single treatment session. Your surgeon takes these follicles from parts of your head that still have thick growth, called the donor area. Most often, this is the back and sides of your scalp. But you can also use your beard and body hair as a source of healthy follicles.

Healthcare providers may perform hair transplants using one of two techniques: grafting and flap surgery. For a grafting procedure, your surgeon removes skin from the donor area with a scalpel or a tube-like instrument that punches tiny round grafts of tissue out of your scalp. The follicles are then moved to where you want more hair, such as the front or top of your head.

If you have large bald spots near the front of your scalp, your surgeon may recommend flap surgery. In this technique, your surgeon makes superficial cuts around three sides of the donor site. The scalp’s fourth side remains attached, keeping its original blood supply. The surgeon then flips this section of skin over the bald spots, covering them with it. The surgeon will close the holes in your scalp with stitches. You may see a bit of ooze in these holes after the surgery, but it won’t last long once your scalp develops scabs. Itching may occur at the extraction and implantation sites after surgery, but you should resist the urge to scratch.


A hair transplant involves moving healthy hairs from areas of thick growth to balding areas of the scalp. Local anesthetic and pain-relieving medication are injected into the back of your head to keep you comfortable throughout the process. You can sit back and watch TV, listen to music, or read a book while the surgeon extracts healthy hair follicles for transplantation.

Before the hair transplant, your doctor will clean and numb the area of your scalp where they harvest follicles. Then they will decide which of two methods to obtain the strands for the treatment. In either follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or follicular unit extraction, also called follicular unit strip surgery, the surgeon cuts a strip of skin from the back of your head and then separates it into hundreds of tiny cut sections under a microscope.

Alternatively, with FUE, your surgeon will create tiny holes in your head and use a tube-like instrument to punch follicles directly out of your scalp. These follicles will then be transplanted into a different section of your head where they are needed for thickness and volume.

Before this procedure, your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medications and foods. They might also request that you start massaging your scalp for about 30 minutes each day to balance blood flow and help prepare it for the surgery.


Your surgeon will begin by cleaning your scalp and injecting medicine to numb it. They will then choose one of two methods: follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) or follicular unit extraction (FUE). In FUSS, your doctor will remove a strip of skin from the back of your head that contains healthy hair. They will then use a microscope to separate the drawn strip into follicular units, each containing one or more inches.

In the past, doctors used to transplant whole sections of hair, called “hair plugs.” However, advancements in transplant technology now allow surgeons to move a single healthy hair at a time. This helps achieve natural-looking results on hair transplant growth timeline.

The procedure may take four to eight hours, and you might need more than one session to get the full head of hair you want. The number of grafts you need will depend on your hair density and the coverage you’re looking for.

If you choose a surgeon with extensive experience in FUT and FUE, they should be able to perform the procedure faster and with less damage to your scalp. They can also handle more grafts in a shorter period. This could mean you’ll need fewer sessions, or it might be possible to do a single, more extended session that allows your doctor to move 2,500-3,000 grafts simultaneously.


The good news is that the recovery process from a hair transplant is much quicker and easier than you might expect. The procedure can be completed over a day, and you should return to your routine within a few days.

Hair transplants involve moving healthy full-size, vigorously growing hair follicles from the back of the scalp (the donor area) to thinning or balding areas on the head that need new strands. The procedure can be used to correct genetic and hormonal hair loss as well as several other medical conditions.

During surgery, surgeons use local anesthesia to ensure you don’t feel pain. They also create small holes or slits where the grafts will be planted. They may need the help of other team members to get everything done efficiently and correctly.

After the surgery, your scalp will scab up for a few days. Don’t scratch or wear a hat, which could dislodge the scabs. Instead, wash the recipient area with a gentle shampoo. Be careful not to rub too hard or wash directly over the scabs, as this can damage the hair follicles and cause them to fail.

In a tissue expansion hair transplant, the doctor places balloon-like devices called tissue expanders under the skin of a section of the scalp with healthy hair. Over a few months, they fill these expanders with saline, encouraging the scalp to grow more skin cells. Once they have enough, the doctor removes the expanders and surgically places a flap of hair-bearing skin over the bald area.