During your hair transplant, you may undergo mild trauma to the skin and there is an underlying process of healing associated with this. It will require gentle nurturing to ensure your transplant is a success. Your skin will be more sensitive than usual during the recovery period, so you’ll need to take steps to protect your scalp as well, such as avoiding direct sunlight and using a saline spray to prevent bacterial growth and itchiness of the scalp/grafts post-op. There are a few steps you can take at home to aid your body along in the healing process, but first, let’s discuss expectations.
If you are wondering if you can go back to work after the surgery, you sure can, albeit a few days after. Hair transplants are very safe and mild procedures and depending on how labor intensive your job is, you could return to work just a few days after your procedure.
If so, don’t be alarmed as this is totally normal. Hair is a very small organ and while a hair transplant may feel mild to us as a large body of organs, it’s a stressful event for the organ itself. When it’s removed from its native environment the hair turns to the telogen phase as a way to rest, recover, and regrow in it’s new home. Typically, within the first couple of weeks you should expect to see the hair falling out, but there is no need to worry, the follicle itself remains implanted and safe. You should expect to see anywhere from 50% to 100% hair loss of the transplanted follicles during this time. After the shedding phase, the hair will begin to grow. You should expect to see the first signs of growth (roughly 10%) at the 3-month mark, up to 30% at months 4-5, up to 50% at months 6-7, up to 70% at months 8-9, and up to 90% at months 11-12. The remaining transplanted hairs can continue to appear for up to 18 months after, but the visual impact at this stage may be rarely noticeable to the naked eye.
Although the surgery does not require general anesthesia, you may be given pain medications and valium or another relaxant. Consequently, it is not advisable to drive immediately post-op as you will be under the influence of these medications and discomfort.
Although it is tempting to touch your newly grafted hair, aggressive pressure, scratching, and rubbing can cause grafts to dislodge during the initial phase of healing. It’s also not sanitary! Human hands have the tendency to be contaminated and you wouldn’t want to introduce any of that potentially infectious material to your scalp, where the integrity of the skin will be temporarily compromised due to the incisions made for transplantation.
After the surgery, you may experience some swelling in the scalp and face. By sleeping with your head elevated above the heart until the swelling subsides. Some people experience swelling longer than others but this typically resolves within the first week. It’s also important to avoid sleeping on your tummy or side as this may restrict the draining of the excess fluid that is causing the swelling. Also, this will help prevent friction against the transplanted area against the pillow.
After hair transplant surgery, your scalp may be slightly tender. Soreness is less common with an FUE than an FUT. However, depending on the procedure and you as a patient, it may require postoperative pain medications to ease the soreness for several days. Your surgeon may prescribe you medications such as:
– Pain medication
Certain recipient locations, such as the eyebrows, may experience more swelling than others. It is not uncommon for this swelling to appear days after the procedure itself. You can apply a clean, wrapped, cold compress or ice above your eyebrows to prevent the occurrence of swelling. If utilizing ice, do so in 20 minute on and off intervals. It is important that you do not apply the ice directly to the transplanted areas of your scalp. Remember? Avoid touching except per your postoperative instructions which will guide you through the cleansing process.
You can wash your hair starting with day 3 of your hair transplant post-op. You will want to wash your hair using the pour method and a mild shampoo, such as baby shampoos. You will mix tepid water in a cup and pour the fluid in a way that allows it to flow through your recipient site and donor area. DO NOT allow direct impact of the water, as the pressure can cause graft removal when your wounds are still fresh. It goes without saying that this also means you should not scrub your scalp. After pouring the shampoo/water mixture, rinse it well, utilizing the same pour techniques.
Around 7-10 days, you will be fully anchoring the grafts into their new home. During this time it’s safe to begin your normal washing routine. At this time, it is important to use circular rubbing motions to gently remove dried blood and scabs. The purpose of this is that over time, the scabs and dried blood can act as safe havens for bacteria to breed. Do not scratch, pull, poke, scrape or use a pumice stone-like device to remove the scabs as you may cause the wounds to reopen.
If you cannot stand your grey hair, dye it prior to the surgery, because you won’t be able to for a brief period after your hair transplant. Dye often contains harsh chemicals that can compromise the recovery of the transplanted follicles.
Always keep yourself hydrated before, during, and after your hair transplant procedure. Water is our life force and hydration impacts the skin, your blood flow, and your tolerance to medications. The more well hydrated you are, the more comfortable you will be during your procedure. Before your hair transplant procedure, you should make an effort to drink 10% more water than your usual intake. You should strive to meet recommended daily requirements even if you aren’t getting a transplant!
Although you might be concerned by the scabs forming in your head and you will certainly want to hide it, avoid wearing hats. Let the scabs solidify first for about 3 days after your hair transplant post-op. At this time, you can wear fitted hats. Some patients opt for wearing a bandana for the first three days. As long as it’s clean, that’s okay, but it’s best practice to leave the recipient site open to air and as minimally disturbed as possible.
Remember that you just had a hair transplant surgery and we all know how the sun can damage our skin. Have you ever walked outside on a fresh summer day with the sun beaming down on a burn, scrape, new tattoo, or any other fresh wound? The burning sensation is amplified significantly due to the compromised integrity of the skin. So you can imagine how important it is to protect your skin from the sun as a general habit, but especially during the first month postoperatively.
A fitted hat or bandana is a great option for protecting the scalp. If you don’t want to wear a hat, you can use a light sunscreen after the first month or after the wounds have fully healed. Avoid direct exposure without protection for at least one month, but best practice would be to protect it for 3 to 4 months.
One of the most important hair transplants post-op considerations is to not perform heavy lifting. Avoid engaging in tiring exercise after the surgery, as your body needs energy to heal. Additionally, heavy lifting and bending over can increase pressure in the scalp and potentially dislodge grafts or increase swelling. So, if you love getting a nice sweat going, you may have to forgo getting a pre-date “pump” and opt for light cardio instead. That said, avoid excessive sweating until the incisions have healed, roughly 2-weeks after your procedure.
Surgeons recommend avoiding strenuous physical activity for 2-4 weeks. Each person is different so you will want to discuss this with the clinician performing your procedure. You should refrain from swimming, cycling, tennis, or any heavy lifting workouts for the time recommended by your surgical staff. This post hair transplant aims to avoid any stretching of the scar(s), dislodging of grafts, increase in swelling, and infection risk.
Although hair transplants are only minimally invasive, do not consume alcohol or tobacco for at least 7-10 days. Why? Because alcohol thins your blood and can have a negative impact on healing. Tobacco, especially cigarettes, decrease circulating oxygen in the blood. To make matters worse, tobacco contains nicotine, a substance which causes vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow to the scalp. Seeing that the blood is already less than optimally oxygenated, the vasoconstriction further limits the flow of quality blood to the scalp. If you thought that was all, you’re wrong! Cigarette smoke also negatively impacts your skin overall, reducing absorption and secretion of important oils and vitamins that protect your skin from sunlight. But wait, there’s more, the compounds in cigarettes also destroy collagen and elastin in the skin. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause the above, so if anyone in your house smokes, ask them to do so outside.
Most scabs fall off within the first week. However, on day 7 you can begin washing with circular motions to dislodge the remaining scabs, but please, DO NOT SCRATCH them off.
Hair transplant surgery is a big step for you and you will want to know everything you can about your postoperative experience before you get your procedure done. After the procedure, your hair transplant doctor/surgeon or clinician will give you a hair transplant post-op list of dos and don’ts, but you may be a little groggy so we recommend requesting them prior to your transplant so that you can be well prepared.
While it’s uncommon for any postoperative issues to occur, it’s important that you attend all of your scheduled follow-up appointments. This will ensure the clinical team can assess any issues or bad habits that may be occurring during the recovery process and may help you manage your expectations. If you have any questions about how to care for your hair, bring them up during those visits.
It may seem as if you have to be very careful with your hair – and you do! You are spending your hard earned money to get a transplant, you should be willing to put in a small amount of effort to protect it during the most vulnerable phase. If you take the necessary steps then you will be enjoying a new head of hair in no time.