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Dr. Bernstein answers frequently asked questions about hair transplantation, hair loss, and medical treatment for hair loss.

Hair Restoration Answers

How Long Until I See Growth from Hair Transplant into a Donor Scar?

Q: I have had some grafts implanted into a donor scar. How long does it take to see the final result? B.K. – Newport, Rhode Island

A: In normal scalps, growth is generally complete by 10-12 months. Grafts placed in scar tissue may often take longer to grow.


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Hair Restoration Answers

What Causes ‘Graft Popping’ During Surgical Hair Restoration?

Q: What causes graft popping during a hair transplant? G.K. – Carle Place, N.Y.

A: Popping, or the tendency for grafts to elevate after they have been placed into the recipient area, is caused by a number of factors including:

  • Packing the grafts too closely, particularly when they are placed on a very acute (sharp) angle with the skin
  • Rough placing techniques
  • Bleeding
  • Poor fit between the graft and recipient site
  • Natural characteristics of the patient’s skin, including the elasticity and stickiness of wound edges

The problem with popping is that it exposes grafts to drying (while they are elevated on the skin surface) and trauma (when they have to be re-inserted).

The judgment and experience of the surgeon performing hair transplants is extremely important in minimizing popping. It is important that the surgeon customize the site size to the different size follicular unit grafts and to test the recipient sites as they are made, to make sure that the “fit” is perfect.

Although it is important to place grafts close together to get the best cosmetic result possible, over-packing of the grafts risks popping and other factors (such as overwhelming the blood supply) that may lead to poor growth.

In the end, maximum growth of the transplanted hair should be the primary goal.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can I Vary Dosage of Propecia in Treatment of Hair Loss?

Q: I am not yet ready for a hair transplant but am considering Propecia. What is your opinion on the “optimal dose”? I know Merck recommends 1 mg, but could I get away with taking less? Or would I get a better result by taking more (2-3 mgs)? — V.B, Darien, CT

A: You may get away with 0.5 mg a day. However, there are published data by Roberts et. Al. in the JAAD in 1999 showing a dose-response between 0.2 and 1 mg/day, with the lower dose showing reduced efficacy, from controlled clinical trials.

There is little evidence that a higher dose helps, but I often double the dose if a patient has been on 1mg a day for 3-5 years and then stops responding. The hope is that this can postpone the need for surgical hair restoration, but there is no scientific data to support that it will.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Will Hair Transplant Grafts Grow in Scar Tissue on Scalp?

Q: Can hair transplants grow in scars? P.N. – Westbury, N.Y.

A: Grafts will grow in scar tissue as long as the scar is not thickened. However, they cannot be placed as close together as in normal scalp because of decreased blood flow. When performing a hair transplant into scar tissue, it is often necessary to perform the hair restoration in multiple sessions to allow the area to gradually re-vascularize (allow the blood supply to return).


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Hair Restoration Answers

Do You Recommend Hair Transplant for Hair Thinning Over Entire Scalp?

Q: I am 19 years old and seem to be thinning all over, including the sides. My father has all of his hair but my grandfather is totally bald. Should I have a hair transplant now or wait until I am older? — T.K., Garden City, NY

A: Most likely you have a type of androgenetic alopecia called Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA). In this hereditary condition, hair thins all over rather than just on the front, top and back as in the more common male pattern baldness. The fact that the back and sides of your scalp are thinning (the donor area) precludes you from being a candidate for surgery. The diagnosis can be made by observing a high degree of miniaturization (fine hair) in the donor area under a magnifier. This instrument is called a densitometer.

For further information, please read the article:

Bernstein RM, Rassman WR: Follicular Transplantation: Patient Evaluation and Surgical Planning, published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery in 1997. Specifically, read the last part of the article.


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Hair Restoration Answers

After Hair Transplant, Can Donor Hair Become Frizzy and Dry?

Q: Why can donor hair become frizzy and dry once transplanted? — G.F., Stamford, C.T.

A: Frizzing and kinkiness is a temporary phenomenon that is part of the normal healing process after a follicular unit hair transplant. During the healing process, the new collagen that forms around the grafts can alter their growth. Over time, usually within a year, this collagen matures and the hair quality usually returns to normal. If grafts have been excessively traumatized or grafts larger than follicular units have been used, these changes are more likely to be permanent.

Dry hair is felt to be caused in part by trimming follicular units too closely and thus removing the sebaceous glands which normally provide an oily film to the surface of the hair and skin. With grafts smaller than follicular units (i.e. with closely trimmed micro-grafts) the risk is even greater.

To prevent this, in the dissection phase of the hair transplant, one should isolate intact follicular units from the donor tissue and trim away excess skin, but not trim the follicular units “to the quick.” Excess trimming, besides removing the sebaceous glands, also makes the grafts more subject to drying, warming and mechanical trauma (particularly during graft placing).


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Hair Transplant be Harmed by Smoking Before or After Procedure?

Q: Is it true that smoking is bad for a hair transplant and why? P.P. – N.Y., N.Y.

A: Smoking causes constriction of blood vessels and decreased blood flow to the scalp, predominantly due to its nicotine content. Also, carbon monoxide in smoke decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

These factors both contribute to poor wound healing after a hair transplant and can increase the chance of a wound infection and scarring. Smoking may also contribute to poor hair growth.

The harmful effects of smoking wear off slowly after one stops. In particular, chronic smokers are at risk of poor healing after smoking has stopped for weeks or even months.

Although it is not known exactly how long one should avoid smoking before and after a hair transplant, a common recommendation is to abstain from 1 week prior to surgery to 2 weeks after the hair restoration procedure.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Repair of Old Hair Plugs be Completed in One Session?

Q: When performing a repair on an old, pluggy hair transplant, why can’t all the grafts be removed at once?

A: We always try to do this, but it is not always possible.

If the large grafts (plugs) are spaced too close together, suturing one will put tension on an adjacent graft and make it more difficult to close. This may worsen, rather than improve, the underlying scar.

In addition, it is not always possible to remove all the follicles in a graft on one pass, as the root tends to fan outward deeper in the skin. If you use a large enough punch to remove all the follicles at once than you risk leaving a mark from the excision.

For more details, please see the following hair restoration publications:


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Shock from a Hair Transplant Cause Loss of Healthy Hair?

Q: Will the shock of a hair transplant make me lose my existing healthy hair and is it permanent? G.S. – Westport, C.T.

A: In general, only miniaturized hair (the hair that is affected by androgens and that has begun to decrease in diameter) is shed after a transplant. This hair would be lost in the near term anyway.

Existing healthy hair is unlikely to shed, but if it were shed, you could expect it to grow back.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can a Hair Transplant be Harmed by Cosmetic Camouflage Products?

Q: Are camouflage agents harmful to newly transplanted follicles after a hair transplant?

A: Cosmetic camouflage products are not harmful to grafts per se, but they may make it difficult to keep the transplanted area clean right after the hair restoration procedure.

They may be used safely as early as one week following a hair transplant, since at this time they can be gently washed out without disturbing the newly transplanted grafts.

These products are useful in reducing any residual redness and can make the transplanted area appear fuller until the new grafts grow.

There are a number of products that can be used and they come in a variety of forms: creams, sprays, powders and gels. To find out where to get them, go to the Camouflage page.


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Hair Restoration Answers

After Hair Transplant, What is a Normal Amount of Shedding?

Q: I had a hair transplant two weeks ago and I just started noticing that some grafts were in my baseball cap at the end of the day. Am I losing the transplant and what can I do to keep this from happening? – Weston, C.T.

A: The follicles are firmly fixed in the scalp 10 days following the hair transplant. Hair is shed from the follicle beginning the second week after the procedure. This is perfectly normal and does not represent any loss of grafts.

What you are seeing is the root sheath that is shed along with the hair shaft. This looks like a little bulb, but is not the growth part of the follicle and should not be a cause for concern.

Two weeks following the hair transplant you may shower and shampoo your scalp as you normally did before the procedure without any risk of losing grafts.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Hair be Transplanted into Scar Tissue from a Prior Transplant?

Q: I have had some surgical procedures on my head that left a fair amount of scar tissue. Can hair grow there? Is it a more difficult procedure? Are there any complications? – Darien, C.T.

A: Transplanted hair will grow in scar tissue as long as the tissue is not thickened. Thickened scar tissue can be flattened with local injections of cortisone.

Once the scar is smooth, the hair transplant procedure is relatively straightforward, however a few things must still be kept in mind.

  1. Since the blood supply of the scar tissue is less than in normal tissue, the grafts should not be placed as close.
  2. As the grafts from the hair transplant grow, new blood vessels are formed in the area.
  3. Additional density can then be achieved in a subsequent session by adding more grafts.
  4. After the hair restoration procedure, care must be taken with grafts transplanted into scar tissue, as the scarred scalp doesn’t hold onto grafts as well as normal tissue and they are more easily dislodged.

If grafts are packed too closely into scar tissue, poor growth can result. If sites are placed properly and the post-op care is diligent, good growth should be expected.


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Hair Restoration Answers

What is the Effect of Multiple Hair Transplant Procedures on the Scalp?

Q: I have had 4 hair transplants with strips taken out for a total of 2600 grafts over 15 years. The last one was 1,650 grafts. My doc says my donor site is good for a few more but I think it has been probably stretched to its max. Is it believable that the skin can be stretched to such extremes safely? – Murray Hill, N.Y.

A: The scalp is very resilient to stretching, particularly in those with a loose scalp to begin with. After removing a strip, the laxity often returns to normal or very close to it within 6 months to a year.

The problem with multiple hair transplant procedures is not only that scalp laxity may decrease, but that the donor density decreases as well. If too much hair is harvested, the donor area may eventually appear too thin. This may happen with either Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) or Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).

Therefore, it is important the doctor not only assess the scalp laxity, but the residual donor density.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Is There a Second Scar with a Second FUT Hair Transplant?

Q: When a second hair transplant is performed, should there be a second incision or should it be incorporated into the first? – D.V., Inwood, N.Y.

A: It is a very common practice to make a second separate scar in the second hair restoration procedure. This is done to maximize the hair in the second session, and it is technically the easiest to perform. If you incorporate the old scar in the new incision, there will obviously be less hair. As long as the upper incision is still in the permanent zone, the hair quality will be good.

That said, in my practice I almost always use only one scar. The subsequent procedure would incorporate the first and extend the scar to one side or the other (or both). I generally use the old scar as one edge of the new strip so that there is only one incision into virgin scalp (rather than two).

There are a number of reasons for this technique.

  1. The hair will always be taken from the mid-portion of the permanent zone, so we utilize the thickest, most stable hair
  2. A line scar in this location is generally the least visible and most easily camouflaged with the persons existing hair
  3. One avoids making a scar too low that increases the risk of widening the scar
  4. One scar will be easier to camouflage with Follicular Unit Extraction (if this is ever necessary)

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Hair Restoration Answers

Do You Use Anesthesia During a Hair Transplant?

Q: Will I be unconscious during the hair transplant procedure and do you use general anesthesia? – C.L., Boston, Massachusetts

A: All of the surgical hair restoration procedures at Bernstein Medical are performed under local anesthesia. The fact that general anesthesia is not needed is what makes hair transplant procedures – even though they are long – very safe.

Patients are given a sedative to help them relax, but they are not put to sleep. Most patients watch TV, see movies or just chat during the procedure.


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Updated: 2019-11-15 | Published: 2009-07-02


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