A hair transplant, which moves hair from one place to another on your head, can be done in several ways. The most common way is grafting. To be a good candidate, you'll need to have thicker areas of hair on your head. Permanent hair loss can happen due to several reasons, including types of alopecia.
A hair transplant is a surgery that moves hair to bald or thinning areas of the scalp. Also called hair restoration or hair replacement, it’s usually for people who have already tried other hair loss treatments. Dermatologists (healthcare providers specializing in the skin) or plastic surgeons (healthcare providers specializing in reconstructive procedures) perform hair transplants.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
The healthcare provider takes grafts, or small pieces of skin, from areas of the body that contain healthy hair. Healthcare providers call this area the donor site. It’s usually on your head, at the back of your scalp where hair tends to be thickest. The healthcare provider moves the grafts to hairless parts of the scalp. Once the transplanted skin heals, it should continue to grow hair.
There are many reasons you might lose your hair. Sometimes hair loss is temporary, but it can be permanent. Hair implants may help with permanent hair loss caused by:
You may be a candidate for hair replacement surgery if you:
There are several different ways to perform hair transplant surgery, including:
Hair grafting is the most common type of hair transplant surgery. A healthcare provider cuts tiny pieces of the scalp containing healthy hair. Sometimes they use a small, round punch to remove skin that contains about 10 to 15 hairs. People used to call these grafts “hair plugs.” Micro-grafts contain one to two hairs.
The procedure can take several hours. Most people stay awake during the surgery, but they receive medication to numb the scalp. You may need several procedures depending on how much hair your provider needs to move. Your scalp will need to heal for a few months between procedures.
Providers also call scalp reduction alopecia reduction. During this procedure, a surgeon removes a small area of bald skin from the scalp. They loosen nearby skin containing hair and pull it over the bald area. Then, they stitch it in place.
Scalp reduction is ideal for bald areas on the top and back of the head. These sections are usually surrounded by skin with hair. Sometimes providers use scalp reduction and hair implants together to achieve full coverage. Like grafting, scalp reduction usually only requires numbing medication on the scalp. This means you don’t need general anesthesia.
Your surgeon may recommend flap surgery if you have large bald areas near the front of your scalp. Flap surgery occurs in several phases over a few weeks. The surgeon makes superficial cuts around three sides of donor site. The fourth side remains attached, maintaining its original blood supply. This technique helps the surgeon cut the flap and lift it over bald areas. Flap surgery requires general anesthesia.
If you have scalp baldness or disfigurement due to burns, your provider may perform tissue expansion surgery. Tissue expansion requires general anesthesia and involves several steps:
As with any surgery, a hair transplant comes with risks. These include:
Side effects of hair transplant surgery are usually temporary. You may experience the following issues on your scalp, at the donor site or where the new hair is:
Potential benefits of hair restoration include:
Most hair transplants are outpatient surgeries, which means you can go home the same day as the procedure. Your recovery process will depend on the type of transplant you have. In the days after surgery, you may be able to:
It can take up to a year before you see the full results of any hair transplant. The transplanted hair may fall out as the graft or flap heals. This is normal. The hair should grow back. You may need several “touch-up” hair transplant surgeries to achieve a natural-looking result.
You’ll likely have several follow-up visits with your healthcare provider after surgery. They will make sure your scalp is healing well. But contact your provider right away if you experience any of the following problems:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hair transplant surgery may be an option if other hair growth treatments didn’t work for you. There are many different hair transplant techniques. So, it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to choose the procedure that will best meet your goals. Look for a skilled professional with experience in hair loss and hair restoration. They are the only ones who should perform transplant surgery. You should also consider the practical aspects of hair transplant surgery. Think about the cost and the healing time between treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.