Hair transplants produce natural-looking results by utilizing a patient’s own hair to fill in the balding areas of the scalp. Natural hair takes time to grow, however, which means that a patient will not see the results of the surgery as they leave the clinic. Instead, patients will watch their new hair grow over the course of many months.
In this hair transplant regrowth timeline, we describe everything that you can expect in the weeks and months following the procedure. Additionally, we will provide tips on how to accelerate the rate at which your hair grows during this time, and outline the lifestyle factors which can increase the strength and thickness of your new hair.
What is a Hair Transplant?
A hair transplant is a cosmetic treatment which removes hair follicles from one part of the body and transfers them to the balding areas of the scalp. The area from which the hairs are removed is known as the ‘donor site’, whilst the balding areas of the head are referred to as the ‘recipient area’.
Hair transplants are typically used to treat male pattern baldness – a condition which is medically known as androgenic alopecia. Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in men. In fact, over 50% of all men over the age of fifty-years-old will be affected by the condition to some degree.
Androgenic alopecia causes the hairline to recede, whilst also targeting the hair on the crown. Meanwhile, the hairs on the back and the side of the scalp tend to remain in place. This means that patients who suffer from the condition will experience balding on the front and top of their head, but will have a horseshoe pattern of hair running along the lower back of their scalp.
As a result, most hair transplants work by removing hair follicles from the healthy hair on the back or sides of the scalp. These are then re-inserted into the balding areas on the top and front of the head. A local anaesthetic is used during this process to reduce pain as much as possible.
Of course, hair transplants are not only used to treat male pattern baldness: the procedure can also treat patients who have lost hair on account of an injury, or women who suffer from female pattern baldness. In fact, the treatment is suitable for any patient who suffers from hair loss, and possesses enough healthy hair in a different region of the body to transfer and transplant.
How Does Hair Grow?
In order to know what to expect in the weeks and months following a hair transplant, it is useful to understand how hair grows. In particular, it is helpful to know the cycle which new hair undergoes when it grows, as this will help you to recognise whether your new hair is growing healthily and naturally in the months that follow the procedure.
The Hair Growth Cycle:
The hair growth cycle is composed of four stages, known as the anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen phases.
The Anagen Phase:
The anagen phase is the first stage of the hair growth cycle. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘growth’ or ‘growing’ phase, because it is when a hair begins to grow. During this phase, the cells in the root or follicle of the hair are rapidly dividing, which extends the length of the hair. Approximately 80-90% of the hair follicles on a healthy person’s scalp are in the anagen phase at any given time.
The Catagen Phase:
After the growth phase, a hair will transition into the catagen phase. This is a very short, transitional phase in the hair growth cycle, as it lasts for only two to three weeks. During this time, the hair will detach itself from the body’s blood supply, preventing itself from receiving oxygen and nutrients. As a result, the hair stops growing, and becomes known as a ‘club hair’. A club hair simply hangs from the head, preparing to fall out. It is for this reason that the catagen phase is sometimes called the ‘transition phase’.
The Telogen Phase:
Once the two to three weeks of the catagen phase have elapsed, the telogen phase begins. This stage lasts for approximately three months. During this time, a new hair forms underneath the club hair. The telogen phase is sometimes referred to as the ‘resting phase’, because the club hair does not fall out but simply ‘rests’ at this time.
The Exogen Phase:
The exogen phase is the final stage of the hair growth cycle, in which the club hair separates from the scalp and falls out. This is why the exogen phase is sometimes called the ‘hair shedding phase’. The hairs that you find on a hairbrush after brushing your hair, or in the drain after you have a shower, have just exited the exogen phase.
Every hair on your head is at one of the four stages of the hair growth cycle. The vast majority of these hairs will be in the anagen phase, though others will be in the other three stages, too. Different hairs on your head undergo different phases of the hair growth cycle at different times; if they did not, we would lose all of our hair at once. It is by keeping each hair at a different phase in the hair growth cycle, therefore, that the scalp is able to maintain a healthy head of hair at all times.
Hair Transplant Timeline – Hair Growth After The Transplant:
One Week After a Hair Transplant:
In the days immediately following a hair transplant, patients can expect to experience some redness, itchiness and swelling on the scalp. Some patients experience feelings of numbness, tightness or an aching sensation, and over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or penicillin, can be used to relieve these symptoms.
At this time, there will be some scabbing and crustiness around the incisions that were made in the scalp during the surgery. Patients must resist the urge to scratch or pick at their scabs – this could dislodge the transplanted hair follicles and cause infection.
In fact, the risk of infection is highest in the first four days following a hair transplant. For this reason, patients must avoid brushing or washing their scalp during this time. Similarly, sweating risks infection, which is why patients are advised to avoid direct sunlight, strenuous exercise, saunas and hot tubs for the first week after the surgery.
Finally, it is important that patients sleep on their backs, with their heads elevated at approximately 45 degrees, during the first week after the transplant. This will reduce swelling and ensure that the newly relocated hair follicles are not uprooted and displaced in the night.
Two Weeks After a Hair Transplant:
In the second week, the unpleasant side effects of the surgery – such as redness, itchiness and swelling – will have noticeably diminished, though it is unlikely that they will have disappeared completely. Scabs will be falling off the scalp naturally at this time, and patients should continue to refrain from scratching or picking at them.
The transplanted hair follicles will be beginning to take root in the scalp, and consequently patients are able to engage in exercise again and sleep in any position that they choose without damaging their new hair. For the same reason, patients can wash and brush their scalp again as normal.
Additionally, patients will notice hairs being shed from the recipient area (it is likely that you will spot small hairs on the surface of your pillow, for example). This is because the old hairs in the transplanted follicles will have entered the exogen phase of the hair growth cycle, causing them to fall out. This will allow the follicles to produce new hair later on.
One Month After a Hair Transplant:
After one month has passed since your hair transplant, the hair in the recipient area will enter the telogen, or resting, phase of the hair growth cycle. As a result, patients will not notice any new growth yet, and it is likely that the scalp will resemble the way it looked prior to the transplant. Nevertheless, some hair shedding will continue during this time.
Meanwhile, the hair in the donor site will have grown back completely, concealing the scars that were made during the surgery.
Three Months After a Hair Transplant:
Patients will begin to notice some new hair emerging from the scalp. Although the amount of growth varies from patient to patient, these new hairs will – generally speaking – be very small and rather thin at this time.
Some patients will notice spots or pimples forming around their new hair. This is simply a side effect of the new growth, and the pimples will disappear with time.
Six Months After a Hair Transplant:
Once six months have passed since the surgery, patients will notice further growth. The texture of the new hairs will continue to be very thin and fine, but they will grow thicker and darker with time.
Furthermore, many patients experience patchy or uneven hair growth in the first four to nine months after a transplant, and it is likely that patchiness will be at its worst after approximately six months. This is because different patches of the scalp produce new hair at different rates. Try not to worry: your hair will become neat and even over time.
Nine Months After a Hair Transplant:
Although there will still be some inconsistent coverage or patchiness after nine months, it will have noticeably diminished, as new growth begins to fill in the thinning areas. The new hairs will begin to look thicker, stronger and darker in colour.
Twelve to Eighteen Months After a Hair Transplant:
The final results of the transplant should be visible after roughly a year has passed since the surgery was conducted. Thick, dark hair will completely cover the recipient areas of the scalp. A follow-up appointment at the clinic will be arranged at this time to assess the results of the treatment and ensure that the patient is fully satisfied.
Factors that Impact Hair Growth after a Hair Transplant:
The rate at which one’s hair grows depends on a variety of variables, such as age, genetics, and lifestyle factors. This means that, though it usually takes a year for the results of a hair transplant to become visible, this time frame will vary from person to person. Some patients will see results earlier than this, whilst others will take longer to notice significant hair growth.
This also means that there are lifestyle habits which patients can adopt to quicken the rate at which their new hair grows, from massaging the scalp regularly to incorporating hair-boosting superfoods into one’s diet.
Eating A Nutritious, Protein-Rich Diet:
The vitamins and minerals in one’s food directly impacts the strength and thickness of the hair, as well as the speed at which it grows.
Hair follicles are mostly composed of protein. Consequently, eating a diet that is rich in protein will help to strengthen the hair follicles and accelerate the rate at which they can produce new hair. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, which also supply the body with a mineral called biotin, which fights hair thinning and loss.
Incorporating nuts, beans and lentils into your meals will also boost the amount of protein in your diet. Moreover, this will supply the body with vital, hair-stimulating nutrients, such as vitamin E (which strengthens the scalp) and zinc (which helps the body to repair broken hair).
Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, herring or sardines, are key sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which stimulate hair growth. If you do not eat fish, then flax and chia seeds are great alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Finally, it is important to consume a wide array of fruit and vegetables. In particular, try to include sources of vitamin C (such as broccoli, oranges, sweet potatoes or sweet peppers), vitamin D (such as mushrooms, soybeans or kale), vitamin E (such as avocados, mangoes or kiwifruit) and iron (such as spinach or potatoes) into your diet. These hair-boosting nutrients will both strengthen your hair and accelerate the rate of growth.
Although diet is only one of many factors which affect the speed at which hair grows, it is nevertheless true that patients who incorporate the above foods into their meals are more likely to see the results of their hair transplant sooner than patients who do not.
Vitamins or supplements can also supply the body with these hair-boosting nutrients. In particular, supplements with keratin, collagen, zinc, hyaluronic acid, biotin, omega-3 and omega-6, or vitamins A, C, D, and E, will all help to quicken the rate at which hair grows, whilst simultaneously revitalising brittle hair.
However, it is important to bear in mind that supplements are never meant to replace healthy food, and vitamins should be taken in addition to – and not instead of – the food items listed above. Furthermore, talking to your healthcare provider before you start taking a supplement is always a good practice.
Minoxidil is a medicine that is used to treat hair thinning and loss. It is often sold under the brand name Rogaine, and it can be purchased over the counter in the form of a foam or a topical liquid. Alternatively, minoxidil can be taken orally, as a tablet or capsule, if it is prescribed by your doctor.
The medicine works both by broadening the width of the hair follicles and increasing the flow of blood to them. This increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are fed to the follicles, which stimulates growth and strengthens the hair.
When minoxidil is taken in the weeks and months following a hair transplant, the medicine will speed up the rate at which your new hair grows from the transplanted follicles. Consequently, patients will notice hair growing in the recipient area sooner.
In some cases, a surgeon will recommend that a patient begins taking minoxidil in the month prior to their hair transplant as part of their pre-surgical care plan.
Ultimately, your surgeon will provide you with a prescription if they determine that minoxidil is right for you. Patients must not start taking minoxidil without consulting their surgeon.
Stimulating the Scalp:
A healthy scalp will always help to create strong, healthy hair. Ultimately, the scalp is the source of your hair: blood flows through it in order to supply the hair with the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to grow and remain strong. An irritated or inflamed scalp, meanwhile, will inhibit hair growth. In these cases, hair follicles can close up, causing the hair to grow thin or fall out altogether.
During a hair transplant, incisions are made in both the donor and recipient areas of the scalp. For the first four days after the surgery, patients must avoid touching, brushing or washing their scalp. The transplanted hair follicles are still loose at this time, and touching the scalp could uproot them.
After four days have passed, however, patients are encouraged to lightly wash and shampoo their scalp. After ten days, there should be no scabs or traces of dried blood remaining.
Once three weeks have passed since the surgery, patients can lightly massage their scalp. This will increase the blood flow to your head, which helps nourish the hair follicles with the nutrients that they need to produce strong, healthy hair as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, stress can have a significant impact on the hair growth cycle, as anxiety can push hairs into the telogen phase prematurely, halting growth. To achieve the best results from a hair transplant, patients should attempt to reduce stress as much as possible in the months before and after the surgery. Whilst this is often easier said than done, breathing exercises, mindfulness, yoga and gentle exercise can all help to manage stress.
In addition to supporting digestion and improving the appearance of the skin, drinking lots of water can increase the rate at which hair grows. Without moisture, your hair will become thin, dry and brittle. The rate of growth slows, and, as your hair weakens, it becomes more susceptible to breakage. Consequently, patients must remain hydrated in the weeks and months following a hair transplant. This will ensure that the hair follicles are sufficiently lubricated, which will boost hair growth.
Patients should not exercise for one week after a hair transplant. However, once this time has passed, engaging in regular exercise will actually encourage your new hair to grow. This is because exercise increases blood circulation to the scalp, which will stimulate hair growth.
All of the above are lifestyle factors which can be altered by changing one’s habits. Unfortunately, however, the rate at which one’s hair grows is also impacted by genetic factors, which are beyond one’s control.
Your genes influence the speed at which your hair grows, as well as the thickness and colour of your hair. Consequently, different patients will see results from their hair transplant at different times.
Nevertheless, genes are not all-determining, and implementing the above lifestyle changes will have a positive effect on the rate at which your new hair grows.
In the end, the best way to get the most from your hair transplant is to take care of your body, follow the post-surgical care instructions given to you by your surgeon, and be patient. Although it usually takes one year to see the final results of the treatment, a hair transplant will eventually produce stylish and natural-looking results which last for a lifetime.
Our post-hair transplant timeline is only a general outline of what to expect. Each patient’s hair will grow at its own speed, and the results of the treatment will emerge with time.