Hair Transplant Down Time
With the number of Hair Transplants in the UK and beyond, Ape to Gentleman have received many questions on the topic, hence the addition of hair loss expert Spencer Stevenson to our arsenal of contributors. One of the most frequent comments is concerning Hair Transplant Down Time or Recovery Time. What will happen after the procedure, essentially. Over to Spence…
This is a very common question associated with getting a HT and one of the most common reasons for not getting one sooner in many cases. Many guys know which surgeon they are going with after much research but then need to wait months, sometime years to get an appropriate window of ‘down time’ in order to pull the HT off unnoticed by family, friends, work colleagues etc.
Down time is a pain to organise, every HT veteran will tell you that. But it is definitely an element of the whole HT procedure you need to consider when embarking on your HT journey. Duration and size of the session will make a difference; smaller sessions can get away with a shorter down time period compared to larger session sizes.
Many guys heal up with no real evidence of surgery in as little as ten days and some can still have lingering redness for prolonged periods of time – especially fair skinned patients. There is also the consideration of the shaved recipient areas growing back to a buzz cut length. Some of the concealing products such as Louvre or topic?, can help to cover up the evidence of surgery but they shouldn’t be used on wounds that have not healed over because of the risk of infection.
The oft-asked question, ‘how much down time do I need?’ is an impossible one to answer but I recommend that you give yourself as much time as possible; a MINIMUM of 2-3+ weeks ideally 4-5 (especially larger Strip sessions.)
If you can wear a hat to work then you are laughing and could literally be back to work within days if you wanted to, but for the vast majority wearing a hat at work is not an option and the appropriate amount of downtime post op needs to be considered! From all my HT sessions ( 11 ) , never once have I been able to be back at work within two weeks and I know all the tricks. I’ve listed these in the Tips section at the end of the book.
Aiding healing: what to do and not to do after the operation
It’s very easy when you are thinking about getting an HT to focus all your attention on the procedure itself and the end result. To get the best end result though, you need to also consider the journey post op, particularly how you can help yourself to heal.
You will be given a set of instructions or guidelines to follow after the op. Follow them to the letter, especially for a first HT. They are there for a reason. Read over the written instructions for post-operative care several times; especially in the days post-op. This is very important because some of the vital details may be forgotten with the excitement of the surgery, and also with the sedation you may have received that can cause the fine points to be a little ‘fuzzy’.
Pain medications will be prescribed, but it is unlikely that these will be needed for more than one or two days, at the most. Sleeping medication may also be used for the first couple of nights, if needed. You may also be given medication to prevent swelling; sleeping with the head elevated on pillows for the first week will also help prevent this. It’s normal for the donor and recipient areas to swell a little after surgery as any wound does.
Regular washing of the hair is important. There is a tendency to think that this will disturb the grafts, but if it is done as recommended, the chance of dislodging a graft is remote. Shampooing helps remove dirt, blood and oil, and will gently dislodge the scabs that form over the recipient sites. These scabs should normally be gone within a few days to a week at the most. If they are not, you may not be shampooing effectively enough.
Proper hygiene also helps prevent infection, and promotes the normal shedding of the transplanted hairs that occurs before they begin their new, relocated growth phase. Yes I did say that there is normal shedding of transplanted hairs – more on that in the ‘shedding and growth times’ to come.
Keeping the recipient and donor areas moist promotes their healing. GraftCyte, Aloe Vera gel, Emu oil, distilled witch hazel solution or even a mild salt solution will all work. This will also decrease the tendency of healing tissues to itch. This is more important than it sounds. For the first few days, you may experience significant itching in the donor and recipient areas.
Gently scratching the donor site in the back will cause little trauma; it is beneficial to keep the donor incision free from debris, scabs, and any accumulation of dirt and ointment.
The recipient area, on the other hand, is a different matter. Keep your scratchy fingers off this! It is the most susceptible to trauma during the first three or four days, which is also the time when it may itch the most!
Keeping the area moist is the single most important factor in soothing and preventing the itching sensation. Vigorous rubbing and especially scratching with the fingernails can easily dislodge grafts, which may cause mild bleeding, but more importantly, you may lose one or more of those valuable replaced follicles.
The donor area is a much larger incision than the tiny slits in the recipient area, therefore it is often a bit more inflamed. Sutures or stables may also cause some degree of inflammatory reaction. You may get mild swelling and discomfort.
Also, there will be an initial swelling and soreness from the surgical trauma of removing the donor strip and FUE extractions. The discomfort and associated numbness usually decreases rapidly over the first three to four days; most of the soreness is gone at one week, but the numbness may persist for several months. In the latter case, the numbness gradually decreases as the nerves grow back until it is unnoticeable.