EXPERT GUIDE

Post-Op Hair Transplant Guide

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Sternberg Written by Alex Rode on 23 Jun 2022

Hair transplant surgery may be the best solution for some people suffering from hair loss. From choosing a clinic and a doctor to the surgery itself and postoperative care, all the stages may be stressful. Still, it could be easier to handle it with enough information and knowledge. 

This article outlines the most common tips and advice for post-op care and side effects and the list of ‘don’t’ after the hair transplant surgery. This is a general guide; your doctor should provide you with detailed post-op care instructions for your particular case.

In a Nutshellsvg

Possible Side Effects Swelling, scabs, etc.
Aftercare Minoxidil, finasteride, vitamins etc.
Growth Timeline One to twelve months
Things to avoid (FAQs) Explanation
Can I have alcohol after hair transplant? Alcohol thins the blood and influences the ability of our blood to clot. The scalp has many blood vessels, so even a tiny wound can cause a lot of bleeding. It may be a problem on the day of surgery. So, it is often advised not to consume alcohol. Alcohol also affects the anesthesia, so it is better not to have it before the surgery. You will probably be asked not to consume alcohol after the procedure, as alcohol may interfere with the antibiotics needed to prevent an infection. Thirdly, alcohol significantly influences sleeping patterns and nutrition processes, two important factors for good and fast recovery.
When can I smoke after a hair transplant? Smoking and its effects on the human body have been well studied. Smoking influences the healing process and blood flow to the newly transplanted grafts when talking about hair transplants. Proper blood flow helps wounds heal faster. On the other hand, smoking decreases the blood oxygen carrying ability and constricts the blood vessels, causing the wounds to be slower to heal. This way, crusts stay longer and prevent grafts from receiving more oxygen, which subsequently may lead to failure (grafts not growing correctly). Even though there have not been many studies on how smoking influences newly transplanted grafts, it is generally recommended to restrain from smoking before and after the surgery for a period ranging from 1 week to 1 month.
When can I have sex after a hair transplant? t is not recommended to do sports as various intensive sports activities make people sweat and increase blood pressure. Sweating is not desirable for up to around a month while the recipient area is still fresh after the surgery. If increased bleeding is noticed while performing light sports activities like yoga or walking, the intensity of the activity should be decreased.
How long to avoid the sun after a hair transplant Sun exposure is one more point to take into consideration. It is advised to avoid it for a couple of reasons. First of all, being in the sun increases sweating, which is not desirable as sweat increases bacteria build-up, which may cause infection. Secondly, being in the sun may cause sensitive skin to get sunburnt. The skin needs time to regenerate after thousands of tiny incisions made during the operation. Thus, exposing it to the sun is not the best idea. Thirdly, the sun may interfere with the healing process, affecting deeper layers of skin that have not completely regenerated yet.
When can I go into a sauna after a hair transplant? Saunas and hot baths, like sun exposure, cause increased sweating. Sweating may cause problems when having numerous incisions on the scalp. It is best to avoid attending a sauna for up to a month.
When can I go swimming after a hair transplant? Swimming is not recommended for the first month after the surgery, as the water in pools usually contains chloride or other chemicals for disinfection. Chloride, for example, can damage or even kill grafts if it gets to the newly transplanted area. Even if exercising caution, you can never know when a random splash may wash over your scalp, so it is better to avoid swimming pools for some time after the transplant procedure.

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Possible Side Effects

After any surgery, there are a few side effects that can appear in the post-op period. You should not worry much about that, but it is always worth consulting your doctor should you have any concerns about your post-op state. Some common side effects after the hair transplant include swelling, scabs, redness in the transplanted and donor areas, pimples, numbness or discomfort in the donor area, and itchiness in the recipient area. 

Most common complaints after a hair transplant

Swelling of the forehead and eyes happens due to using an anesthetic and applying liquid during the surgery. After a few days, it will subside and disappear. It is advised to cool down the area with cool packs to ease swelling. You can put the cool packs on the forehead and eye, but not on the transplanted site. It is advantageous to hold the head straight and not bend it forward. Another good point is to drink water. 

Scabs usually form in a few days after the surgery and will come off unaided in around ten days. Some hair may detach together with scabs; It is normal as the roots weaken during the procedure, and the hair may fall out. But the root stays and will later produce new hair. 

Itching may often accompany the healing process. It is recommended not to scratch the donor and recipient area.   

You may feel numbness in the recipient area, which can continue from several weeks to several months. It will gradually subside without intervention.  

How to sleep after a hair transplant?

One of the most popular questions is how to sleep after the hair transplant. Thanks to the newer transplantation methods, the procedure is safer and more effective and provides more natural results. The recipient area should not touch anything and should not be pressured, especially in the first days after the surgery. So, it is advised to sleep on your back, having your head elevated on a few pillows for the first ten days. Sometimes special pillows are provided by the doctor.

This way, your recipient area will not touch anything, even the pillowcase. Having your head elevated helps decrease swelling that may occur after the transplant procedure. It is also good to use a neck pillow to support your head and protect newly transplanted grafts from damage. Some recommend using memory foam pillows to decrease pressure points with the head, decrease sweating and using neck pillows to prevent your head from falling forward and damaging grafts. In around ten days, you will be able to return to your regular sleeping habits.

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When can I wash my hair again after a hair transplant?

Another essential part of post-op care is washing your hair. It can influence the final result, so the patient is usually explained how to do it correctly at the clinic and should follow the doctor’s instructions. 

It is not needed to wash your head for the first four days after the surgery. You can shower and wash the rest of your body, provided you do not let your scalp get wet. It is better to use the shower head that you can hold in your hands and not stand under the shower poring on your head. After the first washing day, you should wash your hair once or twice a day until the scabs fall off completely. Before washing your hair, you should also apply moisturizers for 15-30 minutes. It can be a lotion or any other type recommended by your doctor. It will cause the scabs to soften. A moisturizer will help remove dried blood traces and scabs easier and more gently. You should use lukewarm water to wash your hair and decrease the water pressure to a minimum, or you can use a cup with water. You should not rub your hair as it may damage the grafts but rather gently pet your scalp. Donor and recipient areas are washed with a special medical shampoo. The moisturizers should be used until the scabs disappear entirely. It is recommended to start washing your hair the usual way no earlier than 14 days after the surgery, but it is also best to consult your doctor for your given case. 

When performing all the stages of washing your hair, it should be done in a very gentle way, with no rubbing or pressure. Too hot or too cold water can also influence the grafts, so it is key to ensure the water is lukewarm.   

It is also not recommended to use a hairdryer to dry your hair. It is more beneficial to let it air dry or gently pat it dry with a paper towel.

Aftercare

Hair transplant aftercare medication has its role in effective recovery and successful results of the hair transplant together with post-op instructions. It is important to follow all the recommendations in order to get the most out of the procedure.

Minoxidil

Minoxidil, also known as rogaine, is an FDA-approved medication used for hair loss treatment. The FDA has not yet approved its topical form, but studies are being conducted to examine its positive and negative effects. Minoxidil increases the hair growth cycle and delays the hair loss cycle. It is said to improve hair density and thickness. Some experts recommend using Minoxidil after the hair transplant to ensure a good result. Some suggest using it around one month after the surgery when the donor and recipient area has recovered. You should consult the doctor in order to establish what works best in your particular case.   

How do minoxidil and finasteride work?

 

 

Finasteride

The doctor prescribes finasteride if it is needed. Oral finasteride is FDA-approved for hair loss. It also has a topical version that researchers are still studying. Finasteride generally prevents hair from falling out by blocking the testosterone conversion into dihydrotestosterone, the hormone that affects hair follicle growth.    

 

Vitamins

There is no special dieting recommended when undergoing a hair transplant. Though generally, good nutrition only helps the better and faster recovery process. It should be pointed out that dieting to lose weight is not recommended during this period.

Broadly, vitamin supplements are used when there is a deficiency or if your diet cannot satisfy the need for daily vitamin and nutritious elements intake. Even though there is no specific rule to using some special vitamins, some of them are beneficial for hair growth. These are zinc and vitamins B, C, E, and A. Suppose you feel the need for vitamin supplements. In that case, you can consult your doctor together with the dietician for any suggestions and a diet plan to recover from the surgery and maintain good health throughout the year.    

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Hair Transplant Scabs

Scabs and crusts appear as a normal reaction of the skin to the incisions made by the surgeon. They do not appear immediately after the surgery but within 2-3 days after. It is not recommended to touch the recipient area for the first few days and allow it to start healing naturally.

Scabs may feel itchy, but you shouldn’t try and remove them by force, as it will slow down the healing process and may damage the newly transplanted grafts. To help scabs and crusts come off, the patient should use a moisturizer and follow the hair washing instructions provided by the doctor. The scabs should go off entirely around 14 days after the surgery. Depending on the size of the recipient area and the number of grafts used in the surgery, time may vary from individual to individual. However, if scabbing persists after that time, it is worth consulting your doctor. 

What is to remember about scabs is that you should avoid scratching your scalp trying to remove them. It would be best to moisturize the scalp with what your doctor suggests you use. It is not recommended to use a hair dryer until your doctor approves it. Do not forget to monitor your sleeping position, and use extra pillows and neck pillows to prevent the recipient area from touching anything.

Hair Transplant Growth Timeline

One of the anticipated answers is when the transplanted hair grows and will look the same as the rest. Hair transplant growth is a lengthy process as not only does skin has to heal, but grafts need time to take in and produce strong, thick hair. 

Growth after hair transplantation

Around a month after the surgery, your hair will look the same as before the surgery, the scabs will go off, and the skin gets healed. After that, the follicles go into the resting phase, which is completely normal. The hair from the follicles will shed, and no new hair will appear for some time. The donor area will also be recovering steadily as the new hair is growing back. 

In 3 months, follicles awaken, and new hair will start popping through the scalp. At this time, around 5% of your new hair will come through. It will not be very noticeable, but the hair is starting to appear. About 20-25% of the new hair will be visible in the next couple of months. Most of the new hair will occur between the sixth and ninth months after the treatment. Full growth takes up to 12 months but can go on to 18 months. It is an individual process, so it may take faster or longer for each person. At first, this new hair may be thinner and has a bit different texture, but it can be styled together with the native hair. The quality of the transplanted hair will improve with time as the hair will mature, meaning it will become thicker and darker, and the texture will resemble the native one. People start liking the result of the surgery at this stage.   

Depending on the recipient area, it may take a bit longer or faster to grow and mature. This is just an approximate timeline to provide a better overview.

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Shock loss after hair transplant

Shock loss occurs in the following several weeks after the surgery as the reaction of follicles to the surgery itself. It does not usually mean that something went wrong. The hair cycle has three stages – growth, rest, and shedding. After the shock, such as surgery, follicles enter the resting stage. So, follicles shed hair to be able later to produce new one. This phenomenon can also happen to the neighboring native hair because it too suffers from the inflammation caused by transplantation. The bright side is that it will grow back after its resting phase is over in the following several months. The shock hair loss looks natural and can usually be concealed by the native hair. However, should you have any concerns about shock loss, ask your doctor at the consultation, and they can provide more information about that and what you can expect.

Some patients are curious if it is possible to prevent shock hair loss, but there are no proven means to stop it. However, this loss is temporary, and new hair will grow back thicker and stronger. The key here is patience and fulfilling the instructions provided by your doctor.

On the other hand, permanent shock loss can happen if the surgeon accidentally damages transplanted roots and this trauma is too severe to recover from it. It can be prevented, or at least the risks can be minimized by choosing an experienced surgeon with significant experience in conducting such procedures.

Scalp Necrosis after hair transplant

Necrosis is a rare yet quite dangerous complication of hair transplant surgery. It can happen both in donor and recipient areas. The various reasons may cause it to happen. First of all, necrosis is a permanent damage to the tissue. It is irreversible, and the necrotic skin has to be removed. Some of the reasons for necrosis are deep incisions, close transplantation of grafts, trauma, smoking, etc.

If the incisions are made too deeply into the skin, it can affect arteries underneath and result in tissue necrosis. 

Patients are often too concerned with the density of the newly transplanted hair. Though, it should be calculated carefully. If the grafts are placed too densely, the recipient area becomes a single wound due to many incisions. It can disrupt blood flow to the area and cause permanent damage to the tissue. 

It is recommended to stop smoking for some time before and after the surgery as smoking can cause the blood vessels to constrict. It limits the amount of oxygen received in the recipient area and may complicate the situation. 

If necrosis happens, it is impossible to transplant new hair in the necrotic tissue, as it will yield no result. The speed of the necrosis development highly depends on the reason that caused it. If it happens while performing the surgery, it will start immediately. If it results from poor blood circulation due to smoking or consuming alcohol, it will take longer to develop.  

In order to prevent scalp necrosis, it is best to choose the surgeon and the clinic carefully and avoid smoking and consuming alcohol before and after the surgery to allow proper conditions for healing. It is also crucial to follow the given instructions and keep the recipient area clean. 

As mentioned before, scalp necrosis is quite rare, but it is essential to maintain good communication with the doctors involved in the treatment to prevent unwanted consequences.

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How does a hair transplant look after ten years?

Hair transplant surgery tends to last for a long time or even a lifetime. However, clinics do not hurry to make such statements as this significantly depends on the individual case, hair growth, and conditions. Very often, the surgery may offer a long-lasting result. The newly transplanted follicles will produce new hair, but as it may happen, they can stop doing so in some time because it is a natural process. 

Number of hair transplants per patient to achieve the desired result

It is worth choosing a health provider specializing in hair transplants and discussing expected immediate results and long-term perspectives in the individual case.

Summary

Post-op care is a critical stage in the general hair transplant procedure. It can be stressful, but following the doctor’s recommendations may ensure faster and more effective healing and better overall results. 

It is advantageous to get more information and prepare for the possible side effects after the surgery and act accordingly. Knowing what is normal and what is not may help you avoid additional stress and quickly react to something going wrong. 

It would help if you did not also forget about precautions and the main things to be avoided immediately after surgery. These are sports activities, sunbathing, sauna and hot baths. Another important point is sleeping. Ensuring a good position when nothing touches the recipient area will help prevent damage to the newly transplanted grafts. 

Healing after the hair transplant surgery takes time, but the results will last for long. The hair growth timeline is individual and depends on many factors. Thus, it is good to be generally aware of it, but you should consider that it is just a rough timeline—no need to compare or expect it to be very exact. 

When choosing a doctor, it is worth discussing all the concerns and unclarity the patient may have in order to make sure the desired result can be achieved.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the recovery after a hair transplant?

What should I not do after a hair transplant?

Should I use Minoxidil after a hair transplant?

When will I be able to go to work after an HT surgery?

Sources

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