Everybody enters the hair transplant process understanding that there is a likelihood of scarring on the back of the head. While surgeons have become better equipped with knowledge and technology over the years, patients still recognize the risk of some scar tissue forming in the donor area.
The good news is that you play a key role in transplant aftercare, and your actions make a difference in the overall healing process. As many leading experts in the field say, reducing the size and severity of scarring is partly the responsibility of the patient.
We’re here to share with you a few of the most important parts of the aftercare protocol, so you can ensure minimal scarring and get the most out of your investment.
Let’s get to it!
Prepare for a low-key recovery.
The surgery team has just spent hours meticulously harvesting and grafting tiny hairs, drawing on years of training and experience, and using the best technology on the planet.
In other words, they’ve done their part, and now it’s your turn to do your part to maximize results!
You should have a clear idea of how to care for the recipient area and make sure those precious follicles are well looked after, but here we’re focusing on the scar from the donor site. The shape and severity of your scar will depend on the type of surgery you chose.
The donor site is where surgeons remove an entire layer of skin. Remember, they’re not just plucking out hairs! Your body will respond to this trauma accordingly, and an inflammatory reaction will take place. While sutures and staples can help move things along, your natural ability to heal will be doing most of the work.
If you undergo a standard Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), you will have the signature horizontal, linear scar going across the lower part of the back of the head, which is more of a prevalent issue for men who wear their hair shorter than women who are generally able to hide the scarring. FUT is however the more common and affordable method.
If you opt for a Follicular Unit Excision (FUE), there will be many tiny scars scattered across the donor area.
Keep in mind that both treatments need to be equally cared for so that ongoing inflammation and extra scarring does not occur.
Our tips here will apply to both scenarios, so no matter what route you take, listen up!
Avoid aggravation and irritation.
Hiding scars is easy if you just grow your hair a bit longer than normal, but we understand that you want to minimize scarring regardless.
Your lifestyle and habits will also play a part in how successfully your scar heals, and you may have to adjust your schedule for a few weeks if you want optimal results. That means opting out of that basketball tournament or golf outing, putting your heavy weightlifting routine on pause, or choosing low-key cardio instead of sprints.
While taking a short vacation is fine, it should not be centered on outdoor adventures like scuba diving or rock climbing. Even if you just lounge around by the pool, make sure to stay in the shade and throw on a light head covering if you do venture out into the sun.
Just like you would handle any other cut or wound, you want to minimize the amount of itching and scratching on the donor area, especially in the days immediately after surgery.
When you hit the showers to clean the area, scrub gently and fight the urge to scratch. We also recommend avoiding extra-hot water, since this can exacerbate inflammation.
Bacteria and sweat buildup are the enemies here, so shower often to keep your surgery site clean, and keep your showers at a cooler temperature.
Be ready to supplement and soothe.
First off, you’ll want to stock up on soothing and healing treatments, especially products that are hypoallergenic and do not contain excessive chemicals of alcohol.
Witch hazel toner is one of the most popular over-the-counter products on the market and provides an all-natural alternative that feels great on the skin. The best way to use witch hazel is by pouring a small amount on a paper towel or cotton swab and gently patting the affected area. Be sure to not use too much or rub vigorously.
Other recommended soothing products include aloe vera and emu oil, and the effectiveness will vary from one patient to the next. Also, keep that medicine cabinet full of oral medication that can help fight swelling and redness. Fish oil, turmeric, and black pepper are some of the best natural ingredients for the job.
Aspirin and ibuprofen can be beneficial as well, just make sure you balance out these medications with plenty of water and only take them as directed. Be careful when introducing any new medication to the mix, even if it’s over the counter. Make sure you consult with your doctor beforehand and tread lightly.
Consider additional procedures.
You’ve taken a big step by getting a hair transplant, investing time and money to improve your appearance and boost your confidence. But, many folks choose to follow up this surgery with other smaller procedures that reduce the visibility of their scar and provide a more natural look to the donor area.
Scalp MicroPigmentation (SMP) is one of the most popular treatments for helping to hide the horizontal scar on the back of the head resulting from FUT. Often likened to a series of tiny tattoos, SMP is ideal for men who sport the bold buzz-cut look, and when done correctly, the linear scar is virtually invisible.
This one should be obvious, but DO NOT undergo SMP treatment for at least a few months after you’ve had a hair transplant. It doesn’t matter whether you had two follicles transplanted or 2,000! The scar should be fully healed prior to taking any more action at the clinic.
In the meantime, it may be wise just to grow your hair out a bit longer and wait for things to heal up. Once the scar has healed and you feel back to 100%, you can start the process for SMP. Ideally, you will return to the clinic where you had your transplant, as the doctor will have a better idea of your medical history and can pick up where things left off.
Dealing with a visible scar can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, but if you stick to the advice laid out by your doctor and follow protocol, you can drastically reduce the chance of problems. Remember that the scar may look worse before it gets better, and you don’t want to do anything to try to alter its appearance during the healing process.
Use common sense, stay cool and dry, and remember to take it easy whenever possible to give your body the opportunity to heal. Relax, because it’s smooth sailing from here!
If you are still concerned about scar visibility in a few months’ time, you can always look into SMP or other scar-reduction treatments that have strong track records.
For more industry insider tips from the experts, make sure you bookmark our blog, the Daily Journal of Hair Loss Information.