You may be 100% mentally prepared to undergo a hair transplant, but many folks don’t know what to expect in the days, weeks, and months following the procedure.
Nearly everyone who chooses to have a hair transplant will experience some degree of redness in the affected area, and in most cases, this is simply a reality that can’t be avoided.
With that in mind, there are a few things you should know about post-op redness, including how long it tends to last, how to deal with potential discomfort, and the best ways to ensure the proper healing of your skin and hair.
A bit of redness is nothing to fear, and with the right information, you can navigate any problems with ease.
Let’s get to it!
All a Part of the Process
The first thing you need to understand about hair transplant redness is that it’s completely normal and something you should expect as you recover from the procedure.
What is the exact cause of this redness though? How severe will the color be, and are there ways to decrease the intensity of the red flare?
There are actually a few potential causes of redness following a hair transplant, but the most common and normal culprit is simply inflammation resulting from the unusual and somewhat invasive process of grafting hair into various areas on the scalp.
Since follicular units are physically implanted at a rapid rate (sometimes thousands in a single session), it can be expected that the body will respond with a bit of pushback to the situation.
That is the role of inflammation, which actually serves to protect the body at large by increasing the level of active immune cells around the affected area.
We’ve all been scratched, bug-bitten, or have hit our head before. While we may find it inconvenient to see swelling and bruises, our systems are just responding appropriately by raising the skin and focusing its repairative efforts on precisely the correct location.
For hair transplants in particular, according to Treatment Rooms London, the inflammation following a hair transplant does have a few distinct qualities that put it in a different category from regular inflammation.
Since there are many small cuts in one area, instead of one larger incision, the resulting inflammation is a bit more visible and sensitive.
This particular type of inflamed condition is known as erythema and is actually a signal that the body is responding to the hair transplant by healing, rather than rejecting the grafts.
So if you are frustrated with the redness or irritation on your scalp in the days or weeks following surgery, just be glad your body is making progress instead of going backward.
The Proper Precautions
If you stick to the game plan laid out by your surgeon and follow the tips we give you here on the site, you can reduce the majority of unwanted redness in under 14 days.
According to a comprehensive aftercare list from Ape to Gentleman, people are generally satisfied with the color contrast between their hair and scalp after a month.
Here are a few quick things to keep in mind to minimize redness and reduce inflammation:
- Wear a loose-fitting hat or headscarf to prevent overexposure to the sun. Ultraviolet rays can cause micro-burns, which can set back the clock on recovery.
- Aloe vera gel, witch hazel, and other soothing treatments can be found over the counter, and can help cool and soothe your scalp. Avoid products with alcohol.
- Make sure you wash the affected area consistently in the shower or bath, but avoid aggressive scrubbing, which can harm the follicles.
- Ask your doctor for recommendations about specific shampoos and soaps that can help keep the area clean and avoid causing damage to the new grafts.
- Speaking of showers, Cosmedica reminds patients to never put the water at a very high temperature, as this may disrupt the grafts.
- Though we recommend against it, scratching the donor area is not the end of the world, just do it lightly and sparingly.
- Scratching the recipient area is a BIG NO. Again, soothing products like aloe vera gel can go a long way in helping you with irritation or discomfort.
While most doctors will give you a similar protocol, it is important to ask about any other tips for reducing redness specific to your case.
Different procedures will yield different results, and whether you undergo FUT or FUE could make a difference on your level of swelling and inflammation.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions, and be sure to follow up shortly after your surgery to ensure your recovery is on the right track.
Possible Signs of Complication
Usually, the post-op process is smooth-sailing, and any residual redness should disappear before long, but you should be aware of some signals that things are going south.
First of all, you’ll want to look and feel around for anything unusual under the skin in the recipient area. This means tiny pimples (typically red with some yellow pus), or small cysts that feel like lumps under the skin, which is very common after hair transplants.
While the treatments for these are relatively simple and quick, you want to address them early on so they don’t turn into bigger long term problems.
Cellulitis is something to look out for as well, although this condition is rare. You will notice the redness spreads quickly beyond the recipient area, and other symptoms like fever may occur. If this happens, make sure to contact your doctor right away and figure out an antibiotic treatment that can kill the infection and allow you to resume normal recovery.
Finally, in an absolute worst-case scenario, some folks experience skin necrosis, identified by deep black scabs in patches across the head. This will usually set you back significantly and requires additional surgery. Make sure to address this issue immediately, or the outcome will be far worse off the longer you wait.
If you select a quality surgeon and follow your post-op protocol, necrosis or cellulitis should not be a concern, but it is good to be aware of all possible danger signs just to be safe.
Consider Some Color
There is a small chance you will experience some ongoing redness on your scalp beyond the expected first few weeks. While the area may not give you discomfort or scratchiness, it’s a possibility that some red spots may remain, which is where a bit of hair coloring can be an asset for your look. Of course, you should wait until your scalp is fully healed and inflammation is seriously reduced before you look into ways to color your hair and reduce contrast.
Scalp MicroPigmentation is another potential avenue for reducing redness in the donor area, and it can pair nicely with proper hair coloring to provide a full, complete look.
You’ll want to wait until you get the green light from your surgeon, of course, before considering another procedure after you have just recovered from a transplant.
Just by following instructions and using some common sense, you will be on track for a smooth recovery, and redness should not be a persistent nuisance for more than a month.
Remember that if anything seems unusual or extra aggravating, it’s your responsibility to get in touch with your doctor and take action to fix it ASAP. Prepare for all contingencies, be ready to communicate and enjoy your results!
If you have more questions or concerns about redness or any other subject surrounding post-op care after a hair transplant, you can click here to get to our expansive resources on the topic!