How to Care for a Hair Transplant
A hair transplant, which is a surgical procedure to improve baldness, is one of the most frequently performed cosmetic surgery procedures for men.The period immediately following your hair transplant is the most important for ensuring your procedure is successful. Take care to elevate your head at night, use your medications appropriately, and look for warning signs that the graft is infected. Stay out of swimming pools, and avoid sports and rigorous physical activity. Always follow your doctor’s directions and you’ll have a smooth recovery.
Caring for Your Hair Immediately Following the Procedure
Be aware of the risks before having a hair transplant.You will most likely need several surgeries to obtain the desired hair coverage, and healing between surgeries usually takes several months. Your hair may also fall out after transplantation, but new hair will grow, although it may take a while for the appearance of new growth.Other risks of the procedure may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Hair follicle death resulting in no new hair growth
- An unnatural-looking patchy hair growth pattern
Keep your head wrapped for the first 24 hours after surgery.After surgery, your head will be wrapped by a headband, a bandanna, and a surgeon’s cap. If you have a bandage on the incision area, then that is usually removed the following day.The day after the surgery, remove the bandanna and surgeon’s cap, but do not remove the headband. Be careful when removing headgear to avoid pulling out a graft.
Elevate your head at night.Following your hair transplant, you should sleep with your head elevated for at least three days. Keeping the head elevated after the procedure will limit swelling on the scalp. Add an extra few pillows to your bed and sleep on your back. If possible, sleep in a reclining chair so as to limit movement during sleep.
Pay attention to warning signs.For a few days after your hair transplant, you’ll experience slight pain, swelling, or redness on or around the scalp.However, if you give yourself an appropriate level of rest and closely follow your surgeon's instructions, these symptoms should go away after a few days. If pain, swelling, or redness increase, you might have an infected graft, and you should call your doctor immediately.
- Other signs of infection include feeling feverish, chilled, or running a fever. You might also see a yellowish pus coming out of the graft site or suture line. In any of these cases, call your doctor.
- Use an ice pack to reduce swelling.Do not place the ice pack on the actual grafted area. Instead, place it on the back of the head or the forehead.
Take your medications.You will receive prescriptions for various medications after the procedure. Take them in the prescribed dosage for the prescribed amount of time. These medications may help with your recovery. Your doctor may prescribe:
- An anti-inflammatory to help with swelling.
- Prescription or OTC pain reliever for tenderness and pain in the scalp.
- An antibiotic to help prevent infection.
Don't scratch.The transplanted area may feel itchy for a few days. Avoid scratching or picking on the scabs or you might dislodge a root hair. If you do accidentally dislodge a hair, do not try to put it back.
- If the site where the hair came out is bleeding, hold a clean cotton swab on the point until bleeding stops. Call your doctor to let him or her know what happened.
- If the itching is too difficult to control, consult your doctor. He or she might be able to give you medication to limit itchiness.
Wash your hair.Depending on your surgeon and the procedure, you should be able to wash your hair within two days of the procedure.For the first few days, use a gentle cleansing solution like baby shampoo. Use your hands to lather up the shampoo. Hold your lathered hands just above your scalp and move the lather around on the surface of the scalp with gentle circular motions. Avoid rubbing the scalp itself. Rinse indirectly with clean water by, for instance, filling a small bowl with water and pouring it slowly over your scalp.
- Do not use a high pressure shower, or expose your hair to either very hot or cold water. Pat dry.
- If your surgeon provided you with a specialized shampoo, use it according to the provided directions.
Avoid tight fitting, round-necked T-shirts.They may rub the transplant area when coming on or off. Stick to buttoned shirts or loose-necked tees instead.
Choosing the Right Environment for Recovery
Avoid swimming pools.Chlorinated water can lead to complications with your surgery. Wait two weeks before wading in chlorinated water. You can, however, wade in the ocean beginning 10 days after your surgery. Wait at least one month before engaging in real swimming in either a pool or in the ocean.
- Saunas and steam rooms should also be avoided for about one month.
Stay out of direct sunlight.Following the surgery, you will need to keep your head protected with a hat or other loose head covering when going outside. The first three months following the procedure are a crucial time for scalp healing, and sunburn could damage the surgery’s results.
- Sit under a sun umbrella if visiting the beach or pool.
- If going outdoors, use a clean cotton cap, scarf, or bandanna to keep the transplanted area protected from the elements.
Avoid physical activity.The day after the surgery, you will still be tired from the sedatives you received during surgery, and could injure yourself if you attempted to play sports. Sports like baseball, football, and soccer run a high risk of injuries to the head, and should therefore be avoided for at least six months following the operation. Your doctor may also advise avoiding sexual activity for at least 10 days after surgery.
- Even without direct contact, the increased blood pressure to your head during intense physical activity could cause transplants or incisions to bleed. Avoid strenuous physical activity for at least three weeks.Exercises like situps, squats, and bench presses could strain your neck and lead to scarring or post-surgical complications.
- A few days after your surgery, you can engage in light physical activity like walking around the block, lifting very light weights, and climbing stairs.
Managing Long-term Hair Transplant Care
Do not apply hair care products to your hair.Hair dye should be avoided for at least four weeks after your hair transplant. Makeup and other cosmetics should be avoided for at least seven days after your procedure. When you do use cosmetics or hair dye, be very gentle, especially for the first month after your hair transplant.
- Combing gently is okay, but be very careful not to rub the transplanted area with the teeth of the comb.
- Avoid haircuts for a minimum of two weeks.
- Do not use scar reduction creams unless advised to do so by your doctor.
Eat a healthy diet.Eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. A small amount (about 20%) of your calories should be from lean protein like soy, nuts, or beans. Drink at least eight cups of water each day.
- Foods with vitamin A (carrots, broccoli), vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, cucumbers), vitamin E (avocado, leafy greens), vitamin K (figs, soybeans, lettuce), and vitamin B (tomatoes, oats, brown rice) are effective at producing strong, healthy hair.Increase your intake of foods with these vitamins to speed your hair’s growth.
- Avoid spicy food before and around the procedure, as it might disrupt the scalp’s ability to heal.
Avoid blood thinners.Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen, and other blood-thinning medications for at least three days after your procedure. Additionally, do not drink alcohol for at least three days post-procedure. If you have headaches or other pain, use an aspirin alternative like acetaminophen, or contact your surgeon for recommendations appropriate for your specific medical history.
Do not smoke.The nicotine in cigarettes can decrease blood flow to the head, and their carbon monoxide content can reduce the blood’s oxygen content. Together, these factors will increase your chances of infection and scarring. Plus, some studies show that smoking limits hair growth, and after getting a hair transplant, you should be doing all you can to encourage your hair to grow.
- If you are a smoker, quit immediately. Reduce your cigarette intake by half over the course of two weeks. Then, over the following two weeks, reduce it again by half. Continue in this way until you kick the habit.
- Use nicotine gum and patches to help ease cravings.
Attend your follow-up appointment.If you have staples or traditional sutures on the surgical site, you will need to get them removed. Non-absorbable sutures are typically removed 10-14 days after the procedure. Staples are typically removed two to three weeks after the procedure. Your doctor will provide you with details about your follow-up appointment in a post-care information packet before you leave the treatment center.
- Do not pull on or otherwise touch your sutures or staples.
- If you have absorbable sutures, you’re in luck. Absorbable sutures will dissolve on their own over the course of a week or so, saving you a trip back to the doctor.
Video: FUE Hair transplant after care instructions
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