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Hair Transplants: Cost, Time and Side Effects

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 10/07/2019

Updated 05/01/2024

Maybe you just started noticing more hair in the shower drain or thinning hair has been a part of your life for years. In any case, you’ve probably considered hair transplants as a potential treatment option.

Once that thought surfaces, a bunch of questions cross your mind in quick succession. First of all, what exactly is a hair transplant? How do these procedures work? And what’s the cost of a hair transplant?

If you’re exploring transplants as a hair restoration option, the information below will help you understand the process, along with the different types, costs, risks and recovery associated with a professional hair transplant.

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A hair transplant is a medical procedure that moves hair from areas of your scalp unaffected by male pattern baldness (aka androgenetic alopecia) to areas with thinning or bald spots. It’s kind of like repotting a plant.

Typically, donor hair is taken from the back of the scalp and placed on the front or top — or wherever your hair is thinning. (It’s called donor hair even when it comes from your own head.)

Assuming you have enough donor hair available and the ability to grow hair on the areas of your scalp that need it, a skilled surgeon can fill in thinning areas at the hairline and crown and give you natural-looking results.

There are two generally accepted approaches to hair transplants: 

  • Follicular unit extraction (FUE) 

  • Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) 

These hair restoration procedures produce a similar result, albeit with a few critical differences. And they both use hair grafts. Here’s what to know.

What Is a FUE Hair Transplant?

FUE is a more recent development in hair restoration surgery. It involves removing single follicular units — or individual hair follicles — and transplanting them to a new area.

To do this, a surgeon uses “micro punches” (tiny holes) to remove hairs from the scalp with minimal scarring.

The advantage of FUE is that it doesn’t leave a large scar. Instead, it creates hundreds of tiny scars. These marks are much less visible after healing, especially for people with light hair who might be unable to completely cover a traditional hair transplant scar.

What Is a FUT Hair Transplant?

FUT involves harvesting a strip of healthy hair from somewhere less noticeable (typically the back of your head) and moving it to the area with thinning.

The advantage of FUT is that transplanted hairs have a higher survival rate than those transplanted using the FUE method. However, the downside is that it creates a more prominent scar on the back of the head that’s visible with some short or shaved haircuts.

FUE vs. FUT Hair Transplants

An FUE procedure can take longer than FUT and is often most suitable for smaller treatment areas. But minus the scarring — which shouldn’t be visible if the hair on the back of your scalp is dark and thick — both procedures produce the same natural-looking results in the hairline and crown area.

It’s also important to note that the success of either procedure depends on the surgeon or dermatology provider performing the cosmetic surgery.

If you’re interested in learning about hair implants versus hair transplants, check out our blog on hair implants for men.

What Are Hair Grafts?

Hair grafts are part of every transplant procedure, whether you opt for FUE or FUT. Hair grafting involves taking skin from areas of the scalp where there’s hair and attaching (or grafting) it to bald or thinning areas.

There are two types of grafts: slit grafts and micrografts. The difference between the two is simply the amount of hair each contains. Slit grafts typically contain four to 10 hairs per graft, whereas micrografts have one to two hairs.

Initially, hairline transplants (sometimes called hairline restoration) involved removing and transplanting hairs using “plugs,” essentially hair follicle clusters. However, hair plugs often looked unnatural because of awkward cluster groupings and gaps between plugs. 

Today, hair transplants are much more sophisticated in treating a receding hairline and concealing signs of a procedure.

Now for the age-old question: What is the cost of hair transplant surgery? Spoiler alert: probably more than an ATM will let you withdraw in a day.

If you’re looking for an actual dollar amount, hair transplants generally cost somewhere between $3,000 and $15,000. Quite a range, right?

A 2021 study reviewed 90 hair transplant clinics and found that the average all-in cost of a hair transplant in the U.S. is roughly $13,610.

But how much you pay for hair transplant surgery depends on numerous factors, including:

  • The local market (where you live and where you have your surgery performed)

  • Whether you opt for FUT or FUE

  • How much hair is transplanted

  • Whether you have to travel for your surgery

  • The surgeon you choose

  • The complexity of your case 

Hair transplant surgery is a serious investment, so it’s crucial to compare board-certified plastic surgeons and get multiple quotes before scheduling the procedure.

FUE is usually the more expensive option — it can be up to three times the price of FUT procedures.

Because hair transplant surgery is generally considered cosmetic, it’s unlikely your insurance company will help pay for it. But if your hair loss is due to an illness or injury, coverage may be possible.

Wondering if a hair transplant is right for you? You might be a good candidate for hair transplant surgery if you have:

  • Male pattern hair loss

  • Overall thinning hair

  • Lost a section of hair due to burn, illness or injury

You’re probably not a great candidate for hair transplant surgery if you:

  • Are completely bald or lacking in donor sites

  • Have scarring on the scalp

  • Experience hair loss as a side effect of medication 

  • Have hair loss due to illness or chronic stress (telogen effluvium)

Your healthcare provider can help you figure out what type of hair loss you’re dealing with by exploring possible causes.

Both FUE and FUT hair transplant surgeries are done in an outpatient setting, such as a plastic surgeon’s office.

Here’s what happens before and during a hair transplant:

  • In the weeks before surgery, your surgeon will tell you when to stop taking any medications that might interfere with the process, like certain supplements or blood thinners.

  • You’ll arrive at your appointment with clean, product-free hair.

  • In many cases, donor sites will be shaved pre-surgery.

  • You’ll most likely get local anesthesia to numb your scalp but will remain awake during the surgery.

  • Donor follicles will be removed and stabilized in some sort of fluid while the transplant area is prepped for their arrival. 

  • Prep usually involves making new holes with needles. The follicles will then be “dotted” into place — these new follicle locations are typically (read: hopefully) created in a random pattern to mimic natural hair growth.

  • A wetted Q-tip® or surgical tool presses each follicle into place, one by one.

  • This process repeats until all donor-area follicles have a place to call home.

Many people wonder if hair transplants are painful. It seems like they would be — but remember, you’ll be numb for the procedure, so you won’t feel pain (except for the initial injection of anesthesia).

While you might feel pulling or tugging during a hair transplant procedure, it shouldn’t be painful — there may be soreness as your scalp heals, though.

A hair transplant is technically a type of plastic surgery, but the procedure won’t require you to pack an overnight bag or eat hospital food for dinner. You should be able to go home after your hair transplant procedure.

Here’s what you can expect in the hours, days and weeks after a hair transplant:

  • Your scalp will be bandaged, and you’ll be given instructions on how and when to change the dressing.

  • Swelling can happen in the donor areas and spots where hair has been transplanted.

  • You can wash your hair two days or so after the transplant. But experts advise against wearing pullover clothing, including T-shirts, for several weeks (so stock up on button-downs and full-zip sweatshirts).

  • Any stitches will be removed by a healthcare professional seven to 10 days post-op.

  • Plan to avoid exercise or any activity that could bump your head for up to three weeks after surgery.

  • You’ll have to be diligent about wound care, including avoiding scratching itchy scabs after the procedure to prevent scarring or infection.

  • The transplanted hair will fall out two to eight weeks after surgery. Rest assured, this is normal. New hair will grow in its place, and you should see full results within six to 12 months.

Recovery time varies between FUT and FUE procedures. With FUT, the donor area heals in two to three weeks, and with FUE, surgical sites generally heal in one to two weeks.

Here are a few things that may help during recovery time:

  • A topical minoxidil post-surgery haircare routine might encourage hair growth. You’ll want to follow the instructions closely, as any topical product could irritate the surgical sites. 

  • Some hair transplant surgeons recommend finasteride after the procedure to help keep hair density as thick as possible. This medication blocks DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the hormone partly responsible for male pattern baldness.

  • You may have heard about hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a recovery tool for wound healing, hair transplants and hair regrowth. Ask your plastic surgeon if they think it’s right for you.

The American Academy of Dermatology estimates hair transplants take anywhere from four to eight hours, depending on the number of grafts. And some call for a few sessions, meaning you’d have a series of procedures.

In most cases, a hair transplant is done in phases. So, while each procedure is pretty quick, you may have to do several of them — especially if your hair loss is more severe.

Paying thousands of dollars for a full head of hair would be silly if it only lasted a few years. Rest assured, if done well, hair transplants are a permanent fix.

Part of the reason donor hair is taken from the back of the head (or other areas) is that those hairs survived the first wave of hair loss.

Transplant follicles are selected specifically for their ability to skirt DHT’s effects, so staying power is one worry you don’t have to bring to the operating table.

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Your surgeon will discuss the possible complications of hair transplant surgery with you. Common complications may include:

  • Pain and swelling 

  • Infection

  • Scarring 

  • Cyst development at the suture site

  • Bleeding 

  • Anesthesia complications

  • Heart problems during surgery

  • Patient dissatisfaction

Hair transplants can be very successful, but it’s important to have realistic expectations about how your hair will look after a transplant.

Remember that transplanted hair:

  • Will have a different texture than your original hair (this is due to follicular damage in the process)

  • May behave differently when styling

  • Might grow in different patterns than before

  • Could potentially fail in some cases

Still, for most men, hairline transplants can significantly improve the appearance of their hair. Just make sure you have realistic expectations based on the amount of hair you still have left.

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While hair transplant surgery is a possible course of action for hair restoration, less invasive (and more affordable) options are also effective in treating various types of hair loss.

Hair Loss Medications

Two medications — minoxidil and finasteride — are approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to treat hair loss in men. These hair loss treatments can slow thinning, increase hair density and potentially even prevent future hair loss.

Minoxidil is typically applied topically (but sometimes taken orally), and finasteride is taken orally (but sometimes applied topically). Both drugs are backed by years of scientific research.

Here’s the TL;DR:

  • Finasteride lessens DHT. This helps fight hair loss because DHT shrinks hair follicles and shortens the hair growth cycle.

  • Minoxidil is a vasodilator, bringing blood flow and oxygen to the scalp. It also seems to help widen the diameter of the follicle, which can create thicker hair. We offer minoxidil foam and minoxidil solution.

In short, these drugs help treat the same problem (hair loss), but they work differently. For that reason, when the two are paired (like in our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray), they’re even more powerful than either alone. 

Additionally, topical finasteride is backed by research that says it works similarly to the oral option.

Hair Products

Using the right hair products can make a big difference in how your hair looks. 

They won’t restore hair growth the same way medication can. Still, products can be considered quick fixes for making hair appear fuller and more voluminous — at least temporarily.

Here are a few options to try:

  • If you’re deficient in biotin (rare but possible), biotin gummies can help restore levels of the B vitamin. Biotin contributes to keratin production, which is key for healthy hair and nails.

  • Our volumizing shampoo and volumizing conditioner contain biotin and fullness-boosting ingredients like caffeine — plus, they’ll leave your hair smelling like citrus spice).

  • Our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto helps plump up your hair so it seems fuller. One meta-analysis found that 83 percent of people saw increased hair density when using saw palmetto for hair loss.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Getting a hair transplant is a significant decision that calls for research and patience. Like all medical procedures, it’s vital to understand the effects, costs and limitations before you go ahead.

Here’s what to keep in mind about hair transplants:

  • They can effectively restore a fuller hairline. While other less-invasive hair loss treatment options can certainly slow hair loss, hair transplants are really the only way to get your locks looking (almost) the same as they did in your high school yearbook photo.

  • They’re expensive. The price of hair transplants varies greatly but hovers around $13,000 — and if you see one advertised for cheap, it’s probably too good to be true.

  • You won’t technically have more hair than before. A hair transplant doesn’t create new hair but rather moves existing DHT-resistant hair to bald areas. If done well, the transplanted hair should continue growing.

  • There are drawbacks to consider. Talk to your surgeon or dermatologist about the potential side effects of hair transplants, which may include pain, infection or scarring.

If you’re considering hair loss treatment options, check out our guide to dermatologist-recommended hair growth products.

Ready to take action? Do a free online consultation with a hair growth specialist to learn about your options and what products might be best for your specific situation.

28 Sources

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  2. Blume-Peytavi, et al & Topical Finasteride Study Group (2022). Efficacy and safety of topical finasteride spray solution for male androgenetic alopecia: a phase III, randomized, controlled clinical trial. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology : JEADV, 36(2), 286–294. https://doi.org/10.1111/jdv.17738 Complications. Stanford Health Care (SHC) - Stanford Medical Center. (2017, September 12). Retrieved from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/h/hair-replacement-surgery/complications.html
  3. True, R. H. (2021). Is Every Patient of Hair Loss a Candidate for Hair Transplant?—Deciding Surgical Candidacy in Pattern Hair Loss. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8719975
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  10. Harvesting of donor hair for hair transplants. ISHRS. (2019, March 19). Retrieved from https://ishrs.org/2003/10/01/harvesting-of-donor-hair-for-hair-transplants/
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  14. Küçüktaş Murat. (2017, May 3). Complications of hair transplantation. IntechOpen. Retrieved from https://www.intechopen.com/books/hair-and-scalp-disorders/complications-of-hair-transplantation
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  20. Wondering what hair restoration technique is right for you? ABCS president, dr. Sobel, weighs in. ABCS. (2018, September 10). Retrieved from https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/wondering-what-hair-restoration-technique-is-right-for-you-abcs-president-dr-sobel-weighs-in/
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  27. Evyatar Evron,E.,Juhasz, M., Babadjouni, A., Atanaskova, N.Mesinkovska(2020, Nov).Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7706486/
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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