Having a hair transplant: what to expect during the first week
Hair transplants are an incredible solution for individuals dealing with hair loss, helping boost levels of confidence and self-esteem1. In fact, according to research, hair transplants can even potentially reverse the psychosocial problems commonly associated with experiencing hair loss2.
However, seeing this positive effect for yourself can take time. Only by having patience will you start achieving the results you expected before going into it.
Particularly during the first week, you may find yourself wondering what to do, how to look after your transplanted hair grafts and when you’ll start seeing your results.
This article is designed to answer these three questions and more, highlighting what to expect both during and after the first week of your hair transplant.
How long does hair transplant recovery take?
Recovering after a hair transplant normally can take anywhere between several weeks to a few months3.
Within the immediate few days after the procedure, you may experience mild symptoms like discomfort, swelling and scabbing4, but these should all subside within a week.
Over the next few weeks and months, your newly transplanted hair may fall out, this is a normal process of surgery. By the third or fourth month, you should be able to see this new hair growth a lot more clearly.
After a year or so, the full results of your transplant should become evident5. However, everyone is different so individual healing times can vary based on how well you perform post-operative care and adhere to your surgeon’s instructions.
Hair transplant recovery stages
While many patients are keen to see the results of their hair transplant as soon as possible, patience is key.
Taking the time to understand the hair growth stages that will occur throughout your recovery can help make you aware of what to expect. These include6:
- Shedding phase (2 – 6 weeks) – this initial stage is a normal part of the hair growth cycle and is a sign that the new hairs are beginning to form.
- Latent phase (3 – 4 months) – during this stage, the transplanted hairs will remain dormant and may not be visible. However, underneath the surface, they will be preparing for the anagen (growth) phase.
- Anagen phase (6 – 12 months) – this is the active growth phase, during which time the transplanted hairs will start to emerge and thicken. While the rate of growth varies between individuals, most patients should see significant results within a year.
- Catagen phase (2 – 3 weeks) – this transitional phase marks the beginning of the end of the hair growth cycle. During this time, the hair follicle will gradually shrink in size and regress into the dermal papilla in preparation of entering the telogen phase.
- Telogen phase (3 – 4 months) – the resting phase is the final stage of the hair growth cycle. During this time, the cells at the base of the hair follicle undergo programmed cell death, becoming completely inactive and eventually shedding the hair shaft.
Since the hair growth cycle is not perfectly synchronised, many patients may experience shedding throughout the entire recovery process, rather than only a few weeks.
However, as your transplanted follicles become more established, this will gradually subside. You should then ‘be satisfied with the results’ of your hair transplant within 12 months5.
The first week after the hair transplant: what to expect
Now that we know what to expect throughout the entire hair transplant recovery process, it’s important to take a detailed look at one of, if not, the most crucial periods: the first week.
The first seven days after your transplant will set the foundation for the entire recovery journey, with the transplanted hair grafts subject to many stresses throughout this period7.
Over this first week, you will likely experience various physical sensations and emotions, making it essential to understand what to expect along the way.
Days 1 & 2: The initial recovery
During the first two days after the procedure, you may experience some discomfort, swelling and redness around the recipient site.
While having an FUE hair transplant is minimally invasive with little postoperative discomfort, we would recommend giving your scalp time to recover by either working from home or taking up to two weeks off work.
You should also follow your surgeon’s advice and post-operative instructions diligently during these early days, avoiding harsh chemicals, sun exposure or washing your hair to reduce the risk of potential complications.
Days 3 & 4: Managing pain & discomfort
As you progress into the third and fourth days, any initial feelings of discomfort you had may start to feel more intense than before.
To manage these symptoms, your surgeon may prescribe over-the-counter pain medications and recommend certain self-care strategies.
On day four after your surgery, you will also be advised to wash your hair for the first time after your transplant. But, before you do, you will need to follow your surgeon’s strict product recommendations and guidance to do this successfully.
This will involve avoiding rubbing your hair with rough towels, scratching your scalp or engaging in any intense physical activities for up to a month.
See our step-by-step hair washing guide for detailed instructions.
Days 5 & 6: Scabbing & crusting
The fifth and sixth days post-transplant mark a significant phase in the recovery process, with scabbing and crusting becoming more prominent.
While some patients find this distressing, scabbing can be normal.We would recommend washing thoroughly in these first few days to ensure these scabs start to wash away.
Although they might be itchy, you must avoid picking or interfering with the scabs in any way, as this could damage the hair grafts. Your surgeon will be able to recommend specific shampoos or products for you to use to help reduce the itchiness of your scalp.
Day 7: The start of shedding
From the seventh day and beyond, your scabs should be washed away and you may notice your hair starting to shed from the recipient area.
As mentioned earlier, shedding after your hair transplant is an entirely normal part of the hair growth cycle where new hair forms in the follicles and will begin to grow over the next 8–12 months. This can happen in areas of transplanted hair, non-transplanted hair and, in rare cases, the donor area itself.
While there is no proven way to reduce the likelihood of this hair loss happening, certain medications like finasteride and minoxidil can help thicken your hair8 and may be recommended by your surgeon.
Hair transplant post-operative care
Moving beyond the first week, maintaining proper post-operative care is crucial for ensuring the long-term success of your hair transplant.
This will involve keeping your scalp clean and healthy, avoiding any activities that could harm the transplanted grafts or cause stress and scheduling follow-up appointments to monitor your progress.
At The Treatment Rooms London, our personalised aftercare recovery packages take into account a wide range of personal requirements and contain a bundle of important medications and products to help you look after your precious, newly implanted hair at home.
Get expert aftercare advice at The Treatment Rooms London
Undergoing a hair transplant is an exciting step toward regaining your hair and confidence. But, understanding what to expect during the recovery process is almost as important as deciding to have the procedure itself.
The first week after your hair transplant is a critical time that can shape your entire journey towards recovery. Therefore, being as prepared as possible can make all the difference between achieving a successful outcome and, ultimately, feeling disappointed.
Here at The Treatment Rooms London, our surgeons will always provide you with expert post-operative instructions and tailored aftercare advice to support you throughout your recovery. However, if you have any further questions, we’re only a phone call away.
- Liu, F., Miao, Y., Xingdong, L., et al. (2018) The relationship between self-esteem and hair transplantation satisfaction in male androgenetic alopecia patients. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 18(5): 1441 – 1447. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jocd.12839
- Mohebi, P. & Rassman, W. (2008) Psychology of hair transplants. Hair transplant forum international. 18(2): 46 – 47. Available at: https://www.ishrs-htforum.org/content/htfi/18/2/41.full.pdf
- Zito, P. & Raggio, B. (2023) Hair Transplantation [Updated 2023 Feb 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547740/
- Kerure, A. & Patwardhan, N. (2018) Complications in Hair Transplantation. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 11(4): 182 – 189. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371733/
- Chouhan, K., Roga, G., Kumar, A. & Gupta, J. (2019) Approach to Hair Transplantation in Advanced Grade Baldness by Follicular Unit Extraction: A Retrospective Analysis of 820 Cases. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 12(4): 215 – 222. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6967160/
- Hoover, E., Alhajj, M. & Flores, J. (2023) Physiology, Hair [Updated 2023 Jul 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/
- Parsley, W. & Perez-Meza, D. (2010) Review of Factors Affecting the Growth and Survival of Follicular Grafts. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 3(2): 69 –75. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2956960/
- Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S. & Leerunyakul, K. (2019) Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. 13: 2777 – 2786. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
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