Shave My Head For A Hair Transplant?! What?!

 

So you have committed to regrowing your head of hair and have been in contact with your hair restoration doctor. He or she recommends a hair transplant due to the significant hair loss and after carefully listening to the risks and benefits of the procedure, one thing catches your mind. They tell you that you will be required to shave your head prior to the transplantation procedure! “What?! Why in the world would I want to shave my head?! Doc, you are crazy to think that I would do such a thing!” All valid thoughts and emotions, after all the reason you want your hair back is because you know how different you look with thinning or balding hair and you might think that shaving it is going in the opposite of the direction you are trying to with your scalp. So let’s discuss some of the pros and cons to shaving your head, in order to really get a grasp on why this is important and recommended for our hair transplantation technique using the Artas IX robot. 



The Pro’s

FOR YOU - 

Let’s be clear up front, you do not have to shave your head to have a hair transplantation performed for balding. But it turns out there are a lot of both short term and long term benefits to being courageous enough to shave your head prior to a hair transplantation procedure for male pattern baldness or also known as alopecia areata.  The short term benefits concern the day of the procedure. A hair transplant procedure can take anywhere between 4-8 hours on the short side and up to 12 hours on the long side, depending on the number of hairs that must be harvested, which is dependent on the degree of hair loss. That is a lot of time with you lying face down in a chair or sitting while the surgeon and his team are performing the procedure on your scalp. By shaving the head it allows the surgeon to more easily identify the hairs for harvesting (more on this in a minute) It can shave (no pun intended!) off several potential hours of the procedure. That is important! It means a more convenient procedure for you as a patient, less time having repeat injections of lidocaine to keep the scalp numb, less time in a face down position where you can’t move much, less time being uncomfortable in a chair, as let’s face it, even the most comfortable chair can get quite uncomfortable when you are forced to sit in it for long periods of time.   

FOR YOUR SURGEON - 

Now to do the procedure, you have chosen and trusted a top notch hair surgeon, but ultimately no physician is superman all the time. And the longer you have a single person doing any activity (in this case a procedure), the lower the quality of that process at the end when they start to lose focus. Or stated another way, surgeon fatigue. Like pilots of long international flights, at some point they are going to begin to lose their hyperacute focus. And the process of hair harvesting in which an individual hair is removed from the back of the scalp and placed in the front or top of the scalp is a long process. They literally take out over one a thousand hairs or more, and they do it one at a time. That is obviously a long process, and it must be done right. So the more time we can save, the higher quality focus the physician will be able to maintain during the procedure. This short term benefit to the physician ultimately turns into a long term benefit for the patient. It takes 9 months for the transplanted hairs to grow to their full potential. So during that one day of the hair transplant, if the surgeon is able to keep his focus throughout the entire procedure then each one of those thousands of grafts that were carefully transplanted and now growing, and you, the patient, are happy to see a now fuller head of hair. So those few hours difference in the procedure from shaving the head is beneficial for everyone.

 

FOR YOUR HAIR - 

There are a few additional benefits specifically for the hair follicle itself that come from shaving your head. These come from the actual nuances of harvesting (taking the single hair follicle from the back of the scalp and inserting it into the balding area) the individual hairs. If the hair is trimmed down to about 1 mm this allows the computer system we use in our office to identify the angle of the hair as it comes out of the scalp. The angle is important as if the surgeon is off even a few degrees, the device used to core out the hair follicle will actually transect or cut the follicle in half which, if implanted into the scalp again, will not grow. And keep in mind there are only so many hairs that we have from the back of the scalp to safely remove without causing the appearance of a bald spot in the back of the head. So each hair follicle counts! It is also very helpful during the insertion of the hair follicle into the balding area, as if there are overlying hairs that are long, it becomes difficult to fully identify where the hair needs to go, and to give it enough distance from other already present hairs to ensure it will grow in its newly implanted part of your scalp. Now let’s talk about some cons.

 

The Con’s

The biggest downside we see in shaving your head usually goes back to the reason you are getting your hair transplantation in the first place: self confidence.  Shaving your head can make you stick out in the crowd when one second you have some hair and the next you have a completely shaved head. This is especially a sensitive subject around family, friends, and co-workers regarding what they might think.  This can lead to serious anxiety about shaving your head, and ultimately it is one of the biggest reasons men do not want to get a hair transplantation. First of all, we hear you, we know that shaving your head is a huge commitment and not to be taken lightly. And we recognize that it will shy people away from having the procedure. We strongly encourage you to bring this up with your physician and have a real conversation about it. Sometimes, shaving the head is not necessary, and sometimes, after discussing the risks and benefits, some may choose to proceed with different forms of hair transplantation such as the strip procedure where a section of  the scalp is completely cut out of the back of the scalp then used to transplant the cut-out hairs of that section of scalp to areas that need it. Some with less hair loss may use a single follicular extraction device that is hand held, and though more tedious with more likelihood of error in completely and correctly removing a follicle, it can avoid the need for shaving the head. Or you may choose to try alternative procedures such as platelet rich plasma injections or low level laser therapy.  

The point is that there are options to help, and shaving the head is not for everyone. Here at Texas Hair Restoration Center, if someone does need a hair transplantation, we do encourage them to shave their head, as most cases requiring hair transplantation are usually in more advanced stages of hair loss. Shaving your head allows Dr. Pearce to use the Artas IX robotic assisted technique which uses artificial intelligence to speed up the harvesting of hair follicles while simultaneously reducing the transection rate for individual hairs, which means more quality hair transplant with less time. All things to consider, but remember, ultimately it is your hair and your choice and we are here to help by working side by side with you on your journey to getting your hair back. 

 

Author
Paul Pearce M.D.

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