When the idea of a hair transplant is mentioned, most people immediately think of hair being transplanted from the back of the head to the top of the head. While this technique is performed on a regular basis, not every patient has enough hair to spare on the back of their head. These patients have to search for other sources of donor hair for their transplant. One of the most common options for patients in this situation is a body to scalp hair transplant.
Body to Scalp hair transplant is a hair restoration procedure like any other that transfers thickened hair from one part of the body to another. In a traditional transplant procedure, a doctor moves hair from the back and sides of the head to the area of need. When the hair is taken from somewhere outside of the head and then implanted to the head, that’s called body hair transplantation.
Any part of the body besides the back and sides of the head can be considered. It could be from the beard, chest, legs, or arms.
A patient with a lack of scalp donor hair is a good candidate. This is a patient whose degree of baldness is out of synch with the amount of donor hair that can be provided. If a patient’s hair baldness is at Norwood level six or seven in the patterns of hair transplantation, that’s extreme baldness.
In a patient like that, doctors can start looking early at all donor sources outside of the head. They do this to expand the donor supply assuming the patient has body hair in sufficient quantity and quality. Not everybody is a candidate because many patients don’t have the body hair supply. This is typically the case in female patients for example
Other types of ideal patients would be those who’ve had previous hair transplant procedures, but have not met their needs. Due to the scarring they don’t have enough donor hair left on the scalp. Patients who have burns or have been through accidents, which have left the back and sides of the head affected may also be candidates for this procedure.
There are some situations where the body hair actually has an advantage over head hair. These are transplant situations where a hairline is created to include the construction of temple points on the sides of the head. The hair on the temple tends to be soft and fine. If a person has traditional transplants where all of the hair comes from the head, that hair is naturally thick so they may not be able to impact the degree of softness necessary for a more natural look in areas like the temple points. Using body hair such as soft hairs from the leg or forearm allows that hair to be put in the front of the hairline and temples to create a very soft look. Then a patient can use any other type of hair for the rest of the areas.
One final example happens during an eyebrow transplant or when a doctor is trying to recreate an eyelash. These hairs are naturally softer than head hair. Using head hair to do an eyebrow transplant might be noticeable, but using hair from the leg or forearm, where the hair is naturally finer, would potentially create eyebrows that better approximate nature.
The beard hair is a typically good donor area because it tends to grow long. If a person wants to mimic head hair then beard hair is perfect because it can grow as long as the head hair. If a person doesn’t shave their beard, it grows long. If a person doesn’t shave their legs, the leg hair doesn’t grow very long. It follows that beard hair is the favored one when it comes to trying to cover the head.
With some patients, the chest hair might be the best area outside of the neck. The best area might even be the stomach area or the leg hairs. Areas where hair is typically not taken from are the pubic area and armpits. These areas can be resorted to in dare situations however.
One of the main misconceptions is that the body hair will transform into head hair. There were reports about the way body hair transforms to head hair. Quite a number of patients think that will always happen. Even some doctors have implied this in ill-conceived publications on the subject, but that’s a misconception. Body hair will typically behave the way it behaves in its original location. It’s going to be like leg hair when it’s up on the head.
One other misconception is that body hair doesn’t work. That misconception comes from both doctors and patients. Patients have to be selected properly and the technique has to be very consistent, precise and delicate. Body hair can yield anywhere from 70-75% hair that is below the neck. Beard hair can yield anywhere up to 80-85%. Head hair in that context is about 80-90%. Most body hair, with the exception of the beard hair, tends to be fine compared to the head hair. Patients need to understand that depending on the hair they choose, they may not actually have to go for a higher number. If a patient is thinking about coverage, chest hair will not give the same coverage as head hair. A patient may actually need to use 20 chest hairs instead of 10 head hairs.
The average cost is around $8-$10 per graft depending on the patient. The average body head extractions and transplant should be more expensive than head hair because the process is more time consuming than head hair transplant. Specialized instruments and skill sets are necessary for its proper execution.
The risks of body hair transplant are mostly similar to those of head hair transplant. There are no major differences. The main difference is the softness rate. Most failures are heavily contingent on the methodology and protocols used in the procedure as well as unmanaged expectations. If a doctor performs this procedure on someone who is not a good candidate for the body to scalp hair transplant, it can lead to failure.
Similar complications that attend head hair FUE can occur in body hair transplantations such as white dots, discoloration or scarring.
Typical recovery of body to scalp hair transplant is similar to FUE. The grafts come from a different area but, in terms of healing and recovery, it’s the same. The procedure is done under local anesthesia just like a regular hair transplant. If the donor area is in the chest, then that is an area that can be covered right away by wearing something over it as opposed to the head.
Transplanted body hair typically permanent hair. It grows and takes root like any other hair. It can be groomed anyway a person desires. If it’s long enough, a patient can do whatever they want with it. The first step in the process is determining if the patient is a good candidate for body to scalp hair transplant. Patients should consult with a doctor experienced in body to scalp to determine their suitability for the procedure.
Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team - MA
Based on exclusive interview by Dr. Sanusi Umar in Redondo Beach, CA