What the Cost of a Hair Transplant Means To You
Throughout the ages, hair has been a symbol of physical well-being, youth, and vitality. For that reason, it is closely married to our self-image. When we have a full head of beautiful hair, we feel confident in ourselves.
There is a reason we associate hair with youth: as we get older, our hair starts to thin out, and we may even start going bald. Whether you are male or female, thinning and balding hair can cripple your self-esteem.
Balding is incredibly common, especially for men. Consider these statistics:
- 95% of hair loss in men is the result of male pattern baldness.
- If you’re a man, by the time you reach age 35, odds are pretty good you’ll have lost some hair. Male-pattern baldness already affects around two thirds of men by this age.
- By age 50, around 85% of men have significantly thinner hair.
- Around a quarter of all men with this condition will already show signs of it before they even reach age 21. This is why you see many men in their 20s who already have receding hairlines.
- Women are not immune from age-related balding, though it typically takes a different form. While men form bald spots with clear perimeters, women tend to experience a more diffuse thinning of the hair which affects the entire scalp. Some women do form bald patches though, just like men. Some men also experience the diffuse thinning.
There are many reasons for hair to fall out. Some of them may actually be treatable. If your hair loss is the result of a vitamin deficiency, you can supplement to make up for it. If you are losing hair because of a poor diet, you can switch to healthier eating habits. If you have suffered from some kind of chronic or acute physical stressor, you may be able to get back your hair by removing the stressor from your life. If an illness can be treated, hair will typically return. Hormonal imbalances are another common culprit. If you can correct the imbalance, your hair should start coming back in.
Let’s say however that you have already run through the gamut of possibilities, and have already determined that your balding or thinning hair is a direct result of factors you cannot control, like age and genetics.
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At this point, you have a few choices. There are some stopgap measures you can try which may work for a while (more on that in a little bit). But if your hair loss is really troublesome to you, you may be thinking about taking more drastic action.
This is completely understandable. Hair loss is something that our society takes for granted, but as a culture, we do tend to look down on people who are balding. There’s nothing fair or right about it, but a lot of people do experience life changes because of hair loss. Maybe you have changed jobs, or lost your confidence in a relationship. You might feel like if you could just get your hair back, all of that would change.
I think it’s worth saying a few words on self-esteem here as well—but that is something I will also loop back to. For now, let’s take a look at the option you’re considering … getting a hair transplant.
What Are Hair Transplants?
Hair transplantation has been around for some time now, dating as far back as the 1950s. The surgeon cleans your scalp, and then uses a needle to inject a local anesthetic. Once the area is numb, the surgeon removes hair follicles from another site on your body (for example, elsewhere on your head), and then transplants them to the area where you are experiencing the thinning or balding.
This is a relatively simple procedure, and recovery is very swift. Many people will opt to take a few days off work, but many others will head straight back to the office the next morning. It is important to note however that the results will not be instantly apparent. The new follicles need to actually produce new hair.
So you may go several months without being sure how effective the procedure was. There is usually about a 5-15% failure rate for the new follicles. You can generally expect good results with the rest.
It’s also important to know that you will shed transplanted hair after the surgery. This is a temporary effect. You may actually shed additional hairs that weren’t transplanted as well. This is because there has been a shock to your system localized on your scalp. This too is temporary.
Getting through that initial period can be very trying. That’s why having realistic expectations is important right from the off. You will likely go the better part of a year feeling uncertainty about the outcome of the surgery.
Recommended Reading: Why Stress Causes Hair Loss and How To Prevent It
Most patients however ultimately report that they are satisfied with the results or that the results actually exceeded their initial expectations. So if you can hang in there, you will probably be quite happy with the outcome.
What Will a Hair Transplant Cost?
The cost of a hair transplant can range significantly, because the number of hairs you need transplanted may vary quite a bit. If you only need to cover a small area, you might pay around $4,000. If you have to cover a much larger area, that cost could rise to as much as $15,000. Sometimes a hair transplant may cost more or less, but that is the typical bracket.
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The high cost of a hair transplant is a bigger detractor than you may initially realize. If that was your cost and you were covered by medical insurance for the procedure, that would already be pretty bad. But medical insurance rarely covers hair transplants. A hair transplant is considered an elective cosmetic procedure. That means you are on your own, and you are stuck paying the entire amount out of pocket. A lot of people cannot afford that. And even if you can, you may not feel it is worth it when it will take so long to see the results.
What Are Your Alternatives?
If you do not want to go through with a hair transplant, here are some alternatives you can consider:
- If by any chance your hair loss is tied to a condition or medication and not just “getting older,” then you may be able to treat that condition and recover your hair.
- Consider wearing a wig or hair extensions. While neither of these options may sound particularly satisfactory, you can buy very realistic wigs and extensions these days which are very hard to tell from your natural hair. Even though you will know the hair is not really yours, other people you meet who have never seen you before will probably have no idea. This can help you to get back to confidently interacting with others.
- A medication like Minoxidil, better known by the brand name Rogaine, may be able to help you. This is actually a pretty effective treatment, and it’s FDA-approved. Around 40% of users see new hair growth when they use it. Another 40% don’t grow any new hair, but they are able to maintain the density of the hair they have now. The remaining 20% see no benefits. You don’t even need to get a prescription for this medication. The drawback? At $15 or so a month, it isn’t cheap. It is hardly exorbitant either however, and certainly costs less than $15,000 on a hair transplant.
- Try laser hair growth. Laser hair growth technology is still in its infancy, and there are only a few products on the market right now. Their efficacy is limited but measurable, and backed by scientific research trials like this one and this one. Laser hair growth products take a long time to produce noticeable results, around six to nine months. Results will be subtle, and will not reverse baldness, but many customers find them satisfactory.
- Change your hairstyle and try some new products like volumizing shampoos and conditioners. Products like these give your hair more body. A shorter haircut is typically better than a long one, since your hair weighs less and it’s easier for its to hold more volume. You might also try moving the part in your hair. Sometimes this effectively conceals a bald patch. Of course, this can sometimes appear really obvious and can actually draw more attention.
- Nourish your scalp to help the hair you do have to grow. A hair-growth supplement with a potent mixture of vitamins, minerals, and herbs can boost the rate at which your hair grows, and can also keep your hair healthy. When your hair is smooth, shiny, and soft, with plenty of volume and body, it can help make up for bald or thin patches. Eating a healthy diet can really help with this too!
A Word on Self-Esteem
Finally, I think one last thing needs to be said, and that is a reminder that you cannot derive your self-esteem from your hair. Having a full head of beautiful hair can certainly help you feel more confident because your appearance more closely matches your ideal. But none of us can ever completely match our ideals, and the older we get, the further we drift. If paying a hair transplant will make you happy with your appearance, knowing full well it probably still will not be perfect, then that cost may very well be worth it to you. Many patients who take the leap are very pleased with the outcome. But part of achieving that satisfaction is going into the procedure with realistic expectations.
If you cannot afford a hair transplant, you now know that there are alternative routes open to you. Some of them may make a big difference over time (especially hair supplements and medication), but these methods will not grant you perfection either.
Ultimately, self-esteem comes from what is underneath your skin and not what you see in the mirror. Respect from others should be respect for you, not your outward appearance. Full head of hair or no, you are an awesome person just the way you are.
If you pay for a hair transplant or try another method to recover your hair, do it because you know you are a fantastic person who deserves a full head of hair—not because you feel like you are less of an amazing person without it!