Can a Hair Transplant Cover Your Whole Head?
When you begin to notice your hair thinning or your hairline receding, one of the first things people wonder is how much hair they are going to lose and how fast is it going to happen. Unfortunately, these questions are hard to answer as most of the time hair loss is genetic and it can’t always be predicted.
Thankfully, there are treatments and procedures that can help slow down the process and even fill in the thinning areas of your scalp… but there are limitations to these procedures.
One question we get asked a lot is: “Can a hair transplant procedure be performed if you’ve gone completely bald?” –or- “Can you cover the entire head by transplant?”
The simple, though sad, answer to this question is, no. A hair transplant cannot cover your whole head, but to understand why, you must first understand how a hair transplant is performed.
Why Can’t a Hair Transplant Cover Your Whole Head?
At its core, a hair transplant is the process of taking healthy hair follicles from one area of the scalp and moving them to another. There are a couple different ways that this can be done in regard to the actual procedure, but the basic idea behind a hair transplant is to fill in the thinning, or balding, areas of the scalp with follicles from an area of the scalp with strong, receding-resistant hair.
When you were born, you had all the follicles on your scalp that you would ever have. They might not have been visible at birth but they were there. As a child with that full head of tousled hair, you had approximately 100,000 hairs on your head. Now as an adult, if you are looking in the mirror and see visible thinning, this indicates you’ve probably already lost about 30% of the volume of your hair – at least in those areas. If you’re staring at a “chrome dome” you’re down to about 50%. Dr. Krejci likes to say, “With a hair transplant, you have to borrow from Peter to pay Paul. If the back of your scalp is Peter, you can only take so much or he will be broke too.” Meaning, you can only borrow so much hair from yourself, rearrange it, and not be left with patchy areas.
When genetics take over and your hair follicles die off, there’s nothing you can do to bring them back, which is why hair transplants are helpful in certain cases. However, there are many cases where you can use medical or topical treatments to help slow this genetic curse and sometimes medical therapy can partially reverse this fate and help old follicles to grow faster and stronger. These treatments can only help boost the existing follicles and can’t do anything to bring back ones from the dead.
Knowing you may have lost 30-50% of your original follicles and that a hair transplant requires healthy follicles to be moved to the thinning or balding areas of the scalp, it’s simply not possible to perform this procedure if there is not enough healthy follicles left on the head to move to the balding areas.
And that is why you can’t get a hair transplant to cover your whole head.
What About Using Donor Hair? (like they do with kidneys)
We’ve discussed using donor hair from another person or family member, and why it’s not a viable option for hair transplant procedures in the past. Let’s take a quick look back at why you can’t use a donor for a hair transplant.
Our bodies are designed to fight off anything that it determines is foreign, harmful or otherwise doesn’t belong on our bodies. This includes everything from foreign objects like splinters, to invading cells like viruses, and it would also include hair follicles from a non-self donor.
Hair follicles contain our DNA as well as our unique cell receptors. So, if you tried to implant a hair follicle from someone else, that follicle contains their DNA and cell receptors, therefore your body would see it as foreign or an invader and reject it immmediately.
When the hair transplant is rejected it would leave you with lots of unsightly scars and no new hair growth.
Organ transplants would react in the same way if scientists and doctors hadn’t developed anti-rejection (immunosuppressant) drugs to help reduce the risk of our body rejecting an organ transplant. But even with strong immunosuppressants, donor organs like kidneys and hearts don’t last forever; sometimes 10 – 15 years at best. Or, the patient receiving the organ dies from complications of having a weakened immune system from all the anti-rejection drugs.
And while yes, these anti-rejection drugs could help prevent your body from rejecting follicles from a third-party donor, these drugs must be taken for the rest of your life and come with a wide range of side effects, some being quite serious.
That is why, in most cases, organ transplants are only performed in life-or-death situations, and unfortunately hair transplants are purely cosmetic.
So if you’re going completely bald with very little hair left on your head, there aren’t going to be many options for you in terms of transplantation. A hair transplant requires healthy follicles from your own scalp be transplanted to the thinning area. This is sometimes confusing to people because when most people hear the word “transplant” they assume that a donor is involved, but in the case of hair, you are the donor.
More Information About Hair Transplants
If you’re looking for more information about hair transplants or aren’t sure what your options are when it comes to your hair thinning, schedule a consultation today! At the Limmer Hair Transplant Center in San Antonio, TX, we offer in-office consultations as well as virtual consultations to discuss hair loss and treatments.
We can help determine what may be causing your hair loss and what the best course of action to help slow down that process or reverse it. Contact us today to see how we can help!