Female Hair Transplant - A guide to Hair Transplant Surgery

Women also experience hair loss although this differs from male hair in a number of ways.

Male hair loss or to be more specific, male pattern baldness is a result of genetics and the effect of testosterone on the hair growth cycle. This is changed by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which shrinks the hair follicles and prevents normal hair growth.

Find out more in our male pattern baldness section.

With women, their hair loss is caused by a variety of reasons which include:

  • Hormonal imbalance due to pregnancy or menopause
  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Side effects of medications
  • Traction alopecia
  • Telogen effluvium

The most likely cause of hair loss in women is hormonal, e.g. pregnancy. Fluctuations in hormones can affect the hair growth/loss cycle and lead to thinning hair and eventual loss. The most popular cause is ‘telogen effluvium’ in which hair is lost after childbirth although this returns to normal after a period of time.

But telogen effluvium can also occur as a result of physical or emotional stress and is far more common in women than men.

Telogen effluvium and hair transplant surgery

What is the importance of this?

The body can react to the stress of undergoing a hair transplant surgery by telogen effluvium. It’s as if it perceives this to be a shock to the system and responds by shedding hair which has been transplanted into the recipient area (bald area of the scalp).

This is an unfortunate side effect of the procedure and whilst it is unusual in men it does tend to happen in female patients. No-one is quite sure how and why this does happen but if it does then new hair will re-grow in the vast majority of cases.

So take this into account if you are thinking of having a hair transplant. It doesn’t automatically mean that it will happen to you but it’s as well to be aware of this risk so that you can deal with it if it happens.

If it does then rest assured that new hair is likely to grow after four months or so. In other words, the hair that is lost will be replaced but you need to be patient and allow time for it to return. Some women are affected whereas others are not and it is down to the luck of the draw.

Another cause although less common is that of ‘traction alopecia’: this is a condition whereby the hair follicles become damaged from excessive tension on the hair. Tight hairstyles such as braiding can put undue stress on the hair which destroys the hair follicle, resulting in hair loss.

Find out more about women and hair loss in our female baldness section.

This section of the guide deals with treatment for female hair loss, in particular, female hair transplantation.

Do women lose their hair in the same way as men?

No. Hair loss differs in women from men in that it tends to occur on the top of the head rather than the hairline and sides as in men. It is also more spread out over the top of the head rather than being concentrated in a particular area as seen in male hair loss.

Men end up with a characteristic ‘horseshoe’ shape of hair on their head with a receding hairline and a bald scalp.

But this doesn’t make hair loss any less upsetting for women. For women, their hair is an expression of what it means to be a woman and whilst many men will put up with some amount of loss a woman will find any type of baldness unacceptable.

Much will depend upon the extent of her hair loss. The Ludwig Scale is used to assess the level of hair loss in women which uses a ‘grading’ system to do so. The more advanced the hair loss the less chance there is of achieving a full head of hair.

If you are a woman who has noticed some thinning of your hair or hair loss then bear this in mind. You may have to accept that hair transplant surgery will be able to treat some of your hair but not all. This also means styling your remaining hair so that it covers any thin or bald areas.

A possible compromise is that of hair transplant surgery combined with the hair loss medication Rogaine (minoxidil). This medication is available to both men and women and works by rejuvenating shrunken hair follicles which then grow new hair.

Rogaine has been proven to work so is an option along with surgery. Your surgeon will be able to discuss this further with you.

Are male and female hair transplants similar?

There are two important differences between male and female hair transplant surgery:

  • Hair loss in women is spread out (diffuse) whereas male hair loss involves a defined area such as the hairline or the top of the head (crown).
  • The transplanted follicular units are inserted between any remaining hairs. This requires a great deal of expertise to avoid damaging nearby hair follicles.

In a sense male hair transplants are easier in that the surgeon has a bald area to transplant hair into: whereas with female hair transplants the surgeon has to work with areas of normal hair mixed in with thinning hair which is more difficult.

What is common to both sexes is the need for there to be enough donor hair to transplant with. This hair is removed from the back and sides of the head and the amount present will dictate how well or not the recipient area is covered.

Both men and women are assessed for surgery on the same criteria: the extent of their hair loss, the amount of remaining hair and their expectations.

Please don’t feel put off by any of this as good results are possible with hair transplant surgery. A good surgeon will discuss the upsides and the downsides of the procedure with you so that you know what to expect.

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