Hair transplant is fast being recognized as the most viable solution for baldness and is a highly sought after procedure around the world. It is also a rapidly evolving field and surgeons are constantly trying to find newer ways to make the graft yield better, deliver more natural looking results and make it accessible for patients suffering different stages of hair loss.
For some patients, hair transplant using donor hair from the scalp is not possible and therefore the surgeons use what is called Body Hair Transplant or BHT. It involves using body hair to replace lost hair on the scalp. Traditionally, in hair transplant procedures follicles are harvested from the donor areas of the scalp, usually, the rear and sides of the head that are not prone to hair loss, and implanted onto the bald areas.
However, the supply of donor hair follicles on the scalp can be limited and not enough to provide adequate coverage, especially in advanced stages of Male Pattern Baldness, or Androgenic alopecia. In such cases, hair follicles from other parts of the body such as back, beard, chest, arms, or legs are used as donor's hair.
Here we will discuss the basic differences between traditional hair transplant and BHT:
• When the donor area is the scalp, both FUE and FUT methods can be used for extraction. FUE or Follicular Unit Extraction involves extraction of individual hair follicles from the donor area using micro punches and transplanting them to the recipient area. While FUT or Follicular Unit Transplantation involves extracting a strip of scalp from the donor area, dissecting it into individual grafts, and implanting them on the bald spots.
For BHT, the FUE method works best as it uses punches to remove individual grafts rather than removing a whole strip of follicles, which might leave scars on the body. It also ensures minimum pain and quick recovery.
• The follicular units in the body are usually single hair grafts, unlike scalp hair grafts that have more than one hair. Therefore, to achieve the density that the patient wants, more grafts are needed. The surgeon has to determine before the procedure whether the patient’s body hair is adequate and suitable for a transplant.
• Body hair is different from scalp hair, it has a different growth cycle and it looks different than scalp hair. Body hair curls up at the ends and does not grow long like scalp hair. This means that the follicles transplanted using BHT will produce hair that has the characteristics of body hair, as it will retain its natural properties.
• Body hair maintains its characteristics after the transplant, which means it will grow slower and will be shorter compared to scalp hair. It will, however, follow a similar recovery timeline post surgery as in the case of a traditional transplant. The new hair will start to fall out in a few weeks post-transplant and start to grow back in three to four months. After which it will follow the normal growth cycle.
• The angle and direction of growth of body hair, the depth of the follicle, and its characteristics are all different than scalp hair. Hence the results of a BHT transplant are different than those of traditional hair transplant.
• The best thing about BHT is that unlike scalp hair, body hair is usually immune to lose by DHT. DHT or Dihydrotestosterone is a natural metabolite found in the human body that helps in maintaining and developing sexual characteristics. As per research, DHT is the main cause of hair loss, especially Pattern Baldness, in both men and women. And since body hair is immune to DHT, there is lesser fear of hair loss after a BHT procedure. BHT is an excellent option for people who are in advanced stages of hair loss and don’t have much donor follicles on the scalp. However, to get the best results from BHT, the surgeon conducting the procedure has to have adequate experience, as it is different than traditional hair transplants. The surgeon needs special skills to extract and place body hair follicles on the scalp to give an aesthetically pleasing appearance. So if you are looking or BHT, make sure you look for a surgeon who is experienced in these procedures.