What to Expect After a Hair Transplant (Hair Transplant “Post-Op.”)

“What will my appearance be after surgery?” “Will there be any discomfort?” “Do I need to take any medication?” “What precautions should I take?”

These are the most frequent questions doctors receive about hair transplants “post-operative” and “post-op.” This is understandable. Patients need to know what to expect following surgery.

The hair transplant recovery period is very easy. The recovery process is quick and painless.

Immediate Post-Op

The area where the doctor performed surgery will appear slightly reddened, shiny, and swollen immediately afterward. You will see thousands of tiny hairs growing up from the areas where the follicular units grafts were placed. A small bandage will be placed around your forehead. The doctor may allow you to wear a hat at home. The doctor will give you pain medication and possibly antibiotics (or a prescription). There will also be detailed instructions for post-operative care. The doctor will send you home to allow you to relax and recover.

Day 1 – 4

It takes about 4 days for newly implanted hair follicles “anchor” or to take root and become permanent, although estimates may differ. They are vulnerable during the first few days, and may become dislodged by being bumped, rubbed or touched too harshly. To avoid graft dislodging, you will change how you sleep, bathe and dress for the first three days.

For the first three nights, it is recommended to sleep propped up at 45 degrees with something supporting your neck. This could be a towel or a travel pillow. This is to support your head and keep it from bumping or moving during the night. It also discourages post-operative swelling.

Many clinics ask patients to wash their new transplants as soon as possible after surgery. Most often, this is the next day. It is best to wash the new transplants with water only. Avoid using too much pressure or excessive shampoo application. Instead, use a cup to gently pour shampoo and water over the area. The best thing to do is let the area dry naturally. It is recommended to wear button-down shirts during this time. This is to prevent pulling on the grafts and rubbing them.

During this time, pain is minimal. Patients report that they feel a slight pinch in their donor area the first night. You will be given medication to use during this time. This should resolve any discomfort. These medications are usually only used for the first night.

 Day 4 – 10

The grafts start anchoring by day 4. You can then go back to normal activities like sleeping, bathing, dressing and washing your clothes. Although the grafts don’t technically anchor until day 10, they can be resumed basic activities by the fourth day. Patients should shower more frequently during this time. The transplant should look clean and tidy, with no scabs or debris on the scalp and the transplanted hair visible. The “pinkness” will gradually fade, although there will likely still be some pinkness on the scalp. During this time, patients may experience swelling in their foreheads, eyes, cheeks, and cheeks. The swelling usually occurs between days 2-3 and disappears completely by the seventh day. It is difficult to predict how the swelling will develop, so it is best to rest “propped up” and avoid looking down (IE cellphone use). Most patients experience minimal swelling and it is limited to the forehead. You can return to your normal life after this time, minus the need for stitches or staples in the donor area. These will be removed by day 10.

The grafts have been fully secured at the 10-day mark. You can also remove the staples (so you can trim your hair as desired). Most patients are now able to return to work or school without too much attention. Many clinics now allow patients to return to their normal exercise routines. This is the end of the post-op period. Patients can now prepare for the fun part, the growth phase.