The idea behind this article is to act as an informative piece of research examining hair transplant cost for anyone considering either a FUE surgical procedure or high grade hair replacement system.
Ideally we should begin with an NHS viewpoint with regards this topic because in the UK, health care standards are set both in the public and private sectors by NHS policies/procedures and guidelines on all aspects of diseases/health issues and consequent care related to these conditions.
Hair loss as depicted with male pattern baldness is not seen as a condition that necessitates treatment, but many people do seek treatment because they find their hair loss distressing, in which case there are several options open to the individual, as discussed on this website.
Hair transplantation, however, is viewed in a slightly different light to other treatments available, for example, topical hair regeneration medications, which may be prescribed within the NHS. Wigs are also offered by the NHS, but this will be discussed in more detail a little later when cost comparisons are discussed, as there are both adverse limits, and criteria for help with costs which must be taken in to consideration.
What the NHS do suggest with regards hair transplantation is that surgery should only be considered after trying less invasive treatments, and it is stressed that surgery is not usually available at all on the NHS, which only leaves the option of sourcing private clinics. For this reason it was thought valuable to look at these procedures in terms of price comparisons from clinic to clinic in the UK, coming up with an average estimated price range someone would expect to pay, and comparing this with the alternative option of choosing non surgical high grade hair replacement systems, which are also available privately from several clinics in the UK, including Ivisi Hair Replacement Systems Ltd.
So, firstly, we might ask the question, what conditions are considered by hair transplantation clinics with regards to the type of clients they may see during a typical consultation:
Male pattern baldness is far more common than female pattern genetic baldness, therefore, the large majority of clients eligible for hair transplantation will be made up of male pattern baldness sufferers. Female pattern baldness, although less common, will also make up part of the client base of the typical hair transplantation clinic, along with some forms of alopecia where hair loss is prolonged. Typically conditions not considered suitable for hair transplantation will be where hair loss is shorter term and is expected to grow back after for example a treatment for a disease state has stopped; a medication or health problem has been sorted out which facilitates hair re-growth for the individual concerned, and where hair transplantation will not be the answer.
Hair replacement systems, on the other hand can be used as a shorter term solution to some of the conditions mentioned above because they can be dispensed with when the hair begins to grow back of its own accord, and can be expertly fitted so as not to destroy the potential of hair re-growth from the scalp beneath (with all high grade hair systems facilitating oxygenation and respiration of living hair follicles). Similarly to hair transplantation, they can and are used as a long term solution, and are a completely feasible solution.
When considering any alopecia treatment it is true to say that cost is always going to be a significant factor involved in the decision making process, and of course quality of end result is another. This is particularly true of, for example, hair transplantation which tends to fall in to the category of higher end cost and a success rate which may vary quite considerably according to choice of clinic; choice of procedure; characteristics of the hair and its loss (we will discuss this in more detail later); how much someone is prepared to pay; and expectations about end result.
Costing for a high grade hair replacement system, although also varying from clinic to clinic in price range, tends in general to be within a much smaller parameter (in other words the price range will not vary that greatly from clinic to clinic for the highest grade hair systems), and will give a consistent result/success rate for a large majority of the time. There will remain to be differences in standards from clinic to clinic in terms of details such as fitting procedures; styling; and maintenance, but in general the end result will demonstrate a consistency. The main and obvious difference being that the hair replacement system is removable, whereas the hair transplant will become hopefully a growing and vital part of the individual.
What will the hair transplant consultant consider?
Hair restoration procedures (i.e. transplant), will view each person as an especial, and surprisingly, this will not be purely based on degree of genetic hair loss, which is one of the reasons why for anyone seeking such procedures they should scrutinise the subject, and clinics, then evaluate the clinics, particularly in terms of hair transplant cost, before actually taking the plunge and going ahead with surgery, before considering non-surgical treatments, as recommended by the NHS.
It is not a said rule, but in general, the cost of hair transplantation will reduce as the number of surgical sessions increases, but this needs to be explained more fully for the reader to understand, and is detailed a little later in the text.
It is important to say that hair transplants are normally completed over a number of surgical sessions, as described previously. There are specificities for this, which will be discussed, but needless to say it is by no means a speedy solution for how to stop hair loss, and requires time and patience to get good results. The gap between each surgical session should range from between 9-12 months. Within approximately 6 months the hair grafts will have established themselves within the scalp, but time is required for good healing and scar revision.
Where surgery is involved there are always risks that go hand in hand with it. Fortunately, hair transplantation is carried out under local anaesthetic so there are not the greater risks associated with a general anaesthetic; but there are risks of infection with any form of surgery, bleeding, and the possibility that infected sites might lead to losing some of the hair grafting, and scar formation occurring which is infelicitous. Scar tissue is thinner and less ‘elastic’ than unscarred skin, and viable hair follicles may be lost for transplant purposes.
How Hair Transplantation is carried out and/How this applies to it’s Client base:
In the UK and USA and other parts of Europe the most common hair transplantation techniques are ‘Strip Excision’ and ‘Follicular Unit Extraction’.
Strip excision is when a small piece of scalp approximately 1cm wide and 30-35cm long is removed from an area where there remains to be plenty of hair. This is why during the initial consultation the donor hair amount and quality is taken in to account because this is very important. Where the strip has been removed it is preferable to have enough surrounding hair to deal potentially with a little scarring.
This strip of hair is then divided in to single hairs or groups of hairs, which are grafted in areas where there is no hair. The hair is ‘Graded’, which refers to finer hair being grafted at the front of the head nearest to the forehead, and thicker hairs going further back on the head towards the crown. There is no stitching involved with the grafting as the hair is held in place by the natural formation of a blood clot. This is a brief overview of the procedure for the purposes of this particular article, but for more detailed knowledge a potential client would need to visit particular clinic websites or attend consultation to obtain a clear picture.
Follicular type Unit Extraction on the other hand is removing single hair or very small groups of hair units from the scalp again in a good donor area, and again transplanting it in an area where there is no hair. This method is far more labour intensive, but there is less scarring involved as can be imagined, therefore this procedure may be more lengthy and for that reason more costly to the client.
In the USA, robotic follicular unit extraction is offered which again is even more costly than the latter two procedures, but in the UK the latter two procedures are by far the commonest form of hair transplant procedure on offer.
Over the page the diagram describes the main noted concerns of clients who have undergone hair transplantation surgery, which people considering going for hair transplantation could use as a guide for their own research and evaluation purposes:
There can also be additional problems to consider during and after grafting of follicular units, which clients seeking surgery might consider. These are detailed in the chart over the page. The main intention of follicular unit transplant is really to place as many units possible in the smallest possible recipient site to get the best scalp coverage, but there are a number of issues that must be considered first. The importance of emphasizing these points in terms of seeking this kind of surgery cannot be stressed enough because it may help to make a more schooled decision on whether to go ahead with a surgical procedure and possibly have disappointment, after spending a considerable sum of money; or instead choosing a non-surgical option, such as a high grade hair replacement system, or indeed first trying hair re-growth therapy.
How many grafts will a person receive in an average grafting?
Typically a surgical session may range from the transplantation of approximately 1,500 grafts up to approximately 4,000 grafts, obviously dependant upon the individual needs of the client. Grafting can be as few as approximately 700 units, but normally would not in one session exceed between 3,750-4,000, which would be considered a large graft.
Discussion earlier in this article touched on characteristics of the donor hair on the client and this is very important because diameter/calibre of hair relates to it’s coarseness or fineness. Obviously, fine hair requires more follicular units to be grafted. Texture of hair is also important because for example curly or wavy coarser hair may require fewer follicular units to be grafted than straight fine hair. In terms of colour genus of the hair, it is preferable for there to be less contrast between the colour of the scalp and hair for it to appear to be thicker, but if someone has for example black hair against a fair skinned scalp then the grafting may need to be more plentiful.
So, how do the costs for hair transplantation compare with the purchasing and fitting of a bespoke high grade hair replacement system, if looked at from an annual basis? The chart below details both low and high costs, including an average cost, and includes any other considerations to be made.
Additional points to consider when carrying out price comparisons for Hair Transplantation and High Grade Hair Replacement Systems:
The prices for hair transplantation surgery in the chart only account for one year, in reality there could well be more than one surgical session involved to get the desired result which would span over more than twelve months, therefore, costs would be greater than those shown, but not necessarily double those shown in the grid guide. From a positive point of view, if grafts take well, and grow, then this procedure has permanence. It must be pointed out, however, that hair transplantation will not stop male pattern baldness from occurring, and the existing hair and genetic predisposition to hair loss will continue.
Hair replacement systems obviously do not become an integral growing part of the person in the same way as growing hair, even though excellent results can and are achieved. The hair replacement systems do deteriorate over time, removing them, and having them refitted; and they will eventually need to be replaced. A good quality human hair system will remain in good shape for much longer than for example a much cheaper acrylic hair replacement system, and so could be considered a good purchase from this point of view. Consultations for hair replacement systems are often free and services only are paid for, ie, the making, creating, and fitting of the bespoke system.
Wigs/Bespoke Human Hair Wigs and Comparisons with what the NHS can offer:
If hair loss is considered too great for either of the afore mentioned options, or indeed if hair loss, for example, is complete with or without the possibility of new hair genesis, which may happen for instance if the person is undergoing therapies for cancer causing temporary hair loss, then the person may consider a full head wig, as opposed to a hair replacement system. This can be permanent or temporary, and private hair clinics are able to offer this option, and again can offer the highest grade bespoke wigs to customers.
The NHS will offer a wig service for medical conditions meriting this, ie, in the case of medical treatments causing complete and partial hair loss; alopecia conditions where there has been complete or partial hair loss; and other medical conditions such as some glandular type, or skin/immune conditions leading to hair loss (as mentioned on this website when discussing women and hair loss). Needless to say there are various reasons why a person may opt for a full head wig, and so it was thought necessary to discuss this in a little more detail in this discourse.
What the NHS can provide:
There are stock wigs available, but for the large majority of people the only type available are acrylic wigs. Acrylic wigs tend to be hot, uncomfortable, and make the scalp itch causing skin irritation.
Partial human hair and 100% human hair wigs are available on the NHS, with exceptional special circumstances otherwise they are not available to the majority. The circumstances that accredit having a human hair wig are if a patient is allergic to the acrylic wig, or the patient has a specific skin condition. Prices will be detailed a little later.
Under special circumstances people can get help with the purchase of an NHS wig but patients must be on an extremely low income for this assistance, (i.e.: For people living in care homes total capital including accommodation should be less than £23,000; for anyone else total capital including the patient’s home should be less than £16,000).
There is also the quality of the wig to consider, and how the client would like to look in realistic terms. If this is a big issue for the client then private hair clinics are a very good option for the bespoke full head wig, especially if the hair loss is permanent and the client has chosen a wig as the permanent solution; then a high grade bespoke human hair wig may be very cost effective and give the best results in terms of appearance.
NHS acrylic wigs will only last between 6-9 months and will then have to be replaced, whereas a good human hair wig can last up to four years, particularly if it is alternated with one or two additional wigs.
When acrylic wigs are replaced it is up to the individual health authorities concerned how many each patient will be allowed in terms of replacement wigs, after which time it will be up to the patient to find an alternative source for their wigs.
Below is a cost comparison between different wig types offered by the NHS and by private clinics, including additional comments already discussed, to be used as a quick reference guide for anyone wishing to chose this option:
To conclude this article, it can be said that there are numerous considerations to be made when considering how to deal with a hair loss problem. It is not always a wise decision to immediately go down the surgery route, thinking it is the only answer. Hair transplantation surgery can be very costly in terms of hair integration replacement, and results can be varied. Although hair transplantation techniques have improved considerably over the past few years there are many considerations that the consultant will have to take in to account, with each individual client.
Since the emergence of superior hair replacement systems deriving largely from the Hollywood film industry where undetectable hair line, and active living have been paramount to their design, it is now possible to have a fully integrated, wholly comprehensive colour graduated system which simply becomes part of existing hair; and is a very good alternative to choosing hair transplantation.
In some instances, for example, with total loss of head hair, clients may decide a wig is the best solution, (temporary or permanent hair loss applies) , therefore, a comparison of what is available on the NHS has been made with what private clinics can offer to act as a reference guide for anyone going down this route.
Cost and quality are amongst the most important considerations for many people seeking hair loss solutions, along with considerations such as visible scarring; and as suggested by the NHS non-surgical avenues are best visited at all times before considering any surgical procedure.