Most people have heard the ads claiming that men can restore thinning hair through transplant surgery, but you may not be aware of its facial counterpart: the beard transplant. Facial hair transplants were at one time used to restore hair missing from scar tissue. Thanks to an increase in celebrities with beards, the procedure grew exponentially more popular over the last five years. So just what is a beard transplant? We break it down for you here.
How Does A Beard Transplant Work?
A beard transplant is similar to a hair transplant in that surgeons take hair from one part of the body and plant it onto another. For a beard transplant, the surgeon takes hair from less visible places, like the nape of the neck and the scalp. The hair is then implanted into an open follicle created by removing layers of the underlying skin. The hair takes root and begins to grow within a few weeks. After about a year, the hair takes its true form and becomes ready to be worn any way the man chooses.
Reasons To Get a Beard Transplant
- Recovery and Restoration: The original reason for a beard transplant was for victims of accidents who had permanent scars in which bear hair would not grow. Hair surgeons have worked with restoration cases for decades. Until recently, they completed only a few a year. Recently, the bearded trend has increased the popularity of the procedures for cosmetic reasons.
- Fullness: The basic reason for getting a beard transplant is that you can’t grow as full a beard as you would like. Maybe your beard comes in patches and looks uneven and scraggly, so you seek a solid and symmetric beard line. Or maybe genetics gave you perpetual baby face, and you’re looking for a more mature look.
- Band of Bearded Brothers: While many men grow beards for personal reasons (laziness, masculine affirmation, mate’s preference), other guys want to join a group. They seek to identify with a group of similar people–hipsters, artists, etc. Men with enough money will pay for a beard transplant in order to grow a bushy mustache like their counterparts in business. A full set of facial hair can show you are wealthy and willing to operate in business.
If you really want a beard transplant, you’ll have to be willing to pony up the funds for the facial hair. The average cost for a beard transplant can range from $5000 to $10,000 or more. Depending on the clinic, the cost may be per follicle. So for a 1200-follicle beard, the costs add up quickly. Clearly, this is not an easy procedure for most people to afford. Still, the men who have had the surgery almost universally have pride and satisfaction in the results.
Trading Places: The Transplant Process
Your surgeon will harvest hair follicles from the back of the head or neck. The surgeon uses a microscope to identify a follicular unit (FU). A follicular unit consists of a cluster of hairs and their accompanying muscle, skin layers, and membranes. FUs are not identical or symmetrically placed, so the surgeon must be selective in finding the right ones to transplant into the face. Once the doctor finds a good group of FUs, he or she uses a precise instrument to cut out a few millimeters of skin in order to extract the underlying hair. Then he or she makes a tiny cut into a facial follicle on the beard line. Individual hairs are then inserted one by one. The hair must be inserted in the right direction in order to avoid the hair growing in a different grain than the rest of the whiskers.
The Lowdown on Surgery
If you do happen to have the cash, how should you go about getting a new mustache or beard?
- First find a certified local hair surgeon through the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery.
- After you have found the physician, decide on the style of beard. Do you want to grow a goatee, full beard, or fu manchu? If you want a certain look like a popular actor or musician, bring in a picture to the consultation. The doctor can work with your facial structure to find the optimum beard configuration.
- Once you have decided on a style, meet with the doctor for details. He or she will describe the actual surgery plan. Here’s a video explaining what you might expect.
The surgeon will administer a local anesthetic to the affected area of the face and scalp. The procedure is lengthy and painstaking. For example, a full beard of 2200 grafts could take up to 12 hours to finish.
The Side Effects of Surgery
You may feel a burn or rash-like discomfort at the hair removal site. Common side effects after surgery are itching and swelling of the transplant site. This could last for a week or so. Like any medical procedure, infection is also a possibility. Since donor hair comes from the back of the head, there may be minute holes from the follicular extraction. These all should fill in over time to hide the scars.
After about two weeks you will need to shave the face and neck. This helps the old hairs fall out, thereby allowing the new beard hair roots to take hold and grow. It may be a couple months before real growth shows, and a bushy, full beard can take up to a year to appear.
The End Result: A New Face Full of Hair
Beard transplants are a new solution to an old problem. Although it is an expensive process, hair relocation can give a permanent solution to patchiness and hairlessness. If you have the resources and a strong desire for a fuller beard, a beard transplant may be a good option for you.