Hair Transplants: The Importance of a Healthy Donor Area

October 7, 2020

If you are considering getting a hair transplant, it is certainly understandable that you would likely judge how successful your hair surgery was based on the appearance of the transplanted area of your scalp or the final result. However, even if you are happy with the result, you would definitely be disappointed if the donor area is scarred or patchy looking. It is crucial that you (and your hair transplant surgeon) pay just as much attention to the appearance of the donor area before and after your procedure, as you do to the transplanted area.

What is a Donor Area?

When we move a hair follicle, it grows into the newly transplanted area. For this reason, we usually work with a larger donor area to make it much less noticeable. The donor area of choice is usually the area of hair found on the back and sides of your scalp where hair growth stays unaffected by male pattern baldness, that constantly and permanently regrows. Since this hair is constantly growing, it is perfect for hair transplantation, as it will continue to grow after it has been grafted. However, there are many other potentially suitable donor areas available on your body. In order to be considered for a hair transplant, potential candidates must have healthy hair growth in their donor area. Factors like hair colour, texture, and the degree of curliness or waviness could also impact your results.

What Is An Unhealthy Donor Area?

An unhealthy donor area is when there is evidence of psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis or any other skin irritation or conditions which may have an adverse effect on a hair transplant. If any of these skin conditions are present they need to be treated before a hair transplant can be performed as it can greatly affect the results in a negative way. Typically if a patient arrives into our clinics with some evidence of a skin condition on the donor area we will not carry out the hair transplant until the skin condition has been treated.

This is very important to note if you are planning on traveling abroad for your hair transplant as many clinics will still go ahead with the transplant despite there being evidence of a skin condition. This isn’t the correct way to go about carrying out a hair transplant as it will not give the best results. Unfortunately many patients still undergo the transplant regardless of their donor condition and are left with substandard results.

Why is it important to have a Good Donor Area?

Ultimately your donor area will determine whether or not you are a good candidate for a hair transplant or not. When selecting the optimal hair follicles for transplantation, your hair surgeon will only select those follicles that have a greater chance of survival post-transplant. This is an important step for long-lasting results of hair transplantation. All patients must also have enough follicular units present available in the donor area to fulfil the requirements of the balding areas. The volume, strength, and robustness of the hair follicles that are extracted from your donor area play an important role in the outcome of your procedure – hence why it is important to have a good donor area.

What Factors Determine a Good Donor Area?

What determines a good donor area will depend upon the hair transplantation procedure selected – Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) or Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). With that said, typically a good donor area will be based on the following:

  • The Density of your Donor Hair
  • The Quality and Characteristics of your Hair
  • The Surface Area of your Donor Area
  • Your Scalp’s Laxity
  • The Average Number of Hairs Per Follicular Unit

What Other Areas Can Be Used as a Donor Area?

As mentioned earlier, apart from the back and sides of the hair on your head, there are many other potential areas that might be suitable, depending on the factors listed above. These areas can include:

Beard Hair: This is usually the next preferred donor site as your beard hair is naturally thick and is Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) resistant. Because beard hair is usually much thicker than your scalp hair, it is very helpful in creating more volume and a fuller look in the transplanted areas.

Abdomen and Chest Hair: Although these hairs are often fairly thin, sometimes they are thick enough to resemble the hair on your scalp. Chest hairs are typically used to augment graft counts in those patients that are experiencing extensive baldness. Due to their unique characteristics, chest hair is often used to soften a hairline.

Upper and Lower Extremities: These are usually the last resort typically because in most people, they are so thin that they will barely show on your scalp. Their growth cycle is also quite long and unpredictable, making them the lowest choice of preference for hair transplants.

Female Hair Transplants: For women, only the scalp is used as a donor area. This is because no other area would be a suitable donor area.

How to Maintain a Healthy Donor Area

Over the last few months we’ve seen many patients who have developed skin conditions on their donor areas due to the on going covid-19 pandemic. It’s important that if you are considering getting a hair transplant to look after your scalp in the months and weeks prior to ensure you can get the best results. Be mindful of what shampoos and conditioners you are using in your hair as some may irritate your scalp and cause flare ups. You should also consult your doctor as some skin conditions may need additional medication to heal.

If you have any questions or queries about hair transplantation or maybe you are thinking of having a hair transplant, and want to find out more please get in touch with us through our contact page.