An approach to hair transplantation known as Follicular Unit Extraction entails taking individual hair follicles from the scalp. It is a popular alternative to the classic strip harvest technique and offers numerous benefits, including fewer scars after surgery.
A follicular unit is a full-thick skin graft containing epidermis, fat, and hair follicles. Its integrity must be maintained during the extraction process, which requires more precision and effort than other hair transplant types.
What is FUE?
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) is a method of extracting individual hair follicles from your scalp for transplantation to thinning or bald areas. It was developed to replace the classic follicular unit transplantation (FUT) technique, which involves taking an entire section of skin and hair along with its follicles, resulting in a “hair plug” appearance. FUE avoids this appearance and is more versatile.
It is less invasive than FUT, requiring only one doctor with one or two assistants to run a center. The technique also requires less surgical experience than FUT. It is more challenging to perform on curly or wavy hair, but it can be time-consuming for inexperienced physicians in this procedure.
In follicular unit extraction (FUE), a physician uses a sharp hollow punch to incise the skin around a follicular unit (FU) and free it from its surrounding tissue. The FU is then extracted with forceps. This is a delicate operation, and it can go wrong in several ways.
In some cases, the follicular unit may get buried, becoming an area of scar tissue rather than new hair. Occasionally, the FU will be cut into blood vessels or nerves. These issues can be especially problematic in patients with the syndrome, who tend to develop widened scars. Additionally, the physician can accidentally transect an FU by cutting it too deep.
Who is a Good Candidate for FUE Hair Transplantation?
A minimally invasive treatment called follicular unit extraction uses your natural hair follicles to fill up bald or thinning areas of the scalp. The surgeon will remove healthy follicles from the back of your head, where they are genetically programmed to continue growing for life and transfer them to the area that needs treatment. The transplanted follicles will begin growing naturally in the new site, making them appear thicker.
Unlike the strip harvesting technique (also known as FUSS), which involves removing a 6- to 10-inch strip of tissue from the back of your scalp, FUE requires the surgeon to extract individual follicular units from the scalp using a sharp or blunt punch and a needle. This process may cause the scalp to be slightly sore for several days, but it is a significantly less invasive option. Moreover, FUE results in less donor-site scarring, which is particularly important for patients who wear their hair very short or have very little body hair.
Not all patients, however, make good FUE candidates. A surgeon can determine a patient’s candidacy by performing a test. During this test, the doctor takes out a few follicular units from the donor site and assesses how easy and complete the extraction is. If the follicular units are easy to extract and show reasonable transaction rates, the surgeon can proceed with FUE; otherwise, the surgeon will shift to strip harvesting.
How Does FUE Hair Transplantation Work?
FUE hair restoration utilizes a unique technique to harvest and transplant new, healthy hair. The procedure can dramatically change your appearance and help you overcome the effects of thinning hair or baldness. The process involves taking the donor area of the scalp (the back and sides) and then removing a group of hair follicles in their natural groupings called follicular units. The follicular units are then implanted in the areas of your scalp that need additional growth.
Initially, a standard FUE hair transplant requires the patient to have the back and sides of their head shaved for faster extraction of the follicular units. This allows more grafts to be extracted in one session and reduces the surgery cost. However, a no-shave variant of the FUE procedure allows more follicles to be harvested without shaving any part of the scalp.
The surgeon uses a punch with a short side to score the epidermis of the hair follicle. Then the dull side of the point is introduced, and the follicular unit is bluntly dissected with twisting movement from the surrounding epidermis and dermis. This avoids damage to the follicles by the transaction.
Itching may occur at the transplant site in the hours following an FUE hair transplant, but this is a normal and temporary response to healing. The itching should stop as soon as the scabs appear. Resisting the urge to scratch your scalp is essential, as it can cause further damage or scarring.
What Can I Expect from FUE Hair Transplantation?
FUE is a minimally-invasive procedure that does not require stitches or staples. This allows for a much faster recovery time, with many patients able to return to work within a few days following their procedure. This method also has the added benefit of creating a more natural-looking hairline and growth pattern than other procedures, such as FUT (follicular unit transplantation), which can make a “hair plug” appearance.
Your surgeon will shave the area of your scalp where they’ll perform the surgery and then use a micro punch tool to extract the follicles. Once the hairs have been removed, they’ll be implanted into your scalp’s thinning or balding areas. This is done using state-of-the-art implant pens that minimize graft damage and injury.
Once your follicles have been planted, you can enjoy fuller, thicker, and more voluminous hair. As you heal, new hair will start to grow, though it can take up to a year for this process to be complete.
Unlike the FUT technique, which uses a large strip of skin to contain the follicles to be transferred, FUE extracts each follicular unit, resulting in tiny, white scars where hairs are removed that can fade over time. You mustn’t touch or wash your surgical site during the healing process. Sleep with your head elevated on 3 or 4 pillows is also a good way to avoid rubbing off or detaching any follicles during sleep.