Hair Density: Understanding Its Role in Hair Transplants

When you begin exploring the possibility of getting a hair transplant, you likely want to read and learn as much about it as possible. One thing that stands out regarding hair transplants and their success is the number of variables involved. 

One of these is hair density.

What Is Hair Density?

You have heard people at the saloon, barber, or even among your friends speak of their hair as nice, filled in nicely, thick, sparse, or too thin. This essentially describes density. However, people often talk of ‘thickness’ to describe density. Thickness means the width of a single hair strand. On the other hand, density speaks to how thick or thin hair stands are collectively. 

As such, we can define hair density as the number of hair strands growing from a square inch of your scalp. While this differs from person to person, a good hair density is 100-200 hairs per square inch. Similarly, a healthy head of hair will have 80,000 to 120,000 hairs on the scalp, much of this at the vertex or the crown, which is towards the back of your head. 

This density can be estimated by examining your scalp or measuring the circumference of your ponytail. 

Now, while we all love lush locks, low hair density or high hair density doesn’t always say something about one’s health. Hair density differs between individuals and even ethnicities, like hair color and texture. 

For example, a comparative hair density study in 2017 compared hair density of people of African, Hispanic, and Caucasian descent. The study concluded that people of African descent had the lowest density while Caucasians had the highest. 

A different study also measured hair density against age and concluded that hair density reduces with age. However, people with nutritional deficiencies, on certain drugs and medical treatments, and people with poor hair styling habits can suffer from drastic hair loss. 

The Problem with Low Hair Density

Low hair density does not mean you have a health issue. However, it makes the hair sparse, and the scalp becomes much more visible, which limits styling options. 

For example, many women with female pattern baldness have a hair density that falls below par. One way to resolve this is through a hair transplant. 

Can A Hair Transplant Increase Hair Density?

A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that takes hair from healthy, well-populated areas of the head to the thinning or balding spots. When done correctly, a hair transplant offers good outcomes, with the transplanted hair lasting a lifetime. 

Can a hair transplant increase hair density? Yes, it can. You only need to create 50% hair density to create an illusion of thicker, full hair. Anything that achieves a post-transplant density of 35-40 follicular hairs per cm2 will help give good density. 

A hair transplant only helps you recover a portion of the hair density lost; this is typically 40% to 50% of the density previously lost.

What Is Required To Achieve Good Hair Density?

Unfortunately, not everyone gets their desired hair density after a transplant. The following factors affect hair density after a transplant. 

The viability of the donor site

So, suppose you have lost too much hair and are balding or thinning and opt for a hair transplant. You want as much hair as possible, right? Well, not so fast!

Transplanting too much hair is a bad thing. How? You wonder. Let’s dig into it. 

A hair transplant cannot return your hair to what it was initially. Instead, it helps you recover at least 40% density. You cannot get all the density back because this would mean over-harvesting hair from other parts of your head, making those overharvested parts low in density. This fixes one problem while creating another. 

The number of hairs that can be harvested without leaving sparse spots depends on your hair density at the time of the transplant. If you have high density, your surgeon can get more grafts. If not, he discusses the density that can be achieved and whether this would be worthwhile. 

How much hair the transplant site can hold

Besides how much hair you have for transplant, the amount of hair the transplant site can hold also comes into question. 

While you might want as much hair as possible, cramming too much on one site is not ideal. For one, the transplanted site will look widely different from the rest of your hair, giving you an uneven look. 

Secondly, there are some medical issues that can arise from overcrowding hair follicles in one spot. Hair for transplanting is harvested with the shaft and entire follicular unit, including the dermal papilla and other soft tissue. 

For these follicular units to survive, they need space on the scalp that accords adequate blood and nutrient supply. Crowding hair follicles puts the transplanted and existing hair at risk because it stifles their nutrient and blood supply, causing trauma to the hair. One typical result of hair crowding is scalp necrosis. 

 Necrosis is the permanent damage of tissues. Inexperienced surgeons will sometimes attempt to achieve the highest density possible. To do so, they will make the transplant incisions on the transplant site. The recipient area ends up looking like one large wound with small cuts close together. Sometimes, this can damage the tissue, and the blood supply in the spot will be constricted. 

The same also happens when incisions are made too deep, and the surgeon is unable to close the wound properly. It can also come about from the deep incisions tampering with blood supply. Other causes of scalp necrosis after a transplant are smoking and trauma. Either way, scalp necrosis leads to permanent scarring and affects the outcomes of a transplant because hair cannot grow on the diseased tissues. 

Overcrowding is not always the issue. At times, the thinning or balding area is too large to be adequately covered by the hair follicles harvested from the donor site. Here, your surgeon will advise on the expected outcomes or suggest multiple transplants over time. This ensures you don’t heavily harvest hair follicles all at once. He can also recommend other complimentary hair treatments like medication or scalp micro pigmentation. 

This underscores the need to find an experienced, well-trained, and well-qualified surgeon to perform your transplant. 

Number of viable hair follicles

While harvesting hair follicles is one thing, their viability is another matter altogether. 

Hair follicles must be adequately preserved before the transplant to minimize their death rate. One way this is done is by soaking the grafts in a Platelet-rich plasma solution. This keeps the follicles well hydrated and temperature controlled to remain in excellent shape until transplantation. 

Still, for the follicles to thrive in platelet-rich plasma or any other environment, they must be harvested properly. This means using the correct micro punch tools and expertise in hair follicle extraction. These are key. If the hair follicles are damaged during extraction, PRP or any other storage will not revive them.

The other side of the equation is careful implantation and aftercare. Everything from washing your hair wrong can damage follicles, meaning they die off instead of growing. When this happens, you don’t get the intended density, even though you have lost some in the donor sites. 

Your surgeon

Your choice of surgeon plays a massive role in the general success of a transplant, including the density you get. 

A good surgeon would be able to tell you how much density you will get after examining the extent of hair loss, the size of the transplant site, and the viability of the donor area. This helps you manage your expectations. 

The second thing a good surgeon will do is harvest hair follicles safely, store them, and implant them without any damage. They will also do follow-ups and discharge you with a clear aftercare regimen, allowing the transplanted hair to survive and thrive for decades. The more grafts that survive, the better for your hair density. The hairs that die off during or after the transplant detract from your density. 

How Hair Density Impacts Hair Transplant Success

Hair density affects hair transplant success in terms of expectations and outcomes. If you have a large, low-density area to be transplanted, you might need more grafts to cover the area. However, if you overcrowd hair, it can look unnatural and cause scalp necrosis, interfering with any gains made. 

Like any other surgical procedure, a hair transplant is an intricate process, and you need to find a surgeon who can straddle the delicate line of what produces a good outcome versus what could impede the entire process. 

Additionally, experienced surgeons can use combined hair transplant techniques to achieve the desired density without overharvesting grafts. These can be a FUT and FUE combined or a FUT, FUE, and BHT combined. 

As a patient, you have an idea of what you want your hair to look like. Be sure to discuss this with your surgeon during your consultation. This will give your surgeon an understanding of the expected outcome so they can, in turn, let you know the possibility and the degree to which your expectations can be met. A good surgeon will not oversell the results or take on surgery with unrealistic expectations. Patients with unrealistic expectations are always contraindicated for cosmetic procedures. 

Measures To Improve Hair Density Pre and Post-Transplant

While the transplant might be the main event, there are other things you can do before and after the transplant to help improve your hair density. The good thing with this is that it helps improve hair density in the entire head, so you have a healthy, denser head of hair all around. 

Here are some pointers. 

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment

These are injections to the scalp that help stimulate new hair growth, which supports the existing density and gives you thicker hair. These have minimal side effects because the PRP is extracted from the body, so the injections don’t introduce anything foreign into the body. 

Proper Aftercare

After the surgery, your surgeon will give you aftercare instructions. These are meant to foster healing and take care of the transplanted hair and scalp. These will include topical medication as well as dos and don’ts. Follow these instructions strictly, as they will ensure most of your hair grows in and thrives. 

Similarly, look for anything odd and discuss it with your doctor promptly. You want to avoid any infections and treat them as soon as they appear to prevent damaging the transplant.

Eat Healthy

Hair needs to be nourished from the inside for it to look great on the outside. This means eating a good, well-balanced diet and hydrating. One of the foundational components of hair is protein. This means stocking up on meat, fish, tofu, legumes, eggs, avocado, seeds, and nuts. Alongside this, drink enough water and healthy juices. 

Whenever this is not possible due to illness or travel, bring a good multivitamin to supplement until you return home. 

A new trend for people with busy schedules is vitamin infusions. These offer shortcuts to a well-balanced diet by delivering vital vitamins and minerals straight to the bloodstream. The idea is that these circulate in the blood, nourishing hair follicles, encouraging them to grow new hair, and strengthening, hydrating existing hair. Combined these actions help increase hair density. 

Be Gentle with Your Hair

Due to poor styling habits, women lose hair and, by extension, density. Use a mild shampoo and avoid harsh hair treatments and chemicals to prevent this type of hair loss. 

Similarly, avoid hairstyles that tug onto your hair too tightly, over-processing and overheating your hair. 

Don’t Gamble With Your Hair

While hair transplants are simple surgical processes, they require a lot of precision and flair. This is the difference between a plug-like transplant and an awesome, natural-looking hair transplant. Our training, years of experience, and expertise allow us to be specialists in the latter, and we do a great job at it. 

So don’t take your chances; if you want a hair transplant, go to the best. Call us today. 

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