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by Dermatologist Dr. K

Post-Hair Transplant Recovery: 44 do’s and don’ts after the surgery

So you’ve just had your hair transplant surgery.

Or you might just be wondering what the aftermath of one looks like.

Either way, let me tell you this; the success of your hair transplant surgery mostly depends on the guidelines on this list.

Unfortunately, jumping on a flight to Turkey for a hair transplant and going through an 8-hour procedure was relatively the easy part.

I’m not trying to discourage you. I’m a medical doctor first, a hair clinic physician second; so I need to tell you the truth.

In this article, I’ll start from the morning of your hair transplant surgery. I’ll walk you through everything that’s going to happen and everything you should be doing in order to maximize your hair transplant success rate.

Ready? We’ll start with the day of the surgery:

(skip to Day 1 by clicking here 👈)

Surgical Procedure

Your scheduled day for the surgery has arrived. You’ll wake up a bit nervous but assured; it’s normal.

You start your day with a big breakfast (plus lunch if you’re scheduled for the afternoon) and head over to the clinic.

Don’t worry, having a full stomach is a must for a hair transplant surgery and can help with quicker recovery times.

You’ll meet with your surgeon for the preparations:

Examination

Chances are, you’ve already had a consultation/first examination session with your doctor. In this one, the surgeon walks you through what’s going to happen today, what’ll happen after the hair transplant, and thoroughly informs you about the medications and care products you’re going to use.

Then, your hair is trimmed (necessary for FUE surgery, not needed in FUT), and your new hairline is drawn.

Local anesthesia is applied to your scalp, so now you’re ready to sit down at the operation seat.

Harvesting

The first thing your surgeon will do is to harvest donor hair grafts from the donor area of your scalp (which is usually the rear end.)

If you’re going through a Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) surgery, the surgeon extracts strips of tissue full of hair follicles from the donor area and then harvests individual hair grafts from it.

If you’re going through a Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), however, the surgeon uses a special pen to extract individual hair follicles from your scalp one by one, significantly reducing the risk of scarring.

Once they’ve reached the necessary amount of grafts harvested, you’ll proceed to the next stage.

Planting

For the last part, the harvested grafts are carefully planted into the recipient area.

With enough hair planted to give you a full head of hair and a natural-looking hairline, your surgery is over.

Your surgeon applies a bandage to the donor area of your scalp (plus stitches if you’re having FUT) and you can leave the clinic.

The moment you walk out the door starts the healing process. Now it’s on you.

Let’s see everything you should expect, do, or not do after hair transplant procedures.

During the First Week

1- Don’t Shower (for 24 hours)

Until the first wash that should be done a day after your surgery with your physician, don’t let water get anywhere near your scalp.

If it’s necessary, you can carefully wash your body with slow movements (to avoid any accidents), but you can’t wash your head for at least 24 hours. After that, your physician should provide you with the guidelines for washing your hair for the next few weeks. 

2- Use Pain Killers (0-3 days)

Once the anesthesia has worn off, you’ll start to feel discomfort and soreness in your scalp.

We usually advise our patients to take painkillers such as ibuprofen until the initial healing is done, which takes around 2-3 days.

3- Don’t Use the Hair Dryer (for 3 days)

A direct flow of air can have adverse effects on your scalp, especially right after the surgery. Don’t use hair dryers at all for 3 days, and after that dry your hair in the slow and cold settings.

4- Keep Your Head Still (0-4 days)

Moving your head can cause increases in blood flow to your scalp, which can cause bleeding and discomfort.

Try to avoid moving your head too much for the first 4-5 days, and slowly improve after that.

5- Feeling a Burning Sensation on Scalp (for 5 days)

It’s normal to feel a burning sensation on your scalp for the first 5 days, however, it should slowly go away.

If not, consult with your dermatologist.

6- Avoid Seawater Exposure (for 5 days)

If you go back just a decade or so, your surgeon would advise you to jump into the ocean for a swim presuming that the salt in the water would help with the infection.

But seawater is filled with dangerous substances due to pollution, which can increase the chances of infection development. Avoid for at least 5 days.

7- Swelling on Scalp (for 7 days)

Swelling around the recipient and donor areas during the first week of your hair transplant is expected. It should gradually go away, and if it doesn’t you should consult with your doctor.

8- Don’t Go Back to Work (for 7 days)

This one is advised assuming that your job requires physical activities or is not that safe of an environment for you to be in right after a hair transplant. 

But try to stay at home and relax while giving your body time to recover at least for the first week.

9- Don’t Smoke or Use Nicotine Products (for 7 days)

If you ask me, don’t smoke or use nicotine products for the rest of your life; to keep your blood flow as clean as possible.

But since that might not be an option for you, we advise our patients to stop smoking a week before the surgery and a week after. This helps improve the quality of your bloodstream and keeps harmful chemicals away from your body during the most crucial stage of your recovery.

10- Don’t Have Sexual Intercourse (for 7 days)

You should keep from having sex for at least a week after the surgery, in order to keep a stable and calm heart rate and blood pressure.

During the Second Week

11- Avoid Heavy Activities (for 10 days)

Even if you can probably start working after a week, try to keep yourself from doing heavy activities that will put your body under stress for at least an additional few days. This might mean skipping work for another week if your job is physically demanding.

12- Use a Neck Pillow (for 10 days)

Neck pillows will help you keep your scalp safe while sleeping and give you a bit more comfort. Use for at least 10 days post-surgery, and more if you can.

13- Sleep Face-up with 45 Degrees Elevation (for 10 days)

In order to regulate the blood flow to your scalp during sleeping and reduce swelling as much as possible, you try to elevate your body at least 45 degrees and stay away from lying flat.

A recliner or a few hard pillows usually do the trick.

14- Change Sheets and Pillowcases Daily (for 10 days)

In order to prevent any infections that might occur due to unchanged sheets and pillowcases, which is a pretty common case after hair transplantation; you should change sheets and pillowcases regularly.

I usually advise changing them daily for 10-14 days.

15- Scabs Falling Out (for 12 days)

Scabs caused by the surgery will develop on your scalp 1-3 days after your surgery, and all of them usually fall out after 12 days.

You’ll want to start itching them really bad, but don’t; to not harm the transplanted hair and the donor site.

16- Don’t Comb the Donor Area (for 14 days)

Don’t comb and even try to avoid touching the donor area (especially if your hands are not clean) to ensure you’re giving yourself enough time to heal without intervention.

About 14 days after surgery, the donor area should mostly recover and you’ll be able to comb it.

17- Avoid Alcoholic Beverages (for 14 days)

Alcohol will cause dehydration, which is obviously bad for your body and your scalp; in fact it might be a reason for your hair loss, too.

Don’t drink alcohol for a minimum of two weeks after the hair transplant and try to keep the intake as minimum as possible during the first year to ensure success.

Did you know that excessive alcohol intake and smoking are the top reasons behind hair transplant failures?

18- Using the Special Shampoo Provided (for 14 days)

You can’t just use any shampoo following your hair transplant. For at least the first two weeks, use the special shampoo which your clinic should provide you with other aftercare products.

19- Touching the Recipient Area (for 15 days)

Even touching the transplanted hair -which can cause infections or other complications- is forbidden for at least two weeks. 

And after that, you have to be gentle and make sure your hands are clean before you interfere with your scalp.

20- Avoiding Dusty/Polluted Areas (for 15 days)

Keep the stress around your scalp as low as possible by not directly exposing it to pollution and dust. 

Again, if your workplace is not the cleanest area in terms of air, you should probably take a bit more personal time.

21- Sticking with the Washing Instructions (for 15 days)

During your first wash, we’ll provide you with the necessary guidelines and products for washing your hair. Even though you should practice these for as long as you can, following the guidelines the first 2-3 weeks after the surgery is absolutely necessary. 

First Month

22- Numbness on the Scalp

You’ll have a slowly decreasing numbness on your scalp after your hair transplant surgery and if everything goes right and the initial healing process is complete, it should completely go away after a month.

23- Reddish Skin

Same with numbness, the color of the skin on your scalp can be reddish during the first month after your surgery. It’s completely normal.

However, for both numbness and reddish skin, if the condition persists for more than 4-5 weeks, do consult with your physician.

24- Using Warm Water with Low Pressure

During the first month, only use warm water with little pressure (we even advise patients to use water sprays for the first weeks) to wash your hair. This is the most optimal choice for the well-being of your scalp.

25- Don’t Use Towels

For the first month, avoid using any sort of towels on both the donor and the recipient areas of your scalp. After 4-5 weeks, you can use soft, even cotton-like towels to carefully dry your hair without rubbing.

26- Don’t Sneeze?

Obviously, you can’t keep yourself from sneezing. But try to control it for the first month, and make it lighter on your body.

Bless you!

No more “ACHOOO!”; try to keep yourself at the “acho.” level to not put extra stress on your body.

27- Don’t Go Swimming

Water improves the chances of infections, as it can contain high amounts of bacteria and pollution.

To keep the risks of getting an infection as low as possible, avoid swimming until at least 4-5 weeks after your surgery.

28- Avoid Exercising

Exercising is great. I advise all of my patients to start exercising after a hair transplant surgery to avoid overall well-being and regulate blood pressure.

But not right after. Especially heavy exercising can put a lot of stress on your body and hinder your recovery during the first month. You can slowly start with light workout sessions after 2-3 weeks and proceed towards full performance 5 weeks after the surgery.

29- Don’t Comb the Recipient Area

Don’t comb the newly transplanted hair on your scalp for at least a month, as it will put the hair follicles at physical stress and risk. You can start gentle brushing after the first month.

30- Don’t Get a Hair Cut

You’ll have to keep away from barbershops and hair salons for the first 4-5 weeks, at least until your new hair has gone through the initial recovery and are safe for physical contact.

Also, there is always a high risk of getting an infection from a barbershop especially during the healing process, no matter how clean or trustworthy your preferred hairdresser is.

31- Don’t Cover Your Head with Hats, Helmets, or Headwear

Especially if you went with FUE, you might have the urge to cover your scalp with something that will hide the swelling and redness on your scalp. But don’t.

Let your newly transplanted hair breathe and don’t let it touch with a piece of clothing that’s probably not even sanitary.

32- Avoid Exposure to Sunlight

You shouldn’t stay out in direct sunlight during the first month after your hair transplant surgery, and try to use headwear to protect it after the first month for up to 5-6 months. Direct sunlight can put a lot of stress on your scalp.

33- Don’t Scratch Your Scalp

Scratching your scalp will physically hurt a hair follicle and hinder new hair growth by causing further irritation. At least for the first month avoid touching or scratching your scalp.

34- Don’t Use the Sauna

Sauna is designed to help you sweat and is generally a healthy activity; but not for your newly transplanted hair.

Avoid going in the sauna for at least a month after the surgery, and take things slow in the following period.

Between 1-3 Months

35- Hair Shedding in the Recipient Area (for 2 months)

During hair transplantation, we don’t plant individual “hairs”; we plant hair follicles that are capable of shedding and then growing new hair. So, the planted hair follicles on the recipient area are likely to shed for the first 2 months after your hair transplant and you don’t need to worry unless the hair loss is excessive.

If so, consult with your physician.

36- Visible New Hair Growth (after 3 months)

New hair growth will not happen during the first 3 months prior to your surgery; as the hair follicles take their time to adjust to the change and slowly heal during this time. However, after three months you’ll likely see new hair growth in the recipient area, which is great news.

37- Follow a Healthy and Balanced Diet (for at least 3 months)

Again, following a healthy and balanced diet after your hair transplant is something we advise our patients to adopt for the rest of their lives. However, for the first 3 months, which is a crucial period for the recovery process, you should keep providing your body with all the necessary nutrients with a healthy diet. 

6 Months

38- Shock Loss (for 6 months)

It is normal to see hair loss both in the recipient or donor area between 1-6 months after your hair transplant surgery, which is referred to as “shock loss”. 

A small percentage of patients experience shock loss and all of them completely recover as the hair follicles grow new hair.

39- Don’t Use Hair Dyes and Styling Products

Avoid using any chemical products such as hair dyes or styling products on your scalp for at least 6 months as the incisions in your scalp heal completely. These products can put your scalp at risk for stress, too.

40- Don’t Use the Solarium

Same with exposure to sunlight, UV rays caused by a solarium can hinder or even harm your new hair growth process after a hair transplant. For at least 6 months after the surgery, avoid using solarium.

1 Year and After

41- Apply Topical Rogaine/Minoxidil (1-12 months after surgery)

Evidence suggests that using topical minoxidil following your hair transplant surgery can significantly accelerate new hair growth and even minimize shock loss after the surgery. So, we advise our patients to use topical minoxidil starting after the first month and continue until the end of the 12th month.

42- Using Oral Finasteride (for 12 months)

A 2005 study concluded that the use of finasteride starting a month before the hair transplant surgery and until a year after the surgery has significantly improved the results of hair transplant surgeries; boosting both hair density and hair counts. 

So, to ensure the best results, we advise every patient to use finasteride during the hair restoration process.

43- Taking Vitamin C Supplements

We’re all aware that vitamin C is great for our well-being, but did you know it helps a ton with your hair transplant success?

A 2014 study concluded that Vitamin C boosts the wound healing process in each stage, especially contributing to the healing of scars through collagen synthesis. So to minimize scarring and boost the healing process, we advise our patients to intake Vitamin C daily, preferably as a habit for the rest of their lives.

44- Complete Recovery and End-results (after 12-18 months)

Most patients already see significant and satisfying results only 6 months after their surgery, but I advise them to give it another 6 months while continuing the intake of finasteride and minoxidil to see full results.

Although the initial results are great, the end results that you can observe after 12 months are usually much more impressive, with natural-looking hairlines and healthy hair that doesn’t show any sign of a hair transplant.

Hair Transplantation Journeys Should be Holistic:

Holistic treatment refers to treating a disease or condition not just by fixing the symptoms, but by helping the patient completely heal by guiding them as they remove any factor that might be affecting their well-being.

 I believe this approach is the only sure way of ensuring that male pattern baldness is not a problem anymore for a patient.

That’s why we’ve founded the UnitedCare Hair Clinic especially in a landscape full of clinics with inexperienced staff and inattentive physicians; to provide patients with a holistic approach that can help them get back to their natural self without having to worry about reliving the same problems.

And it all starts with the first consultation:

Ensure the success of your Hair Transplant.

Experience the holistic approach to Hair Loss:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How many months after hair transplant do you see results?

The initial results with moderate hair growth should be visible 6-9 months after the surgery, however, full results are visible at least after 12 months following the operation.


How many days should you rest after a hair transplant?

1-2 weeks of rest depending on your occupation is necessary for ensuring a safe initial recovery. If your work involves heavy and strenuous activities, you might need to take a longer time off.


Can I apply oil after a hair transplant?

There is no drawback of applying oil to your scalp after a hair transplant, but you should probably avoid this for at least 2-3 months after the surgery. However, I would suggest using topical minoxidil instead of oils, since the positive effects of the treatment are proven by a study.


What happens after 4 months of hair transplant?

4 months after your hair transplant, the initial shedding on the recipient area of your scalp will be finished and new hair from the planted follicles should start growing. The fourth month is a great milestone as you’ll see the initial results of your surgery and all the aftercare you’ve done in the previous months.

Utkan Kızıltaç, MD

Chief Physician and Dermatologist Hair Transplant Surgeon of UnitedCare, a dermatology clinic helping patients become the best version of themselves.

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