According to Dr. Michael Greenwald, one of the nation’s leading hair and skin specialists, hair transplantation was developed in the early 1950’s by New York dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich, and his technique remains today the only safe and permanent way to replace hair: a minor surgical office procedure in which hair plugs from normal areas of the scalp, such as the back and sides, are moved to bald areas.
Each plug transplanted has seven to fifteen hair follicles and is about the size of a pencil eraser. The transplanted hair should last a lifetime, or at least as long as the hair would have remained in the region from which the transplant was taken.
The operation itself is fairly simple. The donor area of the scalp is deadened with a local anesthetic similar to that used by a dentist.
The desired number of hair transplants (each measuring about 5/32 inch in diameter) are then removed with a special instrument, which penetrates the scalp about 1/4 inch, or to just beneath the hair follicle. Next, the bald areas are deadened, and small plugs of the same diameter are removed and discarded. The hair transplants are carefully placed into the previously prepared bald areas a fraction of an inch apart and in such a direction that they will grow in a natural manner.
A cosmetically acceptable dressing is then applied, which is removed the next morning. There is no more discomfort than one would experience at the dentist’s office; the local anesthetic produces a smarting sensation, but there is seldom any pain after the procedure.
The transplanted hair is sometimes shed within four weeks after the operation, because of the trauma of surgery. But about eight weeks later new hair begins to grow from the healthy follicles, and it continues to grow at the normal rate of approximately 1/2 inch per month.
As for the portion of the scalp from which the transplants were taken, there remain only small scars that are hidden by surrounding hair. In fact, as many as 1,400 transplants from the back of the head can be removed without leaving a cosmetic defect.