Is Body Hair a Good Source of Donor Grafts for Scalp Hair Transplant Surgery?
By Dr. David Josephitis
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) has come a long way over the years. It has enabled many patients who would otherwise not have had a hair transplant procedure the ability to get one. It allows patient who wish to shave their hair shorter the freedom to do that. FUE is not without limitations though. FUE in general may not yield as many total grafts in a patient’s lifetime. The average patient can yield somewhere between 4000 and 8000 usable grafts over a number of procedures.
Beard and body hair FUE has been available for a number of years. There is much debate as to how effective and useful this type of hair is. At National Hair Centers, we have been doing FUE for a number of years and getting great success with our patients. Over the years, some have asked to try beard and body hair to add extra grafts. There is currently much debate amongst surgeons as to the usefulness of beard and body hair. Unfortunately, there are not any good studies comparing scalp and body hair FUE. We have been doing beard FUE on a regular basis for over a year with good results. We typically add beard for patients with a limited donor supply that still need to add extra density.
Beard has been commonly accepted as a useful addition to the scalp hair with FUE. The yield is relatively good. Chest and back hair are other area of body hair that have been tried in the past. These areas of donor are less useful for a couple of reasons. First of all, most people don’t usually have a strong, robust amount of this type of hair. Also, because of the fine nature of the hair, the yield (how much hair actually survives) is usually very low. Some physicians think chest and back hair has a yield of less than 50%.Arm and leg hair is also used, but is usually finer still and also has a poor yield in general.
With beard and body hair the area that the grafts are placed is also important. Because the characteristics of body hair is typically different than scalp hair, the body hair grafts have to be in less obvious area of the recipient scalp. We typically mix the body hair with the scalp hair so that the hair is helpful with density, but not very noticeable.
The patient presented here was limited on scalp donor hair and desired for us to use chest hair. Thankfully, he had excellent, coarse chest hair. Also, the chest hair also contained a number of 2-haired grafts which is unusual in body hair.
A close up of the area show a number of 2 –haired grafts. Also from the picture of the individual grafts you can see the grafts are coarse and strong.
Because of the fine and fragile nature of the chest hair grafts we used implanters to place the grafts. This way, we could minimize the handling of the grafts.
As I mentioned before, it is important to put the body hair in a useful but inconspicuous area of the scalp. The chest hairs were mixed with scalp and placed in the posterior of the recipient area.
Just like in the scalp, the tiny incisions of FUE heal very rapidly. Here is a photo of 3 days post op.
As we did with this patient, with extra care in handling of the fragile body hair in FUE, there may be extra donor reserve for other patients.