One of the most frequent questions we are asked during consultations is: “When should I have a hair transplant?” or “What is the right age for a hair transplant?” Patients are understandably concerned about getting into things too early and having a transplant “too soon,” and, in a different sense, they are also worried about waiting too long and being “too old” for a transplant. So, what is the right age for a hair transplant? Does it make a difference? Can a patient be too young or too old for a transplant?
Is there a “Right Age” for a Hair Transplant?
Technically there is really no “right” or “wrong” age for a transplant. As long as a patient has hair loss that can be treated with surgery, adequate donor area, and no underlying medical or surgical contraindications, they really can have a transplant at any age. Any fully informed, consenting patient can undergo a hair transplant. In the broadest sense, there really is no “right age” for a hair transplant. But does it make a difference whether or not a patient gets started early with a transplant or waits until they are a bit older?
Get it Young or Wait?
It stands to reason that most patients would want to address their hair loss at a younger age. But is it a bad idea? Will patients who get transplant young look “bad” as they get older or regret their decision? Obviously hair loss is progressive, and young patients who undergo transplants are likely to lose more hair. However, ethical hair transplant doctors understand this and plan accordingly. A doctor who puts a hairline too low or recreates an aggressive, boxed-in shape simply because a patient is young and remember their “immature” hairline from only a few years prior is doing that patient a disservice. This patient is likely to lose more hair and the aggressive hairline will not age well — and we must remember that hair transplants are permanent. An experienced and ethical doctor, however, will build a conservative, natural hairline that will “age well” regardless of what the young patient requests. In this situation, a young patient is in a good position regardless of what happens with the hair loss. They must understand that they will likely lose more hair and want more surgery, but they should never look unnatural and the donor area will provide adequate supply to restore the lost hair — as long as the patient uses the donor wisely by starting with Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT or “strip”) surgery. When planned well and with the long-term in mind, a patient does not need to “wait” until they see very advanced hair loss before getting a transplant. In this scenario, waiting only ensures the patient will appear “bald” during their younger years.
Who gets Better Results: Younger or Older Patients?
Assuming the “older” patient does not suffer from any health issues like diabetes or have a long history of poor health habits like chronic smoking, they should do just as well as a young patient. Hair transplants are very minimally invasive and very well tolerated. Transplants are very resilient and tend to grow well in just about any environment. They don’t mind if the scalp is “old” or “young;” transplants should “root” and grow if harvested and implanted by an experienced team.
Is there such Thing as “Too Young” or “Too Old”?
Some doctors do believe that any patient below the age of around 25 is “too young” for a transplant. As outlined above, this is not true as long as the long-term is kept in mind and planned for accordingly. If a young patient can comprehend this and agrees to a strategic plan, it really makes no difference when they start with hair transplants. Obviously there are times when a very young patient should be dissuaded from surgery. If the doctor cannot get the patient to agree to a smart, long-term plan, or if the patient is too young to consent to the procedure (and his/her parents disagree as well), then that is probably someone who could be classified as “too young” for a transplant. But it is difficult to put a strict “age cutoff” on a transplant. At our clinic, we have performed hair transplants on very “young” patients in specific situations. Patients who suffer from different types of alopecia, patients with defects or scars from accidents, or patients with classic genetic patterned hair loss who are being bullied or psychologically damaged by the hair loss sometimes benefit wonderfully from a hair transplant despite being very “young.” Again, it comes down to an informed patient agreeing to a long-term plan with an ethical doctor. Most reading this post probably expect that there are patients who are simply “too old” for a transplant or that patients reach an age where they simply no longer care about their hair. We have not found this to be the case. At our clinic, we have operated on countless patients in their 70’s and even several in their 80’s. As long as the patient is in good health otherwise and other doctors involved with their care “sign off” on the procedure, hair transplants tend to work just as well in this demographic. Remember that a transplant really is no more invasive that certain dental procedures. A patient in his 80’s who needs a root canal, for example, would likely have no issues with the procedure; so, a patient in his 80’s undergoing a hair transplant should have no issues either. And trust us, you will still care about your hair at this age.
Feller & Bloxham Medical, PC