Do you think nature has played a cruel trick on you because you have plenty of hair everywhere on your body except your scalp? Why can’t some of that hair grow on your head? Perhaps it can! Transplanting hair from the chest, abdomen or beard to the scalp may be an option under certain circumstances to address hair loss when there is not enough hair in the donor areas of the scalp to be harvested for a hair restoration procedure.
Dr. Marco Barusco – Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Tempus Hair Restoration – is a pioneer in utilizing hair grafts from other areas of the body to fill in thinning areas of scalp in order to achieve an aesthetically pleasing look of full growth. As can be expected, the technique for harvesting body hair is more time consuming than harvesting follicles from the scalp, and requires a high degree of skill. Dr. Barusco discusses the details of this approach, which is based on the video – “Transplanting Body Hair to the Scalp” – on his YouTube channel, Hair Loss Medical Advice.
The Limitations of Scalp Donor Areas
Traditionally, hair transplant surgery relies on the supply of scalp donor hairs. These are permanent hairs that are not susceptible to the action of the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) hormone, which – in very fundamental terms – is a factor in male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia). Temporal areas (sides of the scalp) and the occipital area (back of the scalp) are typically those from which hair grafts are harvested for transplantation into bald or balding areas of the scalp.
However, the amount of available hair in donor areas is finite. As our blog post – “An Up-close Look at Hair Grafts” – states, “Once a graft is taken from the donor site, hair will never grow there again.” Hair restoration surgeons who are experienced, skilled and conscientious avoid overharvesting, which depletes donor sites, leaving the patient with patchy growth and/or visible scarring.
“Sometimes, we see patients who don’t have enough donor hair, or have already had multiple hair transplants, and the supply has been depleted,” says Dr. Barusco. “So what do we do then? We can use other areas as donor zones.”
Where is Body Hair Harvested for a Hair Transplant?
Body hair can be harvested from several locations. Dr. Barusco considers the chest and abdomen to be the optimum areas because the amount of hair tends to be abundant, and the quality of hair is good. Although people typically think about hair only in terms of what is visible above the skin, Dr. Barusco considers the entire anatomy of the hair graft. Also known as a hair implant or follicular unit, a hair graft is a cylinder of skin and hair that encompasses the hair follicle, the sebaceous gland (which secretes sebum – a lubricating oily matter – into the hair follicles to lubricate the skin and hair), the arrector pili muscle (a microscopic band of muscle tissue which connects a hair follicle to the dermis), and the papilla – or bulb – of the hair, which is an important stem cell reservoir. A hair graft includes all of these structures. Each follicular unit graft can contain one to three (or even four) hair follicles.
“In harvesting chest or abdominal hair for transplantation, we sometimes can get grafts with two follicles, although the majority will be singles. If you have enough hair, we can harvest enough for a few thousand grafts.”
Chest hair is short, making it suitable for filling in certain areas of the scalp. But Dr. Barusco has noticed an interesting phenomenon about post-transplant chest hair.
“The chest hair only grows about an inch or two, but over time, we noticed that once the hair is implanted in the scalp, it starts to grow longer and longer. For some reason, the location changes the hair growth cycle phases so the growth phase starts to increase – so sometimes, a patient can get long hair.”
The submental (under chin) area of the face is another suitable location for harvesting. While many people seek Dr. Barusco’s services for a beard transplant, those who already enjoy healthy beard growth may be an appropriate candidate for harvesting these hairs for transplantation to the scalp.
“The nice thing about beard hair is that it’s usually a little coarser, and it tends to grow long. If you have a beard, you know that if you don’t shave or trim it, it will keep growing long. So when you transfer it to the scalp, the hair will continue to grow, which can allow you more flexibility in styling.”
In harvesting beard hair – as well as hair from the chest and abdomen – Dr. Barusco takes great care to select grafts so as not to be noticeable. For both body hair and beard hair harvesting, Dr. Barusco uses the Follicular Unit Excision (FUE) method, which involves harvesting follicular units from the scalp individually with a small diameter round punch. This results in tiny circular dot-like scars that are easily concealed by surrounding hair and for all practical circumstances are not visible. In addition, the under chin area itself is inconspicuous when one is facing forward.
Areas of the beard that Dr. Barusco will not harvest from include the neck, cheeks and goatee. “Sometimes, patients who have hair all the way into the neck ask me if I can harvest follicles from that area. I don’t, because the skin is different. Scarring will be more visible, and if you shave there, it’s going to show. The same is true of the cheeks and goatee. But as long as we stay in the safe zone under the chin, you should heal very well.”
As for the surgery itself, local anesthesia is used to numb the areas of the scalp involved in the procedure. For harvesting of body hair, Dr. Barusco administers a special anesthetic technique he developed to numb the appropriate surface area, ensuring a safe, comfortable experience for the patient.
Are You a Good Candidate for a Body Hair to Scalp Transplant?
Regardless of the procedure, a one-on-one consultation with a hair transplant surgeon is necessary to ensure that you are an appropriate candidate.
“During the consultation, I will tell you what I can do safely and realistically. Everybody’s hair is different. There are different types of hair loss, and different hair loss possibilities in the future. But if you’ve had a few transplant surgeries, or you have had a couple of big ones and there’s not enough hair in the traditional donor areas anymore to remove without overharvesting, hair from the body can be a good option for filling in some areas. In the consultation, I will discuss all of these factors and circumstances with you so you will have realistic expectations of the outcome.”
If you are wondering if a body hair transplant can help address your hair loss, be sure that the surgeons you consider have extensive experience, rather than having performed it sporadically. Also, ask to see before-and-after photographs. The results should look like healthy, natural growth, with no detectable difference between body and scalp hair.
Ultimately, choose your best hair transplant surgeon based on experience, results and integrity. Dr. Barusco’s long list of accomplishments, his notable artistic ability and his successful surgical team make Tempus Hair Restoration a renowned practice. Contact us to schedule your free virtual consultation. Dr. Barusco conducts every consultation himself, giving you the opportunity to learn your options in the comfort of your home – or any location, on any internet-enabled device.
Dr. Barusco conducts consultations in English, Spanish and Portuguese. For your greater convenience, Tempus Hair Restoration offers a two-night complimentary hotel stay to out-of-town clients who travel 100 miles or more to our Port Orange, Florida, surgical center. No matter how far the distance, we welcome the opportunity to help you on your hair restoration journey!