Catching that first glimpse of a bald spot comes as an unpleasant surprise for many men. Yet, the crown area of the scalp is a common area of hair loss caused by androgenic alopecia – better known as male pattern hair loss. Even though you can’t readily see it yourself, a balding crown can cause feelings of self-consciousness and the sense that you’re turning into your father or grandfather – in other words, aging.
Just as with a receding hairline, a thinning crown – also known as the vertex – typically requires a hair transplant to regain coverage. However, for several reasons, crown transplants involve certain challenges when planning and executing in order to achieve the desired aesthetic effect of natural growth. To do so successfully requires a high level of both technical skill and artistry on the part of the hair restoration surgeon.
Dr. Marco Barusco – Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Tempus Hair Restoration – is a leader in performing crown restoration procedures. He has written about his techniques for several textbooks, as well as taught during medical conferences. The information featured here incorporates content from Dr. Barusco’s video – “Transplanting Hair to the Crown of the Scalp” – featured on his YouTube channel, Hair Loss Medical Advice.
Why is the Crown Area Especially Challenging for Hair Transplant Surgery?
To begin to answer this question, it’s helpful to identify the three main regions of the scalp:
Frontal – This is the section that you see when you look straight-on in the mirror (and, of course, that others see as they face you). It includes the hairline and hair around the temples. The frontal region is where the hairline starts to recede in male pattern baldness – and where men typically first notice hair loss.
Mid-scalp – As the name implies, this is the center region of the scalp. The mid-scalp usually maintains some hair growth until late-stage baldness.
Crown – This is the highest point of the scalp, situated toward the back of the head.
“One of the most challenging things about the crown is that geometrically speaking, it’s an ellipsoid – which means it’s curved in every direction – from front-to-back, and from side-to-side,” says Dr. Barusco. The rounded nature and changes in angle of this region necessitates considering how the implanted hairs will lay against the scalp. “It’s a dome-shaped area. The hairs are going in a centrifugal way from the center; they spread out to the side and they tend to open up – and so we have to account for that, too.”
In addition, the hair whorl throws another curve ball, so to speak. The whorl is the hair that grows in a circular pattern around a visible center point on the scalp. In more scientific terms, the hair whorl denotes the spiral disposition of hairs around an axis, which is determined by the follicle growing direction. Because there are many different whorl patterns, identifying and following the individual patient’s unique whorl in order to place the implanted hair follicles appropriately is essential to achieving the look of natural growth. Dr. Barusco’s YouTube video – “Understanding the Crown Area of the Scalp” – provides additional information about the growth of hair in this region.
But there is one more challenge – one that requires astute forecasting on the surgeon’s part. As is the case with androgenic alopecia, hair loss is progressive.
“Hair loss in the crown can be subject to progression. It’s very important to contain this, otherwise you may end up with what we call the ‘halo effect.’ That’s when you’ve lost hair around the transplanted hairs, and have this doughnut shape where there’s hair loss with hair around it. This isn’t cosmetically pleasing, so we want to avoid that. The transplant must be approached carefully and methodically.”
The challenges of a crown transplant can be met to give the patient a good aesthetic effect, says Dr. Barusco. Looking at the radius and circumference of the crown, Dr. Barusco uses a mathematical equation to determine the amount of follicular units to transplant. Our blog post – “An Up-close Look at Hair Grafts” – covers the anatomy and harvesting of follicular units in detail.
To achieve a full look to the crown with a natural, soft result, Dr. Barusco uses the cross-hatching technique, which he has written about for medical textbooks and reference publications. He is the author of Chapter-13 Advanced Transplantation of the Crown: How to Increase Visual Perception of Coverage and Density with Cross-Hatching for the book, “Hair Transplant 360 (Advances, Techniques, Business Development & Global Perspectives), Volume 3” by Samuel M. Lam.
This technique involves placing hairs so that they grow toward each other – hence the term “cross-hatching.” It follows the patient’s whorl pattern to give the illusion of higher density using fewer hairs. “But I have to follow the pattern of your natural hair growth. If I go against your whorl pattern, or against the behavior of your hair, it will be very hard for you to style, because the hairs will be fighting with each other. The cross-hatching technique can be used, but it has to be performed carefully.”
How Important is the Crown Area to Your Appearance?
While a bald spot is one of those things that might bother you once you become aware of it – and you’d rather restore the lost hair as well as prevent or slow future progression – it may not be that apparent to others. Those in the teaching profession – whose work necessitates writing on a chalkboard or whiteboard, giving students a prolonged view of their back and bald spot – may be especially self-conscious. However, having a full hairline is more desirable to most men – especially to those who are frequently on Zoom conference calls or using dating apps.
This brings up a point about the goal of hair restoration surgery – as well as that of a good surgeon. The idea is to achieve a natural-looking result. A very full crown with a receded hairline is not a natural male (or human) hair growth pattern, while a fuller hairline with a thinning crown is commonplace and natural. The aesthetic effect in the first example is unsettling. Other people may not be able to articulate why it doesn’t quite look right, but they’ll sense that something is “off” about that person’s appearance – which is not the impression you want to create!
Considerations for a Crown Restoration Procedure
Dr. Barusco makes the following considerations when consulting with a potential patient for a crown hair transplant:
- The potential for progression of hair loss.
- The amount of hair grafts that will be required.
“It is necessary to set the patient’s expectations about the amount of coverage that it’s possible to achieve, depending upon the amount of current loss, potential future loss and available donor hairs.”
Poor candidates for crown restoration surgery:
- Young patients – hair loss will progress even more over the years.
- Patients with limited donor area.
- Those who have stable and limited hair loss – usually middle-age and not expected to lose much more hair.
- Those who have abundant donor hair.
Cardinal rules for crown restoration:
- Aim for coverage, not density – unless the patient has a very small area of hair loss and abundant donor hair.
- Set realistic expectations, and be sure the patient understands and accepts them.
Do You Think a Crown Area Hair Transplant is Right for You?
Choosing to have a hair transplant procedure of any type is a decision you make to help improve your self-image and self-esteem. Our blog post – “The Big Picture: Hair Replacement and Self-Confidence” – is dedicated to validating the very real effect that hair loss has on one’s psychological well-being, and how you have the right to pursue an appearance that makes you feel better about yourself and your place in the world.
Once you decide to take this important step, be sure to choose your surgeon wisely – 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!