You may have heard the term follicular unit micrografting while researching hair transplants, but what is it? Is it technobabble and marketing speak, or a distinct technique for successful hair transplants?
The truth is that hair transplant doctors use the modern technique of follicular unit micrografting to create natural-looking hairlines. This technique is useful for new hair transplants, as well as “hairline correction” for patients who got the old-style “plug” transplants.
The old “punch” style hair transplants used five to ten hairs in a single bunch or incision. That’s not how natural hair looks! Around the hairline — the front of the scalp that meets the face — the fewer hairs in an incision, the better. These punch hair transplants looked like they belonged on a doll, not a person. The hair was removed from thriving areas of the scalp and transplanted in large bunches into the balding areas.
Modern hair transplants use follicular unit micrografting, which results in much smaller bunches of 1, 2 or 3 hairs on the hairline. Each bunch is called a “follicular unit.” When the strip incision method is used, a strip of scalp from a non-balding area is removed, carefully graded, and placed in tiny incisions in the balding areas.
Dr. Larry Shapiro has been doing follicular unit micrografting for more than 20 years. Back then, he realized that smaller bunches of 3 or fewer hairs created a more natural look on the hairline. He made special hair transplant surgical blades to prepare and insert the follicular units into his hair transplant patients’ scalps. He placed the hairs carefully so they aligned with the natural direction of the hair. If needed, he used larger follicular unit micrografts to fill in the less-noticeable balding areas behind the hairline.
Some hair transplant surgeons have recently started using punch devices to remove hair for transplant, instead of using the strip method. Dr. Larry Shapiro is concerned that some of these punch devices may damage surrounding, healthy hair follicles and make future hair transplants difficult. Time will tell whether these modern punch methods can be refined.
Looking like a doll head is no longer necessary. Follicular unit micrografting by a qualified and experienced hair transplant surgeon is the best way to repair an older “pluggy” transplant, and it’s perfect for new transplants as well.