The first hair transplants were performed with cold, hard surgical steel plywood sheets instruments. A strip of skin was cut from the back of your head – this is called the donor area. This strip of skin would then be cut up into small sections of skin called grafts. Then a surgical punch was used to cut out small sections (think like a cookie cutter) of your scalp for these hair grafts to be transplanted into.
There was usually a lot of blood involved in these early transplants and recovery time could be quite long because the grafts were so large in the early days – usually 15 – 30 hairs per graft. This was combined with a large scar at the back of the head that often took weeks to heal. This usually left the patient recovering and hoping that the grafts would “take” and grow over the coming months. Not an ideal situation to be in from a patients point of view right?
As time went by the process of hair restoration surgery got better and the surgical instruments they used got smaller and more refined. Around the same time laser technology was becoming popular and some hair surgeons started using lasers as part of their transplant procedures. The idea behind this was to eliminate the bleeding process almost entirely so they could then advertise a “blood free hair transplant”. That and the fact that anything done with a laser scalpel sounds way cooler than just a normal hair transplant!
This is a great idea in theory. Using the laser meant clean precise cuts in the donor area and clean precise cuts in the recipient area. Because the laser cauterized each wound it meant that very little blood was involved so the whole process looked a lot cleanlier and far less messy. The idea of a bloodless hair transplant looked like it was going to become a reality.
There was only one small problem – the laser served almost no real purpose in the transplant procedure and the clinics using lasers tended to be on the fringe of the hair restoration industry i.e. they’re the same guys who would still gladly do a scalp reduction on you even though it was dangerous and often had horrific results. Plus you had the additional problem of the laser simply not being as accurate as a normal scalpel. This meant that valuable hair grafts were lost because of the use of the laser – surrounding skin was damaged by the laser light.
The idea of using a laser in hair transplant surgery makes wonderful reading but in terms of being a practical way of transplanting hair the final answer is a big fat “No”. A skilled hair surgeon with a small surgical punch and scalpel can create amazing transplant results – with none of the technology wizardry that a laser brings into it.