FUE Hair Transplant Timeline: The Road to Recovery

by | Nov 30, 2021

How long is the recovery time for a hair transplant? When considering a medical approach to addressing thinning hair or bald patches, here’s what can be expected post-surgery. Plus, vital tips that are doctor-recommended to ensure a full recovery and tangible results.

In a nutshell, the FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) hair transplant recovery timeline is relatively shorter compared with the strip method. But that doesn’t mean that less care and attention are required for this type of hair transplant.

The experience—from surgery to recovery—may vary depending on the patient, so consulting with a medical professional is a must. As a rule of thumb, post-operative patients should play by the rules that their doctor has set for attaining their hair transplant goals, safely and efficiently.

Although FUE is a minimally invasive procedure, the implanted hair grafts still need tending to. Patients should keep a lookout for certain milestones to know if they are faring well. So read on for a sneak peek of what FUE hair transplant patients can expect to go through for the 12 months following the procedure.


FUE Hair Transplant Recovery Timeline

Immediately after surgery

What to expect:

You may feel completely normal immediately after an FUE procedure. A bandage will be placed over the donor area of your head over the back part of the head. Meanwhile, the recipient area, or the areas where the hair grafts were transplanted, will be left uncovered. At this point, the grafts will become dry and held in place by the patient’s own ability to form a scab at the recipient channels, meaning the part of the scalp that received the transplanted grafts.

Swelling may start to develop on the surgical site and some areas of your face, but this is a normal inflammatory response that can be minimised (and is rarer these days, but dependent on surgeon and patient factors).

What you can do at home:

The doctor recommends you get some good rest. Do not let anything touch the recipient areas during the first night after the surgery. While sitting in a comfortable position, make sure to keep the head elevated to minimise swelling.

Along with your post-op medications, you will be advised to continue any hair loss medications you are taking prior to surgery at a specific timeline. Your doctor will give specific instructions for topical treatments that you may apply, and when to start them.

Day after surgery

What to expect:

On the first day after surgery, the recipient site will appear slightly red and the transplanted grafts will start to develop crusting, which basically means that they are held in place and on the way to healing. They will appear like tiny brownish spots or dots around each implanted graft. Meanwhile, you may notice that the donor site at the back of the scalp will have tiny holes that are less than a millimeter in diameter, which will close up in due time.

Slight Pain and swelling can be expected as your body naturally responds to the surgery. Swelling can extend from the forehead down to the bridge of the nose and around the eyes. This will gradually subside within the next few days (but is rare).

Since FUE is a minimally invasive procedure, and one that you can choose to do without shaving, you can technically expect to return to work as early as around 3 days after surgery, that is if your job doesn’t require heavy lifting.

What you can do at home:

In this immediate post-surgical phase, you need to focus on rest. Take the prescribed medication to manage any discomfort. Unless there are specific instructions, never remove the bandage by yourself, but if you’re allowed to take the bandage off make sure that your hands are clean to avoid infection.It is still advised to elevate your head to control the swelling.

Remember to take it easy. You may feel like you’re okay, but it’s best to avoid any strenuous activities.

Day 2-3 after surgery

What to expect:

Scabbing and some redness can still be expected to form on the recipient area, along with some degree of swelling, but the pain would have minimised by now. Soreness at the donor site may have improved but numbness may still be present. It’s also normal for the parts that have undergone surgery to feel itchy.

What you can do at home:

To reduce swelling, some clinics may advise steroids to be taken 2-4 days after surgery. If there is any itching make sure not to scratch the surgical areas because it could easily dislodge the implanted grafts. Inform your doctor if itch is present.

4-5 days after hair transplant

What to expect:

Swelling may still be apparent, but improving. It’s normal to have residual crusting at this point. The donor site may also start to scab over, which is also part of the healing process.

Day 6-7

What to expect:

A week after surgery, the bleeding, swelling, discomfort, and scabbing should have improved significantly. The transplanted grafts have, by now, adapted to the recipient area, and as such can no longer be dislodged. There may be mild itching, but this is normally a sign of healing.

The donor area should be healing at this point. The skin will no longer look sore or raw but will exhibit pinpoint scars that are less than a millimeter in diameter.

What you can do at home:

Wash your hair gently and leave your shampoo on a bit longer to soften the scabs. Again, avoid scratching the area so as not to dislodge the grafts.

Avoid activities that can put a great deal of tension to the head such as bending or heavy lifting for at least 2 weeks. If you wish to wear a hat in public, especially if you have undergone the fully-shaved FUE technique, first clarify with your surgeon when it would be advisable.

2-3 weeks after surgery

What to expect:

Two to three weeks after an FUE hair transplant, the newly transplanted may start to shed. This should be no cause for worry because it’s a normal response to a hair transplant. It causes the newly transplanted hairs to temporarily shed. This can be noticed anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks after the procedure, and this can occur in both FUT (follicular unit transplantation) and FUE hair transplants.

Shock loss can also happen where non-transplanted hairs start to shed. This is called shock loss and is temporary, around 2-12 weeks.

Hair fall is usually a response to trauma, but the dermal papilla remains so hair does grow back. The follicle itself also remains healthy and returns to the normal growth phase within a few weeks.

drtyngtan blog fue hair transplant timeline improvement hair anatomy

What you can do at home:

You can now gently rub and massage the surgical site using the pads of your fingers to wash the area. Shampoo and rinse with gentle massaging then thoroughly rinse. The accumulated scabs will start to fall off, so let it happen naturally instead of picking on it.

FUE Hair Transplant in Singapore with Dr Tyng Tan

One month after surgery

What to expect:

Usually around this time, all transplanted hairs may have shed. The recipient area would remain slightly pinkish, but that will fade in time. Numbness in the recipient site may also start to lessen at this point, and it may feel itchy every once in a while.

Some patients may experience having scalp pimples on the recipient site, which is medically called folliculitis, one of the side effects of a hair transplant operation. These look like small reddish pimples forming around each at the base of the hair shafts. even with a small pus (yellow) head. Tiny sacs filled with yellowish pus may develop in some cases. Fortunately, it’s nothing serious and will heal on its own, after which normal hair growth should resume.

In FUE, hair growth from surrounding hairs would have already concealed the minimal scarring of the donor site within a month of the procedure.

drtyngtan blog fue hair transplant timeline improvement folliculitis

What you can do at home:

Things may look worse before they get better. That is something every patient must understand with surgical hair restoration because regrowth is a process. In this “ugly duckling” phase, you just have to wait patiently and continue with your hair loss medications.

If you experience folliculitis, you should inform your hair surgeon before any further action of your own. You can start stabilising and looking more like your pre-hair transplant look. Apply a warm compress a few times during the day until it becomes smaller and eventually improves. Be sure to wash your scalp thoroughly and gently to ensure that it is kept clean and to avoid any inflammation from getting worse.

2-3 months after surgery

What to expect:

After the initial shock loss, your hair should already start growing. Meanwhile, other patients may continue to experience folliculitis and itching too.

What you can do at home:

You should continue to follow all postoperative instructions carefully and attend follow-up visits with a doctor. It’s also important to maintain a proper hair and scalp care routine.

3-5 months

What to expect:

The recipient site would already produce some very fine hairs, but healthy hair growth, nonetheless. By this time, the numbness would have usually subsided. Expect your new hair to grow 1 centimetre per month, which means it’s going to take a little bit of time before it begins to resemble the result that you were hoping for.

What you can do at home:

It’s still important to continue proper hair care, but by now, you may consider using hair supplements to help boost hair growth. You may also ask your doctor about adjunct or supplementary treatments that can be done at the clinic, such as Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT).

6-10 months

What to expect:

At this point there is significant hair growth at the recipient site, making grooming easier. Around the 10th month, most hair transplant patients will have a significant amount of new natural healthy hair, and some may even require a haircut. Meanwhile, the tiny scars at the donor site would have healed entirely and can easily be concealed should you choose to wear your hair long.

What you can do at home:

Now it’s just a matter of maintaining your hair! Diligently continue taking your medications to ensure that hair loss doesn’t affect other parts of your scalp.

1 year after hair transplant

What to expect:

A return check-up with your hair transplant surgeon is usually scheduled a year after your FUE surgery to assess your progress. This is an important milestone, which is normally marked by fully-grown transplanted hairs.

What you can do at home:

Just take care of your transplanted hair like you would do with your normal hair. While the new hairs may have taken root, you still have to be mindful of your hair care routine, and always be gentle in handling your new head of hair. It can also help you to consider other hair restorative treatments, about which you can ask your surgeon or hair doctor.

The Takeaway and Round Up

What we have outlined for you is just a generalised FUE Hair Transplant timeline. Expect your journey to be unique based on how your body copes with surgery and how well you do post-op care at home. The key is to stick to your post-surgical home care instructions and to follow through with scheduled check-ups. More importantly, keep your surgeon in the loop about your progress.

If you have other concerns about hair transplant or your hair loss issues, Dr Tyng Tan is always ready to hear you out and help! So you can be sure you’ll get the right solution that is planned carefully and specifically for you. Get in touch with us today at +65 6235 0010 to book a consultation for a comprehensive hair-loss assessment today!

Reviewed by Dr Tyng Tan

Dr. Tan Tyng Yuan, MBBS completed her graduate and medical education in the United Kingdom over a span of 10 years.

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