Melba’s Hair Transplant Story

by admin on February 3, 2009

I would like to share with you a story written by a woman named Melba who has been with The Women’s Hair Loss Project since last October. Before I share her story, I’d like to talk a little about hair transplants and my thoughts on women being candidates for this procedure. I have written in the past that I am not particularly a fan of hair transplantation in women. The reason for this being the common diffuse pattern of hair loss prevalent among many women who experience thinning hair. I am not a physician and everything I write is simply my opinion based on my own hair loss and that of all the images I have seen published by the members of The Women’s Hair Loss Project Network, along with the many stories I have received from women who had less than favorable outcomes from hair restoration surgery.

In a hair transplant procedure a strip of hair is removed from the back of the head and the follicles are implanted into the thinning areas. For men this usually works out great because the area in the back of the head is usually DHT resistant, which is why even in the baldest male, he will usually maintain that rim of hair around the bottom portion of his scalp. In many women with female pattern hair loss, the hair falls from all over the scalp in a more diffuse pattern. I say pattern, but it is really a lack of pattern, it is just from here and there and everywhere. For myself I lose hair from the top, both sides and also the back of the head (top and bottom) and my hair has fallen this way for the last 9 years. So I know I make a very poor candidate for a hair transplant procedure since any hair moved could potentially just fall out the next day. Many of the 1400+ members of The Women’s Hair Loss Project Network have the same type of hair loss as myself, so it seems this is more the norm for female androgenetic alopecia than an occasional occurence.

Having said all that, I have to ask, how can a woman with diffuse female pattern hair loss be a candidate for surgical hair restoration? I simply cannot wrap my mind around that, yet there are some physicans who believe that hair transplantation is a viable option for women with this type of hair loss. 

In my opinion there are some instances where I can see a woman potentially being a candidate for hair transplant surgery. A woman with:

-Traction alopecia
-An extremely high hairline who wishes to lower it and has no other hair loss
-Male pattern type of hair loss
-Stable hair loss (10-15+ years) only losing hair at the temples, partline or hairline with a very strong stable donor area
-A burn victim
-A woman who had a facelift and her hairline got pushed back but otherwise has no hair loss.

I’m sure there are other instances where a woman could be a candidate, but I simply cannot be convinced that a woman with diffuse female pattern hair loss, resulting in a unstable donor area,  would be a candidate. Also I think the age of the patient needs to be considered. I know of females in their 20s who were transplanted, having only been losing their hair for less than 5 years, I am simply perplexed by this since sometimes women begin losing hair only at the temples or partline, then it moves further to the back of the head and becomes a diffuse situation after living with hair loss for quite sometime. There are too many unknown variables in female hair loss, such as how to successfully treat it, that I think extreme caution needs to be exercised when a woman is considering undergoing a hair transplant procedure.

Since I have never had a hair transplant myself, I think it is important to share this first hand account of one woman’s hair transplant story. I’d like to thank Melba for sharing her story with us so that other women would not have to go through what she did.

I had a hair transplant about 2 1/2 years ago. I didn’t want my hair loss to be noticeable so I decided to fill in top area where thinning was evident. I went to a reputable doc and told him I did not want him to touch my hairline even though it was already higher than before. I did not want to look like a doll with plucks of hair coming out of scalp.

By the second or third day I noticed I had hair follicles that were transplanted falling out. I put them in a ziploc back and took to doc on my next visit. He said this was normal and threw them away. I thought to my self, “How many hundreds of dollars just went to the garbage?” “Why didn’t he put them back in?”

I was told everything looked good and to use rogaine. I was sold a little bottle of dark dust to powder into my scalp to cover exposed areas. This helped but needed to be reapplied every day. Can’t remember exact time frame, but I only noticed new growth of a few strands of hair. I was so unsatissfied that I never went back to doc.

Today I have less hair, even in area of transplant, and only have a few strands that grew on right side. If all my hair were to fall out, these new hairs would be worthless. I figured one transplant should show some difference, but mine did not. I was not going to try this again even if it was for free. My scalp itched for a very long time and is still quite sensitive. My hair dresser told me I should not have done this because she feels this causes too much stress to scalp.

I have written back and forth with Melba today and she wrote to me “What we don’t know is if the transplant accellerated my hair loss. After the surgery my scalp (top) has remained very sensitive. I also had a few of the transplanted follicles fall. I don’t know if that is normal. I have no hair to show for it, and would never do it again, even it he were to offer to do the surgery for free. That’s what I’d like for the ladies to know. This is not guaranteed and could cause more harm. That wonderful warnings paper I signed, given to me after they gave me a pill to drink so I could stay calm, did mention a list of things that could go wrong. I truly believe my scalp went into shock. The only hairs that grew were two tiny sections, with probably a few strands on opposite sides of my head.”

Melba went to one of the best, most repected hair transplant surgeons in the field and still had a very poor outcome. So please exercise caution when considering this as your form of treatment or solution to your hair loss.

Again, thank you Melba for sharing your hair transplant experience with us.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

BethS. February 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I am a 50 year old female with mpb.I had a hair transplant 6 weeks ago and am awaiting new growth. I also had one about 7 years ago, but now my hair loss had progressed more and I needed a second procedure.

Here are some things women should now about hair transplants. Yes, I agree you need a good donor area. My hairloss is primarily in the frontal area and the back of my head has a normal density.

What Melba described about transplants coming out is NOT normal and should NOT happen. One does need to be extremely carefully about shampooing and styling during the first five days or so, after that the transplants become part of your scalp. (For the first week I was told to shampoo by gently pouring water from a pitcher over my head and not to stand directly under the showerhead. After that I did not even comb my hair — just wore a scarf for the first week). My guess is that her doc made the incisions for the plugs too large.

The main thing to remember is that transplants are not a panacea, and can never give you more hair — it can only relocate a limited number of follicles to better real estate, and most of us gals would rather have frontal hair, than the hair in the back because of increased styling options. Therefore, your expectations need to be realistic. You can also expect to need additional procedures over the years as your thinning pattern progresses. (In my case, I know I will retain density in the rear scalp area because I have been thinning for thirty years and it has not affected this area. Also, my mom, who wears a hairpiece, has good hair in the back as well).

About hair fall — there can be shock loss from the surgery. This is quite common but can be quite alarming. While this hasn’t happened to me yet, last time I think I may have lost as much hair (about three months post-op) as I gained. They say, this is temporary and should grow back, but its hard to tell. So far, so good and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Bottom-line is: you need a good doc, a good donor area, realistic expectations and the realization that you may need to do this again in a few years. Oh yeah, and one last thing you need is deep pockets.

I will write again in three months and let you all know how things are “growing” for me.

Good luck.

Beth S.

admin February 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Hi Beth!

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience with hair transplants, you provided a lot of excellent information for other women. I’d agree you are a candidate for hair transplantation, having had a stable donor area for 30 years! lucky you, I’m jealous :)

Look forward to hearing about your progress, happy healing and growing!

xoxo

rachaeljean1 February 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Great info Beth. Answers lots of questions for those of us with hairloss that maybe seriously considering this method. Thank you for sharing. Rachael Jean

sara May 9, 2009 at 9:02 am

hey beth,

Can you please share pix of your progress. I am in the process of deciding whether to go for a transplant or not:s

Thanks
Sara

rex February 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm

beth,
who ws the Dr….who did the procedure?
thks

Beth S. February 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Rex
Just to update you, it has been one year now, and I am pretty happy with the results — it is enough to keep me out of a wig. Remember, you will never regain the thick hair of your youth, but if covering bald spots with fine hair is enough for you, this is an option to consider. I can side part my hair or pull it back in a ponytail because my hairline is pretty good now. However, with a center part, or wet hair, one can tell I have pretty thin hair. so as I said before make sure your expectations are realistic. Also…depending on the extent of your hair loss, you may want to have a second procedure. (One transplant session should cost you btwn $4,000 – $6,000.)

The doctor I used is located in Englewood, NJ. His name is Herbert Feinberg and he has specialized in hair transplant surgery for many years.

Melissa July 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I have to say, you are giving women and incorrect impression of hair transplants. Melba’s story is atypical, and she seems a bit misguided, which is the fault of her doctor. I do have to just briefly say that is it perfectly normal for the hairs in the transplanted follicles to fall out almost immediately after the transplants. They do not begin to grow back for about 3 months – the doctors are transplanting the FOLLICLES, not the hairs. As for the “shock loss” only hair that was already programmed to fall out would be expedited by the procedure. I also would not look to a hair stylist for advice on what is a cosmetic medical procedure.

I have had 2 hair transplants (first at age 19, second at age 14). I am now 29 and scheduled for my 3rd and final in two weeks. In the last two days, I’ve been for consults with two doctors since mine retired unexpectedly. They both told me that 70% of the hair on the top of my head was transplanted. With another 1800 grafts at this last procedure, almost all of the hair in my thinning areas will be permanent. I cried today in this doctor’s office as I imagined my life without the constant stress of hair loss. Will my hair by thick? No, but I expect my thinning to be virtually undetectable. All I can say is that I am pleased with my last 2 procedures. Someone with badly thinning hair should NOT expect to solve their problems with one procedure. This is something that, when you start, you know you are in for several. The whole goal is to transplant more hairs than you will naturally use. This last surgery for me will finally close that deficit. Are all women good candidates? No. I suspect older women, especially, with more diffuse thinning should not even consider it. Any ethical doctor will tell you this upfront and not let you undergo the procedure. For younger women, however, with thinning on the top of their head, and a healthy donor area, this absolutely is a possible solution to their problems. It has been a decade since my first transplant, and cannot imagine what my life would be like today if 70% of the hair on my head had not been transplanted. Even if some day the hair in the back of my head does fall out, and the “permanent” transplants are gone, that will hopefully be in the very distant future. I plan to celebrate my 30th birthday next year with an almost full head of hair, made possible by transplants. Please try not to discourage women, especially young women, from exploring this option, as it can dramatically effect their lives. Research the doctors that do the procedure because there are alot out there who are underqualified. If anyone is in the Philadelphia area, I’d be happy to share my experience.

Melissa July 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm

sorry – meant second procedure at age 24.

admin July 15, 2011 at 5:28 am

Dear Melissa – Unfortunately I have to disagree with you. Melba’s story is NOT atypical in the respect that many women who are not candidates and do undergo hair transplant surgery – many times don’t have the result they had anticipated and are extremely unhappy. This is my experience after years of interacting with women suffering with hair loss.

Are there women who are candidates? Yes. I don’t deny that, and I list some of the instances above where I think a woman can be a candidate. But a woman suffering from diffuse hair loss, meaning it’s falling out from all over the head (top, sides, back) is in my opinion, is not an ideal candidate. Some women do only have a thinning part or thinning sides – and that’s different, they may very well be a candidate if the rest of their hair has maintained the majority of it’s density. I’m not a doctor and I state that all the time, this is simply my opinion – and one that has been continually formed after coming across many many women who had wished they had not undergone a hair transplant. Having said that, I have also come across a couple women like yourself, where this was a good option for them and they are happy with the result. But I still do not believe this is a realistic option for the majority of women dealing with hair loss.

From your post it sounds like you don’t have diffuse hair loss because you wrote, “Are all women good candidates? No. I suspect older women, especially, with more diffuse thinning should not even consider it.” But MANY MANY young women are dealing with diffuse hair loss as well, including myself.

So my goal is not to misinform women about hair transplants, but rather to give them the opportunity to know the reality of them. Then, they can make an educated decision for themselves. I was troubled by reading your post, not because you share your opinion, but because you are suggesting emphatically that this is a realistic solution and women should consider it. Women should consider all their options, but realize that a woman could read your post and think your result will be typical and she’ll undergo a hair transplant based on your story. Then, perhaps due to not seeing an ethical doctor and not getting the proper evaluation about her candidate status — she’ll be devastated. Perhaps, simply from subpar results, or simply that no results occurred and she was left exactly where she was before, but now with a scar on the back of her head.

I’m happy that you have found something that works for you, it’s the goal for us all – to find something that can help get us through to the next day. I wish you the best on your upcoming surgery.

xoxo

Melissa October 3, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Women should explore all options and find an ethical surgeon. I will continue to say that if my hair transplants give me even 10 more years of happiness with my hair, it was worth the money and slight inconvenience of surgery and healing. I don’t see what young women have to lose by exploring it as option. Might I eventually lose my hair in a more diffuse pattern? Yes. In the meantime, however, I have stabilized my hair loss to a point where it’s manageable. I can’t imagine what I’d look like today without my transplants. I just am thankful to not have to wear a wig. Again, even if I’ve gotten 10 more years with my own hair, it’s better than nothing. From what I’ve read in my research I’d discourage young men before young women because if they end up getting transplants too early they risk not having enough donor hair and being left with a scar that will leave then unable to get a buzz cut. Women have more options for concealing scars later down the line. I’m troubled by the fact that your opinion is limited to interactions. I would encourage you to seek out women who have has positive experiences. It is unlikely that you would come across many in this forum since they are pleased with their results. Again, I never said this was good for all women, but I think young women should explore the option to give them more time with their real hair. I think it’s a shame that you are so dismissive of someone who has thoroughly researched the procedure over 10 years, met with multiple, all ethical, experienced surgeons and has first hand experience with the procedure. Even if this isn’t a long term fix, again, why not get extra time with you OWN hair?

Melissa October 4, 2011 at 10:36 am

Having gone through the pain of hair loss myself for the last 15 years (since I was 14 years old)), I’m offended that you think I would ever want to push someone in the wrong direction. The only thing that I’ve said “emphatically” is that they should explore the option, if in fact their hair loss is not diffuse at this point. If what you mention here happens: “Women should consider all their options, but realize that a woman could read your post and think your result will be typical and she’ll undergo a hair transplant based on your story,” then they have not thoroughly researched the procedure, and met with multiple surgeons. I would NEVER invest the kind of money involved solely based on someone else’s experience, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to do that either. Certainly I shouldn’t be held accountable for their decision making.

mary November 9, 2011 at 7:51 am

Hi, I was wondering if there´s anybody here who has had a hair transplant in´Bryssels at Dr Bisangas clinic? Please write to me if you have! Regards / Mary

poohbah August 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Melissa,

I am in Philadelphia and would like the names of Drs in Phila and NY,

Deborah Hulsewede May 16, 2015 at 5:36 pm

I’m currently consulting a derm-hair transplant specialist. He will be performing several scalp biopsies to determine if I’m a good candidate for transplant. I previously scheduled a transplant with platelet rich plasma infusion, but canceled because the doctor wouldn’t send me info to contact previous patients. The staff told me 3 times that he would do so. I spoke with a transplant patient that went to another out of town center. She told me how painful it was. She had two transplants. She wasn’t satisfied with the first one at all. I’m a skeptic. I worked in the healthcare field for 30 years and now how things can go wrong. I’m glad the doc I’m seeing is doing all the necessary diagnostics.

Anne April 24, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Has anyone gone to dr bernstein in nyc and would appreciate comments. I have thick hair on back and sides but temples and center front have loss and have lost volume on top.

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