Men and women have been suffering from hair loss for centuries. Throughout history, doctors and scientists have been coming up with creative ways to deal with hair thinning and balding. To fully appreciate how far we’ve come, here is a brief history of the hair transplant over time—from the 19th century to present day.
Before the Hair Transplant: Creative Cover Ups
Before any form of hair transplant came into fruition, people who were embarrassed about their hair loss had to get creative with their cover ups. Toupées, hats, and wigs were all popular products—especially among middle-aged men.
19th Century: Scalp Flaps
One of the earliest forms of hair restoration, the scalp flap was invented in the 19th century. During this procedure, doctors would take a band of tissue with the original blood supply attached and graft it onto the balding area of the head.
1930s: Hair Restoration for Burn Victims
During the 1930s, we saw major advancements in hair transplant procedures, fueled by the desire to treat treat hair loss from burns or other injuries. Doctors in Japan were performing hair transplants to treat damaged areas of the eyebrows or eyelashes.
1950s: Donor Grafts for Balding Areas
In the 1950s, Norman Orentreich discovered that hair grafts were “donor dominant”, which means that they would maintain the characteristics of the donor area once transplanted. This was a huge discovery, as skeptics thought there was no reason why the newly-grafted hair shouldn’t fall out just like before.
1970s: Hair Plugs
Approximately 20 years after the modern hair transplant procedures began, doctors began using smaller grafts known as “hair plugs”. These grafts were made up of 2-4mm plugs that gave the appearance of a doll’s head.
1980s: Strip Excisions
Known as follicular unit transplantation (FUT), the strip excision became popular in the 1980s and remained a popular option for the next couple of decades. This method is still used today, though it is not as popular as the less-invasive follicular unit extraction (FUE) technique (NeoGraft).
1994 – The Hair Transplant “Safe Donor Zone”
In the 1990s, Walter P. Unger, M.D. discovered the “Safe Donor Zone”, which consists of the back of the scalp and part of the sides of the scalp. This is where the most permanent, most resistant-to-hair-loss hairs can be found. This zone is used today in both the strip method and FUE procedures.
Looking into the Future of the Hair Transplant
Over the past few decades, many men and women have become success stories of hair transplant procedures. People are regaining not just their hair, but their self-confidence as well. Though our techniques—especially the FUE method—are extremely advanced when compared to where the hair transplant started, we’re certain that we’ll see even more advancements in the years to come. For example, scientists are researching stem cells within hair follicles to see if hair can be multiplied or cloned. While these advancements are years away, the effective FUE technique can help you today to achieve the full head of hair you thought you couldn’t get.