Baldness has always been a very common condition, especially in men. Far from being considered unattractive, baldness can actually be fairly appealing; many people prefer the lack of hair. Of course, not everyone shares this sentiment and would rather hide their exposed scalps under large hats.
Baldness affects a vast majority of people, both men and women, in the world, and though there isn’t a single, definitive cause, heredity and genes tend to take the cake. A long line of parents, grandparents, and relatives with baldness might point to your own potential hair loss.
For those who aren’t so happy about losing their hair, there are dozens of options for regaining it, from medical procedures to pharmaceuticals. The most common hair loss treatment is hair transplant surgery.
Hair transplant surgery has come a long way since its original inception. Believe it or not, hair transplantation has been around for decades. Let’s take a look at the history and evolution of hair transplant surgery.
The Beginning of Hair Transplant Surgery
The early days of hair transplant surgery began in 1939. Japanese dermatologist Dr. Okuda published a medical journal that included a new method of using small grafts to restore hair loss. Dr. Okuda used a punch technique that involved extracting minute sections of skin with healthy hair and then implanting those sections of hair-bearing skin into tiny incisions in areas of bald skin. The hair then grew normally, restoring the previously balding areas.
This method was improved a few years later by another Japanese dermatologist. Dr. Tamura minimized the size of the grafts to only one to three hairs each. Although Dr. Tamura specialized in restoring hair in the pubic area, the concept was still applicable to the scalp. This process is actually nearly identical to the surgeries performed today.
Unfortunately, this method did not register with the Western Hemisphere until years later due to interruptions from World War II.
Evolution and Introductions to the West
It wasn’t until the 1950s that hair transplant surgery reached the Western Hemisphere. A New York dermatologist, Dr. Norman Orentreich, experimented with the idea of relocating grafts of hair from the back and sides of the head to balding areas, a technique similar to the one used by Dr. Okuda.
Dr. Orentreich completed the first hair transplant in the United States for a man with male pattern baldness. Although the results of the procedure did not look especially natural or attractive, Dr. Oretreich still developed the concept of “donor dominance”- hair could be transplanted from balding- resistant donor areas to areas of balding and continue to grow for a lifetime.
By the 1960s, hair transplant surgery became a very popular cosmetic procedure. Unfortunately, the procedure gained a negative reputation as the methods at this time weren’t quite finessed, and the results didn’t look so natural.
In the 80s, large punch grafts were replaced with a combination of mini and micrografts. Rather than using the punch to extract bald-resistant grafts, a strip of bald-resistant hair was surgically removed from the back of the head and trimmed into the smaller mini and micrografts.
The minigrafts consisted of four to eight hairs and were used to create fullness and density, while the micrografts created a refined, feathered hairline. This method used several hundred grafts, as opposed to about 50 to 200 large grafts with the punch method.
Modern Day Hair Transplants
It wasn’t until the 90s that hair transplant surgery saw a drastic improvement. The 1990s saw the introduction of follicular hair transplantation, a labor-intensive procedure wherein hairs were transplanted in naturally occurring one, two, three, or four hair follicular unit groupings. These groupings mimic the way hair grows naturally. The process requires high levels of magnification to isolate the specific groupings of follicles.
Follicular hair transplantation eliminated the old stigmas surrounding hair transplant surgery. The procedure left people with hair that looked attractive and natural. Hair restoration became a viable option for men and women suffering hair loss. Results from follicular hair transplantation are so natural your barber might not even tell the difference.
Of course, hair loss surgeons continue to improve on their methods, finding new techniques to transplant hair for the perfectly natural look and eliminating baldness altogether.