For many men, being able to grow a full, thick beard is a distant dream. Patchy, sparse beards are common, making it difficult for many men to create a masculine and attractive facial hair aesthetic. Transgender men (FTM) may also have trouble growing facial hair with hormone treatments alone, while men with facial scars may have lost the ability to grow facial hair over the scarred areas.
A beard transplant can address all of these concerns. This procedure involves taking the patient’s living hair follicles from a donor area and placing them into the beard. After the recovery period is complete, the new hair will begin to grow permanently in the new location.
Beard transplants are still fairly new and many people don’t know they are an option. If you think growing a beard would help you to feel more confident and happier with your appearance, this could be an option. Here’s what you need to know about the beard transplant procedure so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.
How a Beard Transplant Works
A beard transplant is almost identical to a hair transplant. Essentially, hair follicles are relocated from one area of the body where the hair is thick and plentiful, to another area with insufficient hair growth. In facial hair restoration, this usually means taking hair from the scalp to fill in the patient’s beard.
Men can choose any facial hair pattern they want for their beard transplant. Some men want to fill in a mustache and maybe grow a goatee. Other men just want to fill in a patchy beard. A few patients are looking for a full beard.
Depending on the number of hairs available for transplant, any of these goals can be achieved. With the help of an experienced surgeon, you can get a natural-looking beard that suits your aesthetic and personality.
Preparing For a Beard Transplant
If you decide to schedule a facial hair transplant, your surgeon will give you instructions on preparing for the surgery. You don’t have to do much to get ready, since no general anesthesia is required during the procedure, but it’s important to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions closely.
Smokers must stop using nicotine products several weeks before the procedure. Not only does smoking increase the risk of complications, but it also can affect the health of the hair grafts. For your safety and optimal results, it’s important to ditch the habit if you want a beard transplant.
You might also need to pause some medications and supplements in the weeks leading up to the procedure. Even natural herbal supplements and over-the-counter pain medications can lead to increased bleeding during surgery. Your doctor will give you a list of what to avoid.
It’s also important to eat a healthy diet and avoid alcohol. To heal quickly, you need to pay attention to how you fuel your body.
Finally, make sure to give yourself enough time to heal after the procedure. Take a few days off from work and make sure you have everything set up at home for an easy recovery. Don’t forget to arrange for a family member or friend to drive you home from your surgery!
The Day of the Procedure
Beard transplants are performed on an outpatient basis. You will be sent home after the procedure in the care of a friend or family member. You should not need general anesthesia during the surgery, but you may be given a sedative in addition to local anesthesia.
On the day of the procedure, you should dress in comfortable clothing. Beard transplants can take many hours, depending on how many grafts need to be placed. Try to wear button-down or zip-up shirts so that you don’t have to pull anything over your head and risk tugging on the new grafts.
Once you arrive at the office, the staff will walk you through the plan and you will start the preparation process. Your surgeon will speak with you and confirm the plan for surgery. They may mark the new facial hair pattern using a pen as a guide for the procedure.
This is the time to ask any remaining questions you may have and prepare yourself for the procedure. You might be able to watch a movie or listen to music during your procedure if you have discussed this with your doctor before the start of the surgery.
Once you have checked in with the doctor and are ready to begin, you will be given local anesthesia and possibly a sedative. Then, the procedure will begin with the surgeon harvesting the hair grafts.
Comfort During Facial Hair Restoration
Understandably, many men are concerned with the potential for discomfort during and after a beard transplant procedure. A good surgeon will keep your comfort in mind at all stages of the procedure.
As mentioned, beard transplants do not require general anesthesia. Local anesthesia will be used to numb both the donor and recipient area. You will not feel any pain during the surgery.
The idea of being awake during surgery is understandably unsettling for many people. Your surgeon will likely offer you the option of sedation during your procedure to relax you and make the surgery even more comfortable for you.
Because the surgery can take several hours, your surgeon will ensure that you are in a comfortable position before they begin the procedure. You should discuss any comfort concerns with your surgeon prior to the surgery.
After facial hair restoration, your discomfort will likely be minimal. Still, it pays to think about pain management strategies ahead of time and ask your surgeon for advice.
The Facial Hair Transplant Surgery
Beard transplants involve a multi-step process, including extraction, preparation, and transplantation. First, the hair follicles are harvested from the donor area and prepared for transplant. There are two main techniques used for this part of the process, which will be chosen depending on the patient’s needs.
Selecting the Donor Hairs
Facial hair restoration is a very similar process to a standard hair transplant. The donor hairs must come from the patient’s own body. Although many people assume that hairs used to fill in the beard would come from the chest or another area of the body, body hair is used only in rare circumstances for beard restoration.
Typically, donor hair follicles are harvested from the side or back of the head. These hairs are less susceptible to hair loss, which increases the chances that the follicles will continue to produce hair long-term.
Men who might need a hair transplant later in life due to male pattern baldness should proceed with caution in planning a beard transplant. Each person only has so many hair follicles that are suitable for transplant. If you use all of your available follicles, you may not have enough for a hair transplant in the future.
Hair Graft Extraction Techniques
Once the donor site has been selected, the surgeon will begin to extract the hairs using one of two techniques: follicular unit extraction (FUE) or follicular unit transplantation (FUT). Patients will discuss the technique in advance with their surgeon.
FUT Facial Hair Transplants
The traditional hair graft harvesting method is follicular unit transplantation. A surgeon performs a FUT transplant by removing a long strip of hair and skin from the patient’s scalp. This “strip” contains hair follicles that can be separated and placed as hair grafts in the beard.
FUT transplants are highly effective. This is a tried-and-true method that works well for patients, especially those who need a large number of hair grafts to reach their beard transplant goals. However, there are some downsides to the procedure, causing it to fall out of favor with most transplant surgeons.
Removing the strip of hair follicles creates a long, linear scar. Stitches must be placed in order to keep the wound closed. Once the incision has healed, the scar may be visible under certain hairstyles.
The recovery time after a FUT procedure is longer. Patients can expect to need additional time to rest and recover. Stitches are removed in about 7-10 days unless dissolving stitches are used.
Although the more modern transplant technique discussed next is much more popular overall, a plastic surgeon may recommend this extraction technique in rare cases. FUT may be more appropriate for patients who want a full beard and require thousands of grafts, for instance. However, FUT only works if the patient is willing to keep their hair long enough to hide the scar.
It is best if your surgeon is experienced in both transplantation techniques. That way, you can be sure they will pick the best option for your specific case.
FUE Facial Hair Transplants
Follicular unit extraction is the most popular hair transplant technique currently in use. Instead of removing a strip of hair follicles, a surgeon using the FUE method removes individual follicle groups for transplantation. This reduces scarring and recovery time.
FUE grafts are removed using a type of “punch” tool. This results in many tiny circular scars that are barely visible once they have healed, even under the shortest haircuts. Most men like the freedom of being able to wear their hair however they’d like.
Another major benefit of the FUE technique is that it requires less recovery time and no stitches. Many men are able to go back to work and many normal activities after only a day or so. It’s a great option for men with busy lifestyles who still want the incredible results of a beard transplant.
FUE requires that the surgeon remove follicle groups one by one, which makes this a time-consuming extraction method. However, most surgeons agree that it is the most optimal method for hair transplantation in most cases. Patients may need to shave their hair before an FUE transplant, however, which is something to consider.
Preparing the Grafts
Hair follicles grow in follicle groups and are extracted either in these individual groups (FUE) or as a strip (FUT). Depending on the number of hairs in a follicle group (generally 1-4), the surgeon may separate them further before transferring the follicles into the recipient site. These hair grafts are preserved using various methods as the surgeon transplants them, one by one.
Large follicle groups are split up to ensure a more natural-looking appearance. A clump of 4 follicles together would not produce the most pleasing or realistic results. Grafts are sorted before they are placed in a preservation solution for the implantation process.
Hair Graft Placement
For the next part of the procedure, minuscule incisions are made in the treatment area. These incisions are no more than a few millimeters long and leave the tiniest scars imaginable. There should be no visible scarring after a beard transplant, even if you decide to go clean-shaven from time to time.
The surgeon carefully transplants each graft into the patient’s beard, taking care to angle each hair so that it looks totally natural when it grows out. Depending on the harvest technique that was used, there should be no incisions to close after the procedure is complete.
Placing the grafts takes a great deal of skill and experience. Many hair transplant surgeons don’t have the in-depth knowledge of facial hair growth to create a realistic-looking beard. That’s why it’s so important to choose a surgeon who specializes in the procedure and can give you the best results possible.
Length of the Surgery
A beard transplant is not a quick procedure. Whether the FUE or FUT method is used, it is time-consuming to sort and split individual hair grafts for placement. The surgeon will take their time to ensure the most natural-looking results possible.
Most patients can expect a minimum of two hours for a facial hair transplant. Keep in mind that this is for smaller grafting procedures, such as a mustache transplant or filling in a patchy beard. Larger procedures can take much longer.
For one session, you can expect no longer than 8 hours. Rarely, a patient might require a second surgical session, if they need a very large number of grafts. Your doctor will discuss that possibility if necessary.
Because facial hair transplants do not require general anesthesia, you will be awake during the procedure, though you may be given a sedative. You may be able to watch a movie or listen to music while the doctor works. This is something you should discuss ahead of time.
Recovering From a Beard Transplant
After your beard transplant, you will be observed by the surgical staff for a while to ensure that it is safe for you to go home. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home and you should arrange for a ride with friends or family in advance of your surgery. Safety is the top priority!
What to Do When You Get Home
When you are cleared to go home, don’t plan to do anything that evening. Go home and rest! Although many modern facial hair transplants are minimally invasive, your body will need time to recover.
Some men decide to schedule their procedure for a Friday and then take the weekend off. Others take a full week off to make sure they have enough time to heal properly. Regardless, you shouldn’t try to work or socialize immediately after the procedure.
You should apply any ointment provided as directed. Try sleeping with your head elevated to reduce any swelling that might occur. If you experience discomfort, take medication as directed and ask your doctor if icing either the donor or recipient areas is safe.
Follow All Your Surgeon’s Instructions
One of the most important things to do after your beard transplant is to protect your grafts. Don’t touch the treated area except as directed and don’t get your new beard wet for 5 days. Tiny crusts will form around the transplanted hairs, which will eventually fall off.
It’s extremely important to follow all of your surgeon’s instructions after a beard transplant. They have the experience to let you know what you should and shouldn’t do to encourage the best results possible.
If you experience discomfort, swelling, or other minor side effects, your surgeon is a great resource. Don’t take any medications without asking during recovery. It’s important to minimize bleeding and reduce the chances of developing complications.
Don’t Pick Up (or Resume) Bad Habits
The first few days after your procedure are crucial for graft survival. You need to care for yourself properly to get good results. That means eating healthy food and not picking up any habits that could affect your results.
Patients are asked to stop smoking before their facial hair transplant. Usually, you’ll need to stop smoking at least a couple of weeks before the procedure. But you can’t just quit until the day of the surgery—you need to give up smoking during the recovery process as well.
Nicotine and other chemicals found in tobacco products can significantly affect your beard transplant results. Complications can occur during surgery or during the recovery period. If you’re serious about getting the beard of your dreams, consider just quitting smoking for good.
You should also watch the alcohol before and after your procedure. Try to avoid drinking for a few weeks before and a few weeks after your procedure.
One healthy habit you’ll need to avoid after surgery, though, is strenuous exercise, which can cause complications if resumed too soon. You’ll probably heal quickly after your surgery and feel ready to get back to the gym. But in reality, you should postpone a while longer.
What to Watch Out For
During your recovery, you will likely not experience any complications if you choose an expert board-certified surgeon. But that doesn’t mean every recovery is so easy. It’s important for you to learn what to watch out for in case you develop complications.
Complications from hair transplants are pretty minimal and/or rare. Keep an eye out for signs of infection, excessive pain, bleeding, or problems with the grafts. Crusting around the grafts is normal and you will likely experience some itching.
If you notice anything that seems abnormal, be sure to reach out to your surgeon right away. A minor complication could become major if not addressed immediately. Before you head home to begin the recovery process, your surgeon should give you information on what to look out for in regards to complications.
After your procedure, you will need to visit your surgeon for a couple of follow-up appointments. This will give them a chance to see how you are healing and give you the opportunity to ask any questions you might have.
It’s important to attend your follow-up appointments as recommended. Your surgeon will be able to spot any signs of complications you might have missed and address them.
Every surgeon has their own follow-up schedule, so ask them about it before you schedule your procedure, especially if you’re coming in from out of town. You might need to stay in a hotel for a few extra days in order to attend your follow-up visits and get cleared for travel.
Hair Regrowth Timeline
Understandably, most people are impatient to see new beard growth after the beard transplant procedure. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to have some patience and understand that it will take some time for your full results to emerge.
Hair growth does not occur across all follicles at once. Hair grows in stages, with some follicles in a dormant or resting state and others actively growing hair. Not all of your follicles will be active at once, so some of the hairs will begin to grow sooner than others.
Additionally, hair follicles go into a state of “shock” when they are transplanted. You can expect the newly transplanted hairs to fall out a few days or weeks after your procedure. This is totally normal!
Once the hairs have fallen out, additional healing takes place and the hair follicles begin to establish themselves in the new location (your beard). After several months, the hairs will begin to grow again and continue to grow long-term.
It’s important to understand that the hair on your head typically grows slower than facial hair. However, many people who struggle to grow a beard see slower-than-normal facial hair growth anyway. Depending on the individual, the grafted hairs might grow more slowly than the natural facial hair.
There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for hair regrowth after hair transplantation. However, you can expect to see the grafted follicles become active within about three months. After that, your results will depend on your body’s normal hair growth rate.
Ethnic hair type might also play a role in how quickly you see results. An African-American patient, for instance, might not see their full results for a year or more, due to the typically slower growth rate of this hair type. Caucasian or Asian patients might see results more quickly but might also need more grafts to create the desired amount of coverage.
Non-Surgical Facial Hair Restoration
As you can see, beard transplants aren’t for everyone. Although the surgery is not all that invasive, it’s still a very involved procedure. The costs can climb as well, especially for out-of-town patients or those looking for extensive restoration.
Because of this, many people wonder if there are non-surgical facial hair restoration options. While there are medications that can be used to slow down hair loss in the scalp and restore the hair, none of them are approved for beard restoration.
Right now, the best option for a thin, patchy, or non-existent beard is the beard transplant procedure. If you’re not ready to commit to surgery yet, perhaps consider the treatment again in a few years or discuss your options with a hair restoration expert.
Choosing to Get a Beard Transplant
Getting a beard transplant is a big commitment. It is an intricate surgery that requires the skills of an experienced hair transplant surgeon and takes finesse and time to complete. This means that the procedure is expensive and you must do extensive research before choosing your surgeon.
You need to be sure that this is what you want before you move forward. Talking with a qualified hair transplant surgeon will help you decide if the procedure is a good fit for your needs. You should also take a look at as many before and after photos of beard transplants as you can find, as it’s important to have realistic expectations going into the procedure.
The scalp is the best source for harvesting hair grafts. It grows consistently and creates great results for patients.
Hair for transplantation is taken from areas of the scalp that are naturally resistant to hair loss. This is to help ensure that the transplanted hairs will grow permanently. Whether the FUE or FUT method is used, the surgeon will generally take hair follicles from the back and sides of the head.
Occasionally, body hair can be used for transplantation, but this isn’t usually recommended. Overall, the best source for donor hairs is the scalp. These hairs will usually grow as long as the patient wants their beard to be!
Many people are surprised to learn that the most common source of hair for facial hair restoration is the scalp. Although it might seem like the color and texture of the hair wouldn’t look natural when transplanted to the beard, this isn’t the case. A skilled hair transplant surgeon can make hairs from the head look totally natural in the beard area.
Not everyone is a good candidate for facial hair transplantation. If you have experienced significant hair loss or hair loss runs in your family, it’s important to realize that you only have so many follicles available for hair transplantation. If you have already had a hair transplant or you think you might want one in the future, you might not have enough available to perform the procedure and maintain an attractive head of hair.
A lot of it will depend on your goals. If you want a thick, full beard, you’re going to need thousands of grafts. If you just want a mustache or to fill in patchy areas, you might only need a few hundred grafts. Your surgeon will evaluate you during a consultation and help you determine if you have enough hair available for grafting.
When performed by an experienced transplant surgeon, there’s a good chance that most of the grafts will survive the beard transplantation process. However, there is no way to guarantee that all of them will survive. A few are likely to fail, but this is normal.
Choosing a surgeon with a proven track record of graft survival and great outcomes is important. It’s also important to follow all of your surgeon’s aftercare instructions, in order to prevent complications and the loss of hair grafts as much as possible. Once a graft fails, it’s gone for good, so taking care of yourself after the procedure is key.
The incisions that are made in the recipient site during the procedure are extremely tiny. They are measured in millimeters and heal extremely well, in most cases.
It’s important to mention any history of poor scarring you might have, such as keloid scarring. Although poor scarring is extremely rare during an FUE transplant, it’s better to be safe and discuss all possible risks with your surgeon before the procedure.
Once the hair transplant is complete, you have full control over your facial hair styling, as long as you have enough hair to make it happen! Most men who get beard transplants trim their beards regularly to keep them looking neat and attractive. Transplanted follicles behave just as they did in their original location. Once they’re established, hair will just keep growing long-term. So go wild with styling and trimming—the hair will always grow back.
Beard transplants are performed using local anesthesia, not general anesthesia, so some patients wonder why a ride home is necessary. Many patients opt for sedation during the procedure so that they feel more relaxed, so getting a ride home is a safety precaution. Even with local anesthesia alone, you’re still having a surgical procedure. It’s still not a good idea to drive yourself home from the procedure, which is why you might need a ride. The recovery from an FUE transplant is easy enough that you might not need someone to stay with you overnight, but you also might want to have a trusted person nearby in case you need help with anything.
Many people who get cosmetic surgery decide that they need more than one procedure to reach their goals. Some men with a “weak chin” and minimal facial hair may consider a chin implant and a beard transplant to improve the appearance of the jaw and create an enhanced overall facial aesthetic. If you’re considering both a chin implant and facial hair transplantation, it might be a good idea to have the chin implant first. The beard transplant can be completed according to the new chin contours and the surgeon can place new hair follicles over any scarring. However, it’s important to ask your surgeon for their opinion, especially if they will be performing both procedures.
The FUE transplant method is by far the most popular technique for harvesting grafts, but it does often require shaving the patient’s hair. It is much more efficient to remove grafts when the whole donor area is shaved. Some surgeons do offer the option to only shave small areas that are being extracted. However, this is a time-consuming method that will likely increase the procedure time, making the surgery more expensive. Most men opt to just shave their hair and wait for it to grow back after a hair transplant.
Many FTM patients seek beard transplants because hormone therapy has been relatively unsuccessful in helping them to grow facial hair. The good news is that facial hair transplantation can be extremely successful for these patients, allowing them to design a facial hair pattern from scratch and create a masculine appearance. There are no differences in the techniques used, although transgender patients may need more grafts if they have little to no existing facial hair. It’s important to choose a surgeon with experience in working with transgender patients on their gender affirmation journey.
Work With a Facial Hair Restoration Expert
If you’re excited about what a beard transplant could do for your self-confidence and appearance, then it might be a good time to schedule a consultation with a hair transplant expert like Dr. Anthony Bared. The initial consultation is the first step toward a better beard.
To learn more about facial hair transplantation with Dr. Bared at his beautiful Miami office, call 305-666-1774 or schedule an appointment online. Dr. Bared offers virtual consultations for out-of-town patients and those who prefer to speak with him from the comfort of their own homes. Our friendly staff looks forward to meeting you!