For a lot of guys, growing a beard isn’t as simple as avoiding a razor and letting nature take its course. Stubble doesn’t always grow uniformly on the face, resulting in patchy facial hair instead of a stylish beard.
Or, you may have inherited genes that make any type of beard growth practically impossible.
But just as you can transplant your own hair to the top of your head to tackle a receding hairline, you can also try a beard implant if your facial hair follicles aren’t cooperating.
A doctor will first need to evaluate your skin and hair to make sure you’re a good candidate, and then you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the expense.
Like any medical procedure, there’s not a 100 percent guarantee you’ll be happy with the results. Beard transplant scars are always a risk.
But if you can find a qualified provider, it may be worth at least investigating whether a few hours in a doctor’s office can provide a beard to last a lifetime.
A beard transplant is just that: Hair is taken from one part of the body and transplanted to your jawline and wherever you want your beard to grow.
That sounds simple enough, but it’s a rather involved process. There are two main approaches a surgeon can take:
- Follicular unit extraction (FUE). This approach is done by harvesting complete follicular units one at a time from the donor area. FUE is less painful, which may explain why it’s the more commonly performed procedure
- Follicular unit transplantation (FUT). For this approach, a surgeon cuts a small strip of tissue from the back of the head and removes the hair follicles from that tissue.
A follicular unit is a small grouping of several hair follicles that may emerge through the skin through the same exit point.
Both procedures take anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 hair follicle grafts or more from the back of the head, usually level with your ears, or a little lower, and implant them on the face.
A graft is a hair follicle that’s transplanted.
Here’s an overview of the steps involved in the procedure:
Whether you’ve chosen to have a FUE or a FUT, your surgeon’s first step will be to shave the area on your head that’s being harvested.
This gives them a clearer view of the hair follicles. Before the harvesting begins, you’ll be given a local anesthetic, so you won’t feel the harvesting or the implantation.
Once the follicles have been harvested from your head, the surgeon will inject a local anesthetic into the area of your face where the implants will be placed. Then, the surgeon will implant each follicle into your facial skin, shaping your new beard the way you and the doctor agreed on prior to surgery.
You’ll need a day to recover from the beard implant surgery. Tiny crusts may form around each newly implanted hair follicle, but these should flake off within a few days.
After about a week to 10 days, you should be able to start shaving normally and trimming your new beard.
A word of warning, however: Your new beard hairs may fall out after 2 or 3 weeks. This is normal, and new hair should grow in to take their place.
Because hair follicles are harvested from the back of your head, it’s important that you have healthy hair follicles in this area.
This location tends to be among the last areas to go bald, so even if you’re starting to lose some hair on top, you probably still have healthy growth on the back of your head.
Your transplant surgeon will examine your scalp and determine if there are enough follicular units to transplant.
If there doesn’t appear to be enough hair follicles to harvest, your doctor may recommend alternative treatments.
Regardless of the type of procedure performed, within 3 or 4 months, the transplanted hair follicles should be settled into place and growing.
You’ll know the beard implant was successful if, at 8 or 9 months, you have a full, healthy beard that you can treat as though it had been there all along.
While both FUE and FUT can produce natural-looking beards, FUT beards tend to be fuller.
This is because more follicles are usually harvested when a strip of skin is removed. So if your goal is a thicker-looking beard, consider FUT.
Beard transplant failure is rare and is usually the result of improper harvesting from the donor area. This is why it’s important and worth paying more to choose an experienced hair restoration surgeon.
After surgery, the harvested area on your head and the implanted area on your face will need special care. Both sites should be kept clean.
Home care instructions
Your doctor will give you home care instructions. These may include the use of antibiotic ointment for your scalp and face.
Some activities to avoid for at least the first several days include:
- exposure to direct sunlight
- using a sauna or hot tub
- strenuous physical activity, especially anything that’ll cause a sweat
- touching, rubbing, or scratching the harvested or implant areas
You may be advised to not wash your face for a few days or at least avoid scrubbing. Your skin will be sensitive and itchy, but to avoid irritation and infection, try to leave it alone.
Potential side effects
Your face and scalp may also experience the following side effects:
- temporary scabs or crustiness
Scarring in the donor area is common, but often your natural hair growth will cover it up. FUE leaves many small, often-unnoticeable scars. FUT, however, leaves a long singular scar on the back of the head.
The implant areas on your face shouldn’t experience any scarring, but there will be some temporary scabs. If crustiness, redness, swelling, or irritation continues after a couple of weeks, be sure to tell your doctor.
Beard transplants aren’t cheap. They can cost upward of $15,000 depending on the number of grafts needed. Partial transplants — to fill in facial areas that currently don’t grow hair — can cost between $3,000 and $7,000, again depending on the number of grafts implanted. You’ll want to discuss this cost with your doctor at your initial consultation.
Before the procedure, your doctor will need to examine your scalp and face to determine if you’re a good candidate. That consultation visit may also come with a cost, depending on the doctor. When making your appointment, be sure to ask how much the consultation visit will cost.
Because beard transplants are cosmetic procedures, they’re not covered by insurance. Some doctors allow you to pay in installments, so be sure to ask about financing options.
You want to work with an experienced hair restoration surgeon.
Given the cost, risks of complications and scarring, and the desire for optimum results, don’t try to save money by going with a less experienced or cheaper surgeon.
You could end up with inflamed hair follicles. Or, the surgery may not take, and you lose your implanted hair permanently.
To make sure you’re working with the right doctor, check to see if they’re certified by the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgeons.
Certification means the doctor has logged a considerable number of hours practicing and learning the craft.
During the consultation visit, questions you should ask include:
- Are beard transplants one of your specialties?
- How many years have you been doing these procedures, and how many procedures have you done?
- Do you perform both FUE and FUT surgeries? What’s your experience with each one?
Personal testimonials are always helpful. If you know someone who has worked with a particular doctor, ask about their experience and results.
To find a certified hair restoration surgeon, visit https://abhrs.org/find-a-physician/.
If a beard transplant seems too invasive, expensive, or both, there are some alternatives to consider.
Minoxidil (Rogaine) is a common treatment for hair loss on the scalp, but it may also be effective at stimulating hair growth on the face. Topical minoxidil is sold in liquid and foam varieties.
One drawback is that once you stop applying it, your new hair growth typically slows down and stops altogether.
Minoxidil was originally created as a medication to lower pressure. One known side effect can be a drop in blood pressure, so check with your doctor if you have a heart condition or take other medications for blood pressure.
Other products that may boost beard hair growth include supplements containing the B vitamin biotin, which helps foster healthy hair growth.
Another supplement called
And even though hair growth is largely determined by genetics, some lifestyle behaviors may help you accelerate beard hair growth:
Beard implant surgery is one way to fill gaps in your beard or help you establish a beard where none would grow before. It’s an invasive and expensive procedure, but the effects are long-lasting.
Depending on the type of implant surgery, you may have one long scar on the back of your head that can be covered by hair growth or many tiny scars that are often too small to see.
If you don’t want to go the implant route, you can always try topical products, such as minoxidil, to boost beard hair growth, or you can try taking supplements.
Whatever direction you choose, talk with your doctor first about the risks and benefits of surgery, topical medications, and supplements.
Your genes may be to blame for little or no beard growth, but you have options if you want facial hair in your future.