What is scalp reduction surgery?

Scalp reduction surgery is a type of procedure used in both men and women to treat hair loss, especially top-hair baldness. It involves moving skin on your scalp that has hair to cover bald areas. For example, skin from the sides of your head might be pulled up and stitched together if the top of your head is bald.

While scalp reduction surgery can be an effective treatment for baldness, it’s not an option for everyone. Depending on the cause of your hair loss, it’s usually best to start with medications that can help stimulate hair growth. Examples of these include minoxidil (Rogaine) or finasteride. Surgery may be a good option if these treatments don’t work for you.

Other factors that make someone a good candidate for scalp reduction surgery include:

  • healthy scalp skin that has enough elasticity to be stretched to other parts of your head
  • significant hair on the sides and back of your head, called donor hairs
  • hair loss related to age or genetics

Scalp reduction surgery won’t work for:

  • multiple bald patches around your scalp, even if they’re small
  • temporary hair loss due to illness, stress, or hormone fluctuations

Before getting scalp reduction surgery, you should also work with your doctor to make sure you don’t have an underlying condition causing your hair loss.

Scalp reduction is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning you won’t need to stay overnight in a hospital. You should be able to go home after the procedure, but you’ll need someone else to drive you.

Before surgery, you’ll be given general anesthesia. Your surgeon will start by surgically cutting out the bald part of your scalp. Next, they’ll loosen the skin in the areas where you have hair and pull it up so it covers the bald part that was removed. These flaps will be stitched together to keep them in place.

Scalp reduction surgery requires a period of recovery to let your body heal. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends avoiding major physical activity for about three weeks after surgery. You may also need to take a few days off from work.

Following surgery, the hair that’s been moved to the top of your head might look slightly different than it used to. It might also start growing in a different direction.

As you recover, you might also notice that your hair seems thinner, and some of it might even start to fall out. This is very normal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, hair may fall out for about six weeks after surgery, and it can take another six weeks for new hair to start growing.

Keep in mind that you might start to lose more hair as you age, which can undo the effects of scalp reduction surgery.

As with all types of surgery, scalp reduction surgery does carry some risks, including:

  • infection
  • tingling sensations
  • swelling and throbbing
  • numbness
  • temporary hair loss
  • bleeding around skin flaps that were stretched
  • scarring

There’s also a chance that the skin won’t take to its new position on top of your head. The hair follicles in this skin might also fail to produce any new hair.

Call your doctor right away if you notice excessive swelling, redness, or oozing on your scalp.

Scalp reduction surgery is a type of cosmetic surgery used to treat hair loss. While it’s very effective in some cases, it doesn’t always work. Work with your doctor to make sure you have a realistic understanding of whether the surgery will give you the results you want.