When considering hair transplantation options, patients will often come across two widely used terms: follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplantation (FUT). Both FUE and FUT are widely used hair transplant methods that are designed to take hair from one area of the scalp and relocate it to another. Hairs are extracted and the grafts are individually implanted into the scalp to reverse the effects of hair loss.
Whilst the goal of each method is the same, FUE and FUT take slightly different approaches to extracting the hairs from their original location (known as the “donor site”). Understanding the differences between these two methods will help you make an informed decision as to which treatment is best for you.
How FUE works
FUE is a minimally invasive and effective hair restoration method. It is named “follicular unit extraction” as it involves extracting individual follicular units from the scalp. A follicular unit is a naturally occurring group of hair follicles that contains up to four hairs. Using the FUE method, a graft is obtained by isolating the individual units of hair from the donor site and implanting them in an area that is lacking hair density.
Follicles are harvested from an area where the hair is thicker, usually the back of the head. Guided by an experienced technician, the FUE device makes tiny incisions through a thin layer of the scalp to extract the hair units. These incisions are minute and will not normally leave scarring. The number of grafts required in one procedure will vary from person to person depending on their desired outcomes and the severity of their hair loss.
When enough grafts have been extracted and collected, they are examined by trained technicians in preparation for the re-implantation process. The follicular units are then implanted into the balding area as needed. Each graft is implanted carefully and strategically, based on the number of hairs within each follicle unit.
How FUT works
FUT, also known as a “strip” procedure, involves removing a strip of skin horizontally from the scalp. It is then dissected, and the individual grafts of hair are implanted into the chosen area to improve hair thickness. The grafts are most commonly needed in the hairline or crown.
FUT is a simple surgical procedure that can be performed under a local anesthetic. Sections of skin are removed from an area of good hair growth such as the back or sides of the head and are usually at least two centimetres long. A specialised microscope will then be used to dissect the tissue from the donor site in order to separate it and prepare the individual follicular units for implantation in their new location.
Individual follicles are then carefully inserted into the scalp, arranged in a way that replicates natural growth patterns. Hair growth will continue its normal growth cycle, without indication that it has been transplanted. Some scarring may result in areas from where the strip grafts were harvested.
Pros and Cons
Although both methods are effective in restoring natural-looking hair density and thickness, each approach comes with its unique advantages. Patients should be aware of the pros and cons of both before making a decision.
Pros of FUE:
- It is a minimally invasive procedure
- No cutting, stitches, or noticeable scarring
- No stretching of the skin
- Lack of scarring means patients can comfortably wear their hair short
- Short recovery time with minimal post-procedure discomfort
Cons of FUE:
- Extraction of individual follicular units requires more time
- Generally more expensive
- Lower rate of hair follicle survival
Pros of FUT:
- Higher rate of follicular unit survival
- Removal of hair strips takes a shorter amount of time
- Suitable for more severe thinning, as it provides a larger yield of follicles
- Generally less expensive
Cons of FUT:
- Slightly longer recovery time
- More pain and discomfort after the procedure
- Visible scarring under short hair
Downsides of the FUT method
FUT is an invasive surgical technique, as it requires making a long incision to surgically remove a section of the scalp. When the strip of hair is removed, the skin then needs to be pulled and sutured into its new position. The technique results in a permanent linear scar at the back of the head, which will be visible if the hair is worn short. When compared to the FUE method, FUT requires a significantly longer and more painful recovery time. Patients who undergo this invasive procedure often require strong painkillers and a longer period off work or avoiding activity. For these reasons, many patients prefer the less-invasive FUE method that offers shorter recovery times and minimal scarring. Our clinic uses advanced, modern technologies to offer quality FUE hair transplantation treatments.
Results and aftercare
Due to the non-invasive nature of FUE, you will not need stitches after undergoing this procedure, and the extraction and implantation will not leave any noticeable scarring. Recovery time is typically quick, with patients returning to work the next day. However, you may be required to avoid harsh hair care products or activities that may cause irritation. Recovery from FUT procedures will take one to two weeks, and patients will need to follow aftercare instructions to ensure optimal healing. You may be left with some scars, but these should be easily hidden by the surrounding hair.
After both procedures, it is normal for patients to experience some redness or sensitivity, but this will soon subside. Some of the implanted hairs may fall out due to the natural growth cycle. These will grow back after a few months, revealing your improved hair density in the area. Results can take approximately four months to fully appear.
Things to consider
Immediately following the procedure, it is common to have some swelling and discomfort in the treated areas. These symptoms should fade within 48 hours. Most people will be able to return to their normal activities within a few days, with minimal interruption to their everyday routine. Patients may be given instructions for how to care for their scalp after the procedure, which will help minimise any discomfort and aid the healing process.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the FUE method?
FUE is a method of transplantation whereby hair follicles are extracted from the scalp individually. This is different from other more invasive methods such as follicular unit transplantation (FUT), which harvests hair follicles by surgically removing a strip of skin from the scalp.
When will I see results?
A few months after the procedure, your transplanted hair will begin growing into its new location. Patients should experience significant growth by the six-month mark.
Are results permanent?
The procedure uses your own healthy, living hair from the donor site. The transplantation is designed to move the hair to live permanently in the new location.
Are there any side effects?
Although robotic hair transplants have an excellent success rate, every medical procedure comes with some risks. These can include scalp tightness, infection, and scalp pain or sensitivity. An advantage to the application of ARTAS technology is that it minimises the risk of complications caused by human error.