The hair transplant donor area is typically located at the back and sides of your scalp. Donor site is where the hair grafts are taken for the implantation. This area provides healthy hair grafts to cover the balding areas with hair permanently.
Although using scalp hair as a hair transplant donor area is the most common one, according to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery 2022 – Practice Census Results different donor areas are used.
- 93.2% SCALP
- 5% BEARD
- 1.2% CHEST
- 0.3% BELLY
- 0.2% LEG
- 0.1% OTHER
This article will discuss everything you need to know about the donor site. A quick and short summary of what you are going to learn in detail is as follows:
- THE HAIR TRANSPLANT DONOR AREAS ARE RESISTANT TO HAIR LOSS
- HARVESTING DONOR AREA DIFFERS IN FUT, FUE, AND, DHI
- THE DONOR AREA CAN BE USED MORE THAN ONCE FOR MULTIPLE SESSIONS
- PAIN, MINOR BLEEDING, BURNING SENSATION, AND ITCHING ARE COMMON IN THE DONOR AFTER HAIR TRANSPLANT
- PATIENTS CAN SEE HAIR REGROWTH AFTER 3 MONTHS IN FUE AND 6 MONTHS IN FUT
- FOR PIMPLES ON THE DONOR REGION, ANTIBIOTICS AND WASHING WITH WARM WATER ARE USEFUL
What Is The Donor Area?
The donor area is where hair follicles are extracted to implant in the balding recipient area. The most common donor zone is the back of the head (occipital scalp) extending horizontally and of approximately 5–6 cm in width.
This site provides healthy and strong hair follicles to be inserted into the scalp in the recipient area as a treatment for hair loss thanks to the donor dominance theory.
The donor area is mostly located on the scalp. However, some body parts can also be used as possible hair transplant donor areas.
How Important Is The Donor Area?
The role of the donor site in hair transplant is to provide strong hair follicles for grafting to implant in the recipient area. So, it makes the donor area an essential part of the hair restoration surgery. In most cases, not having enough donor hair results in complications.
Finding different areas on the body and matching the thickness to the recipient area requires a highly skilled doctor. Having enough donor hair grafts on the head makes the whole process easier.
How Many Grafts Does My Donor Area Have?
It depends on the person. On average, you will have 4000 to 6000 grafts on your donor area. It is a healthy amount to cover the places with hair loss.
Where Do They Get The Hair For A Hair Transplant?
The areas that provide hair for transplantation are:
- THE BACK OF THE SCALP OR THE OCCIPITAL REGION
- THE SIDE AREAS ON THE SCALP
- THE MID-BACK OF THE HEAD
- THE CHEST
- PUBIC AREA
Why Is Donor Area Considered Safe?
It is thanks to the Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) resistance. The donor areas are not affected by DHT. This is the hormone responsible for genetic pattern hair loss affecting mostly the crown, hairline, and temple areas on the scalp.
If there is no other known skin condition, donor areas are considered safe and provide thick dense hair with stable growth for hair transplantation.
It is important to choose the safe donor area for hair grafting, or else transplanted hair might get thinner and lost too.
Does It Differ When You Get Hair Grafts From Body Hair?
Even though body hair like chest, beard, belly, leg, and pubic hair can be used as donor hair, it is not the first choice. Body hair has different hair growth patterns.
Another difference is the hair texture. It is difficult to create a natural-looking hairline with body hair grafts.
Understanding The Hair Transplant Process Via Donor Area
To understand the hair transplant surgery via the donor area, you should know the following procedures:
- HARVESTING HAIR FROM THE DONOR AREA
- TRANSPLANTING HAIR TO THE RECIPIENT AREA
These show why donor area plays such an important role in hair restoration procedures.
Harvesting Hair From The Donor Area
Harvesting follicles from hair transplant donor sites is done by either removing a strip of the scalp or by extracting them one by one. The harvesting method depends on the hair transplant technique chosen.
There are 3 major techniques for hair transplantation. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Harvesting In FUE
In FUE, healthy hair follicles from all across the donor area are taken out one by one, using a specific device called a micro-punch. These follicular units are then put in a specific saline solution, while the surgeon is preparing the recipient site.
Harvesting In DHI
The extraction procedure is the same in FUE and DHI. The difference between these two techniques is when the grafts are implanted in the recipient area. This is done immediately after the extraction in DHI, while in FUE it takes more time.
Harvesting In FUT
In FUT, a strip of skin is removed from the donor area, usually at the back of the head. The scalp is then closed with stitches. To harvest hair follicles, the surgeon then cuts the strips into smaller pieces under a high-powered microscope with the help of a scalpel. After that, these grafts are put in some special solution, until the recipient site is ready.
Transplanting Hair To The Recipient Area
Implanting the grafts in the recipient area can be done right after harvesting them from the donor area or can take some time.
Transplanting Follicles In FUE
The implantation part is the same as in FUT. The surgeon makes incisions on the recipient site and inserts the follicular units.
Transplanting Follicles In DHI
In the DHI technique, the surgeon can implant the grafts immediately after extracting them from the donor area. They use a specialized device called a Choi implanter pen to directly implant the hair follicles into the recipient area. There’s no need to create small incisions in this hair transplant method before implanting and preparing the site.
Transplanting Follicles In FUT
The hair transplant surgeon prepares the recipient area by making small incisions in the balding sites. The grafts are inserted into these holes after they are harvested and soaked well in the solution.
Can The Donor Area Be Used For Multiple Hair Transplant Procedures?
Technically yes, you can use the donor area more than once if there’s adequate graft on this site. Considering the limits for the donor area, patients can undergo hair transplant procedures an average of 2-4 times. Most patients achieve their desired appearance with 1 or 2 sessions. However, there have been reposts of cases with 6 surgeries.
The possibility of repetition depends on the following:
- THE DONOR AREA AVAILABILITY
- HAIR DENSITY IN THE DONOR AREA
- SCALP LAXITY
What Happens To The Donor Area After Hair Transplant?
After the operation, the surgeon puts some bandage and gauze on the donor site. The following surgical side effects are expected in the donor area after hair transplant:
- MINOR BLEEDING
- SLIGHT PAIN
- TEMPORARY HAIR SHEDDING
- DECREASED DONOR HAIR DENSITY
What Is The Recovery Timeline For The Donor Area?
The recovery timeline for FUE and DHI is 5-7 days and 14 days for FUT. This is because of the more invasive nature of FUT. For the same reason, patients might feel slightly more pain and inconvenience after FUT compared to the two other techniques.
How Long Does It Take For The Donor Area To Look NNormal?
Your donor area, depending on the graft number and the method used, heals after a week or so. Healing time is fast, but you will probably need a month for it to look completely normal. With the new hair growth on the area, it will look more and more homogeneous by the end of the month.
When Can Patients Expect Hair Regrowth In The Donor Area?
Within a few months starts to show regrowth in the donor area. Based on the techniques, it takes 3 months for FUE, and 4-6 months for FUT.
Technically speaking the hair does not grow back in the areas where follicles are extracted but in the neighboring parts. It can cover the extracted site and no balding can be seen.
Why Might A Burning Sensation Occur In The Donor Area?
The trauma following the surgery in the donor area will cause burning sensations. It could also mean that the micro scars on the donor area are healing. To relieve this feeling the doctor can prescribe some ointments.
Is Itching Common In The Donor Area?
Yes, Itching in the donor area after hair restoration surgery is common and normal. The reasons for itching in the donor area are mentioned below:
- WOUND HEALING
Usually, it will go away after one week but can take as long as one month. you should not scratch the donor area for at least 20 days despite the urge to do so. To reduce the itching here are some useful tips:
- USE SALINE SPRAY OVER THE DONOR AREA FOR 3-4 DAYS TO REDUCE IT
- 2 DAYS AFTER THE INITIAL WASH, YOU CAN START WASHING YOUR HEAD DAILY
- TAKE ORAL ANTIHISTAMINES
- AFTER 10 DAYS, YOU CAN USE TOPICAL ALOE VERA THREE TIMES A WEEK
The video below can help you understand the postop process.
How Should Patients Deal With Pimples In The Donor Area After A Hair Transplant?
To deal with pimples in the donor site after the procedure, you must consult with your surgeon and find the reason for the pimples first.
There are two possible causes for pimples appearing in the donor area:
- HAIR GROWTH
If the pimples are not infectious and happen only due to hair growth, gentle washing with hot or warm water and a gentle shampoo is the solution.
In case of an infection, antibiotic therapy with oral medications and creams is needed in addition to gentle washing.
(1) International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery: 2022 Practice Census Results
(3) Kerure AS, Patwardhan N. Complications in Hair Transplantation. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2018 Oct-Dec;11(4):182-189. doi: 10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_125_18. PMID: 30886471; PMCID: PMC6371733.