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Swelling After Hair Transplant: When Does It Occur & How to Reduce

Swelling after a hair transplant surgery is the accumulation of anesthesia fluid on and below the forehead, which typically resolves within a week. Swelling, or edema, is a common side effect of hair restoration and is rarely dangerous.

In some cases, this excess fluid affects your daily routines, so resting for a couple of days after the surgery is ideal. We can say almost every 1 out of 2 hair transplant patients can experience swelling.

In a study published in the International Journal of Trichology with a 42.47% occurrence rate swelling was found to be the most commonly seen side effect of hair transplant.

We will discuss swelling after a hair transplant in this article, and here, you can take a quick look at our article’s key points:

  • SWELLING AFTER HAIR TRANSPLANTATION IS A PART OF THE HEALING PROCESS
  • THE ANESTHESIA SOLUTION CAUSES SWELLING AFTER THE HAIR TRANSPLANT PROCEDURE
  • TYPICALLY, HAIR TRANSPLANT PATIENTS EXPERIENCE SWELLING AROUND 6 DAYS
  • THERE IS NO LIFE-THREATENING RISK OF SWELLING, ALTHOUGH RESTING IS RECOMMENDED FOR A FASTER HEALING
  • YOU CAN PREVENT OR REDUCE THE SWELLING WITH SOME SIMPLE METHODS AND MEDICATIONS

What Causes Swelling After A Hair Transplant?

The lidocaine solution, tumescent local anesthesia, causes swelling after a hair transplant. This solution is placed on the scalp for numbing during the surgical procedure. When lidocaine shifts through the forehead and below this results in hair transplant swelling.

Along with the lidocaine injections, the operation team makes many tiny incisions on the donor and recipient areas for graft harvesting and implanting. Your immune system reacts back to these surgical wounds as inflammatory swelling by gathering the white blood cells in this area.

There is also a small chance that you may experience excessive swelling due to loose skin, allergic reactions, and infection after hair transplant surgery.

When Does Swelling Typically Occur After Hair Transplant?

Minimal swelling immediately occurs during the hair transplant surgery when the doctor inserts lidocaine into the recipient and donor areas. When the lidocaine is absorbed it slowly goes downward through your face causing facial swelling around the 2nd-day mark.

How Long Does Swelling Last After Hair Transplant?

Swelling after a hair transplant lasts around 6 days after the procedure. While forehead swelling lasts around 6 days and usually cannot be seen after a week, the swelling on the eyes and above the cheek persists shorter lasting around 3 days.

Swelling Stages: What Should I Expect To See In Each Stage?

As it is one’s right to know how he or she will look like. Here, we have a day-by-day list of swelling stages after a hair transplant.

    • RIGHT AFTER THE SURGERY: expect minimal swelling in donor and recipient areas
    • AFTER A FEW HOURS: swelling slowly moves toward the forehead
    • AFTER A DAY: swollen forehead and minimal swelling around the eyes
    • AFTER 2 DAYS: swelling reaches peak point and may affect the eyes, eyelids, and cheeks
    • AFTER 4 DAYS: a huge improvement in swelling can be seen by this time
    • AFTER 6 DAYS: most of the swelling should be gone or barely visible
    • AFTER 10 DAYS: swelling should be completely gone

What Are The Potential Risks Of Swelling After A Hair Transplant?

Swelling after a hair transplant is nothing serious, apart from the uncomfortable feeling of a tight scalp, but in certain cases, it can be prolonged or excessive.

Prolonged swelling accompanied by white or yellow pus formation or redness, may indicate an infection. In that case, you should contact your doctor. For excessive swelling, you should rest for a couple of days, and use the recommended methods. It should be gone until around 2 weeks.

Besides, if you experience swelling under your eyes after a hair transplant this can partially affect your vision.

Why Do I Experience Excessive Swelling?

Swelling does not occur the same for every person depending on personal differences like age and skin type. You may experience excessive swelling if you are over 50, have sensitive and loose skin, or when you have chronic diseases.

Why Does Swelling Last Longer Than 2 Weeks?

The swelling may last longer when bupivacaine and ropivacaine injections are given for greater hair transplant surgery. They are long-acting anesthetics and can cause more swelling for a longer period.

What Does Bumpy Swelling Mean In The Recipient Area?

If you see little bumps on the recipient area, where the hair grafts are placed, it can be a complication called cobblestoning. These uneven bumps indicate that some of the incisions made during the surgery were too deep. Mostly cobblestoning is not a serious side effect and resolves on its own, but in any case, contact your surgeon if you experience it.

Which Areas Are Expected To Swell After Hair Transplant?

In general, you should expect swelling over the following areas;

  • FOREHEAD
  • AROUND THE EYES
  • CHEEKS
  • DONOR AREA

Degrees Of Swelling After Hair Transplant

Depending on its severity, you may experience swelling after a hair transplant in 5 different levels according to research published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Plastic Surgery.

  1. RARE / NO SWELLING:
    This is rare but is possible. Besides, some people who got steroid treatments before and after the procedure showed almost no swelling after a hair transplant.
  2. COMMON / UPPER FOREHEAD SWELLING:
    Forehead swelling after a hair transplant is the most common one, that almost everyone experiences.
  3. COMMON / UPPER AND LOWER FOREHEAD SWELLING:
    It is possible to see lower forehead swelling followed by upper head swelling which means the anesthesia liquid is going downward direction.
  4. RARE / SWELLING ON THE EYELIDS:
    Eyelid swelling or periorbital edema is uncommon for every patient but is still considered normal after a hair transplant.
  5. RARE / BLACK EYES SWELLING:
    Black eyes or ecchymosis of the eyelids after a hair transplant does not happen in every surgery and is managed with some simple methods.

Can You Prevent Swelling After Hair Transplant?

Yes, you can prevent excessive swelling and shorten your recovery period with some diet changes after hair transplant, simple applications, and some specific drugs. 

Some people experience an elongated and persistent swelling depending on the procedure and their skin type, in that case, consult your doctor to get the best method to prevent or reduce the effects of swelling.

How To Reduce Swelling After Hair Transplant

To reduce the swelling after a hair transplant your doctor will instruct you, and some clinics also give medications for it. Here we listed the things you can do to reduce swelling after a hair transplant.

  • USE STEROIDS:
    Your doctor may offer you to use steroid treatments to prevent swelling, this treatment is the most effective one against swelling.
  • KEEP YOURSELF HYDRATED:
    Drinking lots of water, approximately more than 2-3 liters, after hair transplantation will help you overcome the swelling after a hair transplant and compensate- for water retention.
  • COVER YOUR HEAD WITH TAPE:
    Wearing adhesive tape and headbands will help you prevent spreading the swelling into your cheeks and eyes. Wear the headband on the forehead and keep the headband away from the hair follicles.
  • APPLY COLD COMPRESS:
    Using an ice pack over facial swelling will reduce its effects and prevent further swelling by narrowing the blood vessels.
  • SLEEP AT A 45-DEGREE ANGLE:
    Keeping your head elevated, will help you decrease the stress and pressure level going up to your surgery site. Sleep in the vertical position it’s even better if you can pull the recliner out and keep your head up.
  • AVOID STRENUOUS ACTIVITIES:
    Strenuous physical activities may cause much more swelling due to the increased blood pressure.
  • AVOID BLOOD THINNERS:
    Blood thinning medications increase post-operative oedema and bleeding. If you are using any of these medications constantly, let your doctor know.
  • AVOID SMOKING:
    By smoking you delay and interrupt the healing process which can cause increased swelling.
  • EAT ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS:
    Consume a rich diet of foods including fruits like oranges, berries, tomatoes, leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish. That way you can reduce the abnormal fluid build-up.
  • LOWER YOUR SALT INTAKE:
    By lowering your salt (sodium) intake, you can prevent elongated swelling and reduce the amount of swelling easily.
  • LIMIT YOUR SUN EXPOSURE:
    Sun exposure is not good for your hair restoration surgery results, and it is not good for post-operative edema.

What Should You Do For Forehead Swelling After Hair Transplant?

To prevent forehead swelling, wear the hair transplantation headband, and apply a soft massage in the area to scatter around the liquid for quicker fluid drainage. 

You can also use a cold compress to lower the blood flow and control the swelling. Below we have instructions on how to use it.

How To Use A Cold Compress For Swelling After Hair Transplant

  1. GET YOURSELF A FROZEN PEA BAG OR ICE PACK
  2. COVER IT WITH A TOWEL TO REDUCE THE CONTACT
  3. APPLY THE COMPRESS ON THE CHEEKS AND AROUND THE FOREHEAD
  4. LET IT ON FOR UP TO 12 MINUTES
  5. THIS IS REPEATABLE EVERY HOUR

 

PS: Never let the cold compress touch or contact with your healing hair follicles or it can damage the results.

Medicine For Swelling Face After Hair Transplant

Corticosteroid medicine including prednisone can be used in the form of steroid tablets, capsules, or injections to treat face swelling from hair transplants. They inhibit the enzymes leading to swelling and show their effects in a couple of hours.

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(2) Gholamali A, Sepideh P, Susan E. Hair Transplantation: Preventing Post-operative Oedema. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010;3(2):87-89. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.69018

(3) Barnes PJ. How corticosteroids control inflammation: Quintiles Prize Lecture 2005. Br J Pharmacol. 2006;148(3):245-254. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0706736