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History of the Hair Transplant Procedure
Hair transplants have actually been around for a long time and began in the late 1930′s when a Japanese doctor named Dr. Okuda developed the process to restore hair to burn victims and those who suffered scalp injuries.
Dr. Okuda used a punch technique to remove small areas of hair-bearing skin and then implant these into small holes in the damaged areas of skin. While this method did restore hair, it was definitely crude and did not look natural by any means. Another Japanese dermatologist improved on the technique by using smaller grafts of only 1-3 hairs, and this technique is actually very similar to the hair transplant surgery performed today.
Hair restoration surgery was used in Japan for many years before making it to the United States, mostly due to World War II. It wasn’t until the early 1950′s when a dermatologist in New York named Dr. Norman Orentreich performed the first hair transplant surgery on a man in the U.S. who had male pattern baldness. While his technique did not offer natural results, he was the first to establish that the hair on the side and back of a man’s scalp are not very prone to balding, and he did introduce the surgery to the United States.
His experiments involving male pattern baldness showed that bald-resistant hair from the back and side of the head could be relocated and maintain their bald-resistant characteristics, no matter where they were transplanted. This principle is referred to today as donor dominance and laid the ground work for modern transplantation surgery. Hair transplants became much more popular during the 1960′s, although they remained ineffective and never appeared natural.
This type of surgery, unfortunately, has given hair transplants a very bad reputation that’s still a problem today, despite major improvements in technique and effectiveness. During the 1980′s, the surgery changed a great deal and large punch grafts were replaced with mini and micrografts for a more natural look.
This system meant men no longer needed to have large punches of hair removed to transplant to the front and instead used a strip of the bald-resistant hair that was surgically removed and trimmed before grafting back on. Minigrafts with 4 to 8 hairs were used to create density, while micrografts with 1-3 hairs created the feathered hairline at the front. In the 1990′s, follicular unit hair transplantation (FUT) was developed, which requires the difficult and precise transplantation of follicular unit groupings of 1-4 hairs as they grow naturally.
This process requires powerful magnification to help technicians see these follicular unit groups in the tissue, isolate them and then cut them into grafts. The procedure was first described in 1995 by Dr. Robert Bernstein and is now the gold standard for the surgical procedure. Hair transplant surgery has come a long way from the obvious doll look of the past, and now most surgery is undetectable when it’s performed properly. Surgeons even continue to perfect the technique and results can be amazing, provided you choose a well-trained and experienced surgeon.