I’m 17 years old and losing hair at a rapid pace. I desperately want to have a hair transplant, but most of the surgeons turn me away, because they say I’m too young. How old do I have to be to have an FUE hair transplant?
There is no golden age to have a hair transplant however, there is such a thing as being too young for the procedure. Aggressive androgenic alopecia (genetic hair loss) at a young age and surgical hair restoration do not go together.
Unfortunately, surgical hair restoration has limitations, and it is surgically impossible to restore your hair to the level of density that you once had as a child. Most teenagers and young adults who want to undergo hair transplantation expect to have their adolescent hairline and density back. While this is understandable, it’s not surgically possible.
Male pattern baldness is a progressive condition that gets worse over time. The area that requires hair is expanding and the area known as the donor supply is reducing. This presents a problem for young patients, because they don’t want to go from bald to balding. Furthermore, patients who lose their hair at an early age- usually reach a Norwood 7 level of hair loss, as illustrated in the picture.
No ethical hair transplant surgeon would perform a hair transplant on a patient who hasn’t reached adulthood yet. It is impossible to know what hair is safe to transplant at the tender age of 17. In some cases, the patient may not have a permanent donor supply. This phenomenon is called Diffused Unpatterned Alopecia (DUPA). The transplanted hair could potentially thin and bald over time, even worse the patients would be left with a scalp full of scars.
We recommend treating the hair loss first, with medications like Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil). Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor that stops the conversion of testosterone in to DHT. DHT is the hormone responsible for triggering hair loss. Minoxidil is a topical solution that prolongs the anagen (growth) phase of the hair follicles, which delays the balding process significantly.
Most patients should not consider surgery until they’re in their 20’s, and even then they should plan for the future, and educate themselves on the limitations associated with hair loss. We’ve heard “I won’t care what I look like when I’m___old”. This is something only a naive young person would say, you will care what you look like at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and as long as you live.
Written and published by,
Melvin Lopez- Editorial Assistant and Forum Co-Moderator for the Hair Transplant Network and The Coalition of Independent Hair Restoration Physician