One of the major topics that patients ask about hair transplant surgery is “What is the recovery process like?” or “When can I go back to work?” I try to frame the answer in such a way as to help that person understand the situation as well as possible so that he can make a decision regarding when to go back to work and how he will look and feel during the recovery process.

3 days after hair transplant with notable forehead and eyelid swelling

To boil it down, the number one problem that can arise during the early recovery phase is swelling. I would say about 30% of my patients have significant swelling in the forehead area for the first 2 to 5 days that could last as long as 7 days but I have not seen it last longer than that. The swelling typically works its way down the forehead to the eyes down the cheeks into the neck area before being resorbed. This makes social encounters difficult the first week without sunglasses to hide the situation. You can use your hands to push the swelling around the sides of the eyes down into the cheeks where the distortion is less. This distortion occurs more commonly when transplanting the hairline and central midscalp but far less commonly when transplanting the crown region.

Scabs can also be visible in the first week in the area of transplantation. This is perhaps the second most visible sign you have had a procedure done. After the first 24 hours with the method that we show you, you can wear a baseball cap or hat to cover the scabs if you cannot cover them with your existing hair. After the first 7 days, we will show you how to remove all the remaining scabs so you should be fine to go back to work after the first week.

The third most important element to recovery is some mild to moderate discomfort and tightness in the donor area, i.e., the back of the head where the grafts were taken. Most individuals only experience mild discomfort for the first 2 to 4 days but others feel more uncomfortable achiness that requires some narcotic medications to manage. If you are on narcotic medications, it is very important to be taking a stool softener before you become constipated not afterward.

The final point to make is that down the road between weeks 4 to 8 there can be something devastating known as telogen effluvium, which refers to shock loss. Everyone is prone to it no matter how much “protection” you are on, meaning using finasteride (Propecia) and minoxidil (Rogaine) beforehand. It is something that starts to come back 2 to 3 months later slowly but it is important to mention so that all patients are aware of this possibility.

Although there are other topics to cover regarding care instructions in the first week and when hair starts to grow in, they are topics for other blog articles. This article focuses more on social and professional integration after a hair-transplant procedure.

Dr Lam is a board certified hair restoration surgeon in Dallas, Texas. To schedule a consultation please call 1-888-866-3388, or visit Dr Lam’s hair restoration forum to ask him a question.