Hair Plugs | Pros & Cons, Alternatives

Learn From Doctor Team
Learn From Doctor Team is made up of well-qualified doctors of different fields with brilliant academic results and professional careers. The article is written and reviewed by doctors of this specialty.

What Are Hair Plugs?

Hair plugs are a classic hair transplant technique. The surgeon collects a large area of skin with hair from the back of your head and places them into the bald area in front. 

Hair plugs were a popular method then and performed frequently. However, because of minimal side effects, few people still consider them. 

The surgeon usually takes a 4-centimeter area of skin with hair from the back of your head. This collected skin with hair placed into the scalp of your bald area. 

This technique was first used in 1950 by Dr. Norman Orentreich. There wasn’t enough technology then. This technique could not bring the best result. The appearance often looked unnatural and doll-like. 

Now a day, follicular unit transplantation (FUT) is more popular and accurate. In this procedure, the surgeon collects hair follicles from the back of your head and places them individually into the bald area of your scalp. 

FUT provides a natural-looking appearance without incision marks. 

The Hair plug is the mother of FUT and FUE. 


Hair Plugs History

The hair plugs technique was used from 1950 to 2000 widely. It wasn’t a modern technique. The result was unnatural and far from expectation. 

The hair plugs technique developed over time, and now they are Follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and Follicular unit extraction (FUE). 

The old hair plugs method used takes 16 months to complete the full session. The modern method takes only 4-8 hours to complete the transplantation. 

So, if anybody mentions hair plugs to you, that refers to modern FUT or FUE. 

FUT and FUE take a shorter time and bring the best outcomes. These methods also carry lower risks and potential complications. 

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Hair Plugs Methods

Hair plugs used to be popular back then. There are some common methods used to be followed for hair plugs. 

Punch Graft

A 4 mm hair-bearing cylindrical skin punch is used in this method. A punch usually contains 30 hairs. 

The surgeon place that hair-bearing skin punch into the bald area. This procedure takes 4 to 5 sessions to get a better result. Although this procedure cannot bring a natural-looking outcome, it was the only method available then. 

It takes a longer period and multiple sessions to be completed. Nevertheless, this procedure was one of the popular hair plugs methods until 2000.

Traditional Hair plugs method
Traditional Hair plugs method


In this method, a strip of skin with collected from the donor area and placed into the bald area of the recipient. 

The difference between the mini and micro methods was the number of hair containing in a strip. There were 3-8 hairs in the mini method, and in the micro method, there were 1-4 hairs in a strip. 

This method also needs multiple sessions to get a better outcome. It was better than punch graft. This method provides a somehow natural-looking appearance. 

In the modern era, all these techniques have become useless, and FUT and FUE take their place now. 

Read Laser Hair Removal

Modern Methods of Hair Transplant

As we already mentioned, the hair plugs methods are no longer available. Modern techniques developed from hair plugs. The new methods are associated with modern technology and bring natural outcomes. 

Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)

FUT is the modern version of a micrograft. In this method, the surgeon collects a strip of hair from the donor’s head. 

The strip size is usually 1.5 cm to 30 cm. 

The surgeon separates every individual hair from the strip. Then, healthy hairs are collected and processed. 

Then the hair is placed into the recipient bald area by making a tiny puncture according to the diameter of the hair. 

FUT - Follicular unit transplantation- the modern hair plugs
FUT – Follicular unit transplantation- the modern hair plugs

This method is one of the most common methods using now. It brings the natural outcomes, and the procedure finishes within 4-8 hours. 

Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) 

FUE is almost the same as the FUT. But the FUE brings more natural-looking results. 

In this method, individual healthy hair is collected from the donor rather than collecting the strip. 

The collection and placing of individual hair follicles bring the best result you could imagine. 

FUE takes a little longer than the FUT to be completed. 


Hair Plugs Vs. FUT

FUT method started to perform in 1995 and replaced Hair Plugs in 2000. 

In FUT, The surgeon collects strips of hair from the donor’s head or the patient’s back of the head. 

Then separate the hairs individually and place them into the bald area of the recipient (patient).

FUT is the modern version of hair plugs.

FUT can be done within a shorter period than FUE and is also cost-effective. 

Hair Plugs Vs. FUE

FUE is the most common method of hair transplant now. It’s the modern technique. 

The surgeon collects individual hair follicles from the donor and places them into the bald area of the recipient by making a penetration. 


The Benefits of FUE

  • Faster recovery
  • Best result
  • Natural appearance
  • Less pain and scarring
  • It can be done in those who want to increase the hair density

FUE procedure takes a longer period to be completed. Therefore, this method is quite expensive. 


Hair Plugs Vs. Stem Cell Hair Transplants

Stem cell hair transplant isn’t started everywhere yet. 

In this procedure, skin is collected from your scalp, and the follicle will be replicated in the lab. 

Then the hair follicle will be placed into your head. 

This method is very new and still under research. However, after few years this technique may replace all other techniques. 


Ideal Candidates For Hair Plugs

There are some criteria for being an ideal candidate for a hair transplant. 

  • Hair loss – hair transplant is effective in almost any kind of baldness. The doctor may recommend you some medications after the transplant is done to prevent the hair loss any further. 
  • A hair transplant is most effective in the front of your head.
  • The doctor will evaluate your present and past medical history. Some diseases and conditions may hamper the healing process and create obstacles to getting the best result, such as HIV, diabetes mellitus, thyroid conditions.
  • You are free from allergic reactions.
  • You have realistic expectations.
  • If you have enough hair to collect from the back of your head.
  • If you have thick and black hair.


Consultation For Hair Plugs With Hair Surgeon

During a hair plugs procedure consultation be prepared to discuss;

  • Why do you want hair plugs, and what is your expectation.
  • Your medical conditions.
  • Drug history, allergic history, vitamins, and supplements.
  • Family history of baldness. 

The Surgeon will also;

  • Evaluate your health status by some physical examinations such as measuring blood pressure, pulse.
  • Examine your hair and skin conditions.
  • Takes photos of your hair.
  • Discuss the treatment options, including FUT and FUE
  • Discuss the benefits and risks of hair plugs

Questions To Ask The Surgeon During The Consultation

  • Is he a certified hair surgeon?
  • How many years of training does he have?
  • How many years of experience does he have?
  • Where will the procedure be done? Is it in a hospital or doctor’s chamber?
  • How much time is required to complete the procedure?
  • How many sessions do you need?
  • What are the risks of this procedure?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Can you get your expected result?
  • If any complication arises, how is it handled?
  • What if the result doesn’t meet your expectation?
  • How long is the recovery period?
  • Is the result permanent?
  • The before and after photos of hair transplants done by him.
  • The total cost of the procedure?

If you have any other questions to ask, do not hesitate to ask the doctor. 

Talk openly with the doctor about your expectations. The better you can express your desire, the best result you can have. 


Benefits of Hair Plugs

The traditional hair plugs are gone now. Back then, the benefits were;

  • You have hairs on your head.
  • New hairs may look unnatural, but you don’t have to wear a wig. 
  • You can take a shower and do every work with these hairs. 
  • Hair colors are matched. 
  • You can be confident with your hair. 

In this modern era, if you think about old technique’s benefits, it sounds funny. 


Risks And Potential Complications of Hair Plugs

Traditional hair plugs weren’t modern and provided poor and unnatural results. The potential risks and complications may include;

  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Headache
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Itching

The Modern FUT and FUE procedure comes with larger benefits and minimal side effects. 


Switching From Hair Plugs To Modern Hair Transplant

In the traditional hair plugs method, the surgeon collects a strip of skin with hair from the back of the head and places it into the bald area. 

Those who received hair plugs before can undergo hair transplantation now. The FUT technique is quite best for them. 

In FUT, the surgeon collects strips size around 1.5-4 cm and separates individual hair. Then place them into the bald area. 

For switching hair plugs to the modern FUT technique, there should be enough hair on the back of your head; otherwise you will need a donor. 

Basic method of hair transplantation
Basic method of hair transplantation

Risks And Potential Complications of FUT And FUE

Those who want to switch from hair plugs to modern FUT or FUE should consider the risk and complications before making the decision. The possible side effects may include;

  • Excessive bleeding – Excessive bleeding may occur in some cases.
  • Edema – Edema may occur in the face and upper face region due to the side effects of anesthesia or medications.  
  • Inflammation in the follicles
  • Itching – Itching in the root of the hairs or scalp is a very common side effect. You may have to take medications and avoid some foods to get rid of itching. 
  • Noticeable scarring is quite rare in the modern FUT and FUE method. 
  • Numbness – usually occurs in the donor site. It may felt up to 18 weeks. 
  • Hiccups – Hiccups are usually anesthesia side effects.
  • Infection may occur, and it’s should be treated as an emergency. 

Side effects do not occur so often. However, you should consult with your doctor to get a better view. 


Hair Plugs Cost 

Hair plugs cost is around $800 – $7500. It varies on some factors such as;

  • Location
  • Hospital facility
  • Existing medical conditions
  • Baldness condition

This cost doesn’t include;

  • Anesthesia fee
  • Medication fee

Hair plugs are a cosmetic procedure and do not cover by insurance. However, some hospitals may provide you EMI facilities. 

If you are not satisfied with your hair plugs, you may need to undergo revision surgery to get the desired outcome. 

Talk to your doctor to get the final cost. 


Non Surgical Alternatives of Hair Plugs

The doctor may recommend minoxidil and derma roller. 

  • Minoxidil helps to regrow the hair and thicken the existing hairs. 
  • Derma roller helps to make pores of hair. 


Hair Plugs Summary

Hair plugs are widely used hair transplantation method until 2000. 

The surgeon used to collect strips of skin from the back of the head and place them into the bald area. 

This procedure is used to look unnatural and doll-like.

Nowadays, FUT and FUE are the modern hair transplantation method. They provide a natural appearance and the best outcome. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are hair plugs?

Hair plugs are a traditional hair transplantation method where the surgeon collects a strip of skin with hair from the back of your head and place it into the bald area.

How much are hair plugs?

The Average cost of hair plugs is $800 – $7500. It depends on your location, your hair condition, the time required for your transplantation, etc.

How do hair plugs work?

As your bald area will be replaced by skin with hair, it will hide your bald area. The modern FUT and FUE methods provide natural results.

Are FUT and FUE useful for women?

Of course. FUT and FUE are useful for both males and females. They work best when your hairs are thick and black.

Are hair plugs useful in male pattern baldness?

Traditional hair plugs were not that useful because of their technical limitations. Modern FUT and FUE are useful in any kind of baldness.

Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Learn From Doctor Team

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