A Brief History of Hair Transplants

Not just a modern cosmetic invention, the history of the hair transplant goes back decades into the early twentieth century- from single grafts of hair right through to the success of the FUE Hair Transplant system. Though it is entirely possible that forms of a transplant existed centuries ago, the first recorded successful transplants actually took place in Japan during the 1930s. Hairs were removed from areas of the body and then placed upon the head, body and pubis by Japanese physicians. However, due to the turmoil of World War Two and information about this procedure being written entirely in Japanese, the procedure was not known in the Western world until two decades later. 

The first hair transplant surgery was performed by Dr Norman Orentreich in 1952 in New York City. Designed to aid male pattern baldness, Orentreich published his findings in a paper in 1959 which explained the procedure of moving hair from one part of the body to another. The study was revolutionary, and surgeons began expanding hair transplant procedures across the United States. 

However, by the 1980s, the process of hand moving one to four hairs at a time to one area of the body was becoming outdated and slow. Researchers began to explore new avenues of hair transplant technology. Dr Orentreich’s style had become known as a ‘hair plug’, which was generally seen as an unfashionable choice for baldness. So, during the late 80s and early 90s, scientists developed micro and mini grafting, which softened the hairline and still filled in the missing hair, creating a more natural and less noticeable look for the patient

By the 1990s, Drs Bernstein and Rassman had perfected the technique coined as FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) which was more time-consuming and required more skill, but often gave greater results. It would be the most popular method of hair transplantation until a new technique was perfected in 2005. 

FUE (Follicular Unit Excision) had its beginnings in the late 90s and early 2000s and was developed to address issues of scarring within patients who had undergone hair transplants through other methods. The method, though derided by some surgeons initially for being time-consuming and potentially more harmful to patients, has been developed significantly so that minimal scarring is created during surgery. It remains the most popular method of hair transplantation used by surgeons today.


May Capobianco