How long have doctors been transplanting hair?

Historians say the hair restoration field probably began in the 1930s in Japan. Experiments focused on skin, hair and roots taken from one area of the body then moving them to other areas that had been disfigured in accidents or by war injuries.

By the 1950s, American dermatologist Norman Orentreich published articles explaining how hairy skin could be moved from one area to an area without hair -- and actually take the genetics with it. Orentreich proved the theory of donor dominance, which says hair, when moved, will continue to grow as if it were in its original site. That is the reason permanent hair on the sides of the head and the back of the head have become the preferred donor sites for transplant. Orentreich was the first to suggest transplantation could replace hair lost by a balding person.

According to Dr. Stephen Cotlar, the number one cosmetic procedure performed on men today is hair transplant surgery. The transplant explosion of the past decade is because of the superior results now over previous attempts at hair transplant. Techniques have been improved greatly. Still, Cotlar says, the basic concept of hair transplantation is more or less the same as when it was first performed.

The most significant difference in transplantation today is related to graft, or plug, size. Smaller grafts provide better results. They contain fewer hairs and, therefore, result in less clumping of transplanted hairs. Grafts now are referred to as mini-grafts or micro-grafts.

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