If your genetic hair loss is already far advanced, especially in the case of male pattern baldness, a transplant with your own hair can become impossible as you do not have enough hair remaining in the donor areas to cover the area of hair loss.
In this case, the idea of giving your hair a helping hand with a hair transplant using another person’s hair can seem tempting. This can especially be the case if there is someone in your circle of acquaintances whose hair colour and structure is very similar to your own.
Sadly, a hair transplant with someone else’s hair, even if the hairs are from one person related to you, is impossible. The immune system would immediately recognise the hair follicles as foreign bodies and attack them. Transplanted hair would fall out again without the follicles having had a chance to grow in.
The immune system is a highly complex system that successfully fends off disease because it has both innate and learning protective mechanisms.
One of these innate protective mechanisms is that every cell in the body carries a certain sign by which the immune system recognises whether it belongs to the body or if it is a foreign object.
At first glance, it might not seem logical that the immune system attacks dead tissue such as hair. However, it is not only the hair itself that is transplanted, but also the hair follicle, from which the hair is formed. It is the transplanted hair follicle from which the donor hair grows back.
The hair follicle is connected to the bloodstream when it is inserted into the scalp. This activates the immune system. Every healthy cell in our body has a certain mark on its body. The cells of the transplanted follicles do not have this. Therefore, they are immediately attacked by white blood cells.
In addition, the body starts to produce antibodies against the new cells, which causes the foreign hair follicles to fall out even faster.
Is there anyone who can donate hair to me?
Even donors from the same family or with similar hair structures and colour carry different genetic markers in their cells, so they are not eligible either. The follicles would be destroyed by the immune system and the hair could no longer grow. The effort of hair transplantation would be in vain.
Why does the body accept someone else’s organs but not hair?
In an organ transplant, the organs are not rejected by the body because the immune system is suppressed with so-called immunosuppressants. However, these drugs suppress not only the immune defence against the transplanted organ, but the entire immune system. This is why people who have had an organ donated are more susceptible to diseases, such as cancer.
It is worth suppressing the immune system to induce the body to accept an organ that is vital to life, such as a liver or heart. Hair, being less important, is not worth compromising the body’s entire defence system for.
What are the alternatives to a hair transplant with another person's hair?
A hair transplant with artificial hair
In a synthetic hair transplant, bio-fibres are implanted. The material is fibre that is similar in structure and colour to your own hair.
Biofibres do not grow and are a foreign body just like someone else’s hair. They are usually fought by the immune system less aggressively because they are not connected to the bloodstream. Nevertheless, the body very often reacts with redness and other allergic reactions.
A patient needs a certain amount of luck for the body to accept the biofibres. Therefore, reputable hair transplant clinics do not usually offer this form of hair transplantation.
• Hair pigmentation
Hair pigmentation can be used to imitate a shaved head. Also, bald spots that appear between long hairs can also be covered by hair pigmentation. In this way, thin transplanted hair can be given additional fullness.
• A transplant with your own hair
Even if the patient is almost fully bald, it may be possible to have a hair transplant. It may be that there are still enough intact follicles in the donor area, but they are inactive. In combination with PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatment and growth agents, these follicles can potentially be reactivated.
Also, grafts from the scalp can be supplemented with grafts from beard, chest, and back hair. This allows larger bald areas to be covered.
With the FUE method, every single follicle can be removed and strategically transplanted to a different location. In this way, bald patches can be transformed back into full hair.