What is a Body Hair Transplant (BHT)?
A body hair transplant (BHT) is a procedure that transplants hair from the chest, back, legs, arms, or other sources to a balding area of the scalp using follicular unit extraction (FUE) techniques and tools. A secondary and less common type of BHT is transplanting hair from the scalp to areas of the body such as the beard, eyebrows and even the chest to augment the lack of hair in these areas. This is a very rare procedure so for the rest of this description we will focus on the transplantation of body hair to the scalp.
Body Hair and Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a male sex hormone that causes genetic baldness by residing in the scalp’s tissues in concentrations that are large enough to prevent hair growth by cutting off the follicle from its nourishing blood supply. Body hair is less susceptible to DHT than scalp hair (with the exception of a horseshoe-shaped strip of hair on the back of the scalp known as the “donor zone”). Therefore, a BHT often provides new donor hairs that are impervious to DHT’s harmful effects.
When are Body Hair Transplants Commonly Used?
Clinics will sometimes use BHTs in combination with more common hair transplant methods (such as a follicular unit extraction (FUE) or a follicular unit strip surgery (FUSS) to increase the overall density of the new hair. In other words, combining a BHT with an FUE or FUT can possibly increase the appearance of thickness within the hair due to the additional number of hairs available for transplantation above and beyond what is found in the traditional scalp donor zone.
A 2013 study listed by NCBI however, notes that it should be saved as a method of last resort in cases where no donor hair from the occipital portion of the scalp is available. With this suggestion in mind, a body hair transplant may be a possible solution if the patient is going through diffuse unpattern alopecia (DUPA), which is when the hairs on the donor zone also succumb to DHT, and are no longer viable candidates for a transplantation.
Will Body Hair Grow the same Length as the Rest of My Scalp Hair?
The same 2013 study notes that body hair will “grow longer when transplanted to a scalp” as a result of “recipient influence”. Recipient influence is when the transplanted hair adopts similar characteristics as the new area it was transplanted to. In this case, transplanting body hair increases the potential length of the hair, which suggests that the anagen (growth) phase of the body hair has also increased to allow the hair to grow in a similar fashion as the rest of the hair on the scalp. On a similar note, the time period for the catagen (shedding) phase of the transplanted hair has also likely lessened.
Reasons why Body Hair Transplants are not more popular
BHTs are not commonly used because not all patients have a sufficient amount of body hair to make a cosmetic improvement, the hairs themselves are smaller and more difficult to extract, the hairs typically are found in 1-2 hair follicular units (meaning that they do usually provide a high-density hair coverage). Anesthesia is not always effective (which means the procedure is painful), and the procedure is relatively new compared to other methods.
Body Hair Transplant Evidence
BHT is an under-researched method of hair restoration, and evidence from clinical trials is lacking. The 2013 study notes a 63-year-old male who experienced such a degree of success with his BHT that he had to change his passport photo to match his new appearance. The study followed him for over two-and-a-half years and noted his satisfaction with the procedure.