This concept, follicular unit, may be one of the ones you have read the most if you are looking for information about alopecia and you have thought about getting hair. However, it is often confused with other terms such as hair follicle or even with hair itself. We are going to talk about this concept so that you can get to know it in depth.
What is a follicular unit?
A follicular unit is an area of our skin that is made up of between one and four hair follicles, with the rare exception that there may be more.
The hair follicle is the set of elements on which the hair begins to grow (bulb, stem cells, blood tissue, papilla, erector muscle, glands, etc.).
A single hair will be born from each follicle, so the more follicles a follicular unit has, the more hairs it will have.
Thus, we can say that follicular units are groups of hairs in variable quantity depending on a series of characteristics.
To give you an idea. A young, healthy person in their 20s will have up to four million bulbs, about 180 to 200 per square centimetre, which translates to about 120,000 hairs. Of course, these numbers can vary. Moreover, from this age onwards, they start to be lost.
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Follicular unit characteristics
The number of follicles varies depending on the person's race and hair colour.
- Asian. Each unit includes only one hair follicle and thus only one hair. This feature is not seen again in other subjects; it only occurs when a follicle empties because its hairs die and eventually only one hair remains, but conventionally, only Asian genes include this feature.
- People with African genes have a follicular unit consisting of two follicles and two corresponding hairs.
- Caucasians. In this case, Caucasians have the most advantage, with up to four follicles and hairs per unit.
- Interestingly, redheads have the lowest hair density and blondes have the most hair per follicular unit.
Follicular units and hair transplantation
The relationship between the two concepts is very clear and simple. Hair transplants are carried out by follicular units. That is, you are going to pay for a service that consists of the extraction and subsequent reimplantation of a closed number of follicular units. Thus, a person with a follicular unit of four follicles will end up with four implanted hairs while a person with only one follicle per unit will obviously have only one hair.
This means that one patient can leave our clinic with 4000 new hairs and another with 16000, because, as we say, we work with packages of follicular units, regardless of the number of hairs that each one contains.
For this reason it is essential to have a prior diagnosis and listen very carefully to the assessment of a professional. It will be the professional who knows, better than anyone, what the final result could be like, as he/she will be able to see how many hairs per unit you have and, therefore, will estimate the number of hairs that can be grafted in your less populated areas.