The roots of modern day surgical hair restoration were cultivated in Japan
in the late 1930s. In 1939, Japanese dermatologist Dr. Okuda detailed his
groundbreaking work in surgical hair restoration for burn victims. He described
using a punch technique to extract round sections of hair-bearing skin, which
were then implanted into slightly smaller round holes made in the scarred or
burned areas of the scalps of his patients. After the skin grafts healed, they
continued to produce hair in the previously bald areas of scalp.
In 1943 another Japanese dermatologist refined Okuda's technique by using
significantly smaller grafts of one to three hairs to replace lost pubic hair
in his female patients. Dr. Tamura used an elliptical incision to extract the
donor tissue from the patient's scalp and then dissected each individual graft.
Interestingly, Tamura's technique was very similar to the techniques being used
The groundbreaking work of both these Japanese innovators was lost for more
than a decade and remained completely unknown to Western medicine until after
the World War II, when documentation of these procedures were found and
In 1952, Dr. Norman Orentreich, a New York dermatologist, performed the
first known hair transplant in the U.S. on a man suffering from male pattern
baldness. Orentreich essentially reinvented modern-day hair
Seven years later, after much criticism, Orentreich published his findings
and set forth his theory of "donor dominance" in the Annals of the New York
Academy of Sciences. His work demonstrated that the hair from the back and the
sides of a man's scalp was for the most part resistant to the balding process.
But his technique mirrored the less aesthetically "punch graft" process of
Okuda instead of the more natural, smaller grafting technique of Tamura.
It wasn't until the mid 1990s that surgical hair restoration produced
natural-looking results. Newer techniques, such as follicular unit micro
grafting, follicular unit transplantation, and follicular unit extraction, have
made hair transplantation a virtually undetectable, viable option for many hair
Published on March 1, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from the American Hair Loss Association