Some men embrace the balding process and good for them but they seem in the minority. So if you have your heart set on a hair transplant then you are not alone, in fact celebrities have been at it for ages. In 2011 Wayne Rooney tweeted “Just to confirm to all my followers I‘ve had a hair transplant”. Ricky Martin, Sting, James Nesbitt and Jude Law to name just a few have all undergone the operation with huge success. In fact the procedure is now considered very routine with the industry reportedly worth a staggering £14.8 billion a year. That isn’t to say it doesn’t come with risks so we sat down with one of the UK’s leading experts Dr Reddy at The Private Clinic based on Harley Street of London to get his professional opinion on some of the biggest questions you might have.
Which is better? Individual hair follicle transplants (FUE) or a strip of hair (FUT)
Before we get into this, a little bit of history. Believe it or not, hair transplants began in the 1950's with hair plugs. Surgeons removed small patches of skin / hair and transplanted them to the balding areas. Luckily this expensive and incredibly patchy solution is no longer used and FUE and FUT were born.
FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) is the most popular procedure, it's also more expensive but it is far more efficient. Anaesthetised, shafts are individually harvested (often one by one) from a 'safe zone' round the sides and back of your head and transplanted to the receding/bald areas. The process does take time but can have amazing results and also has the added benefit of little to no visible signs that hair was even taken from the donor area.
FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) on the other hand is where under anesthetic, strips containing many follicles are cut from the sides and back of the patients head. These strips are then redistributed across the balding areas. FUT is cheaper but it takes longer to heal and can leave a thick scar where the hair was removed. Therefore it's now considered outdated and FUE is generally the best method.
Which surgeon should I go for?
This is the single most important question to ask! The internet is full of videos and articles like this but ultimately you will need to find someone you can trust, that you have faith in to carry out the procedure with the level of skill and care you require. Knowing where to start can difficult but a great place to begin your search is the international alliance of hair restoration surgeons (iahrs.org). Once you have narrowed down the search, make sure to visit each clinic and ask for a free consultation with the surgeon in question, look at examples of their work and if you can see any patient testimonials. Ultimately the better the surgeon, the better the transplant will be, reducing the risk of scarring and the need for repeated implants.
Will it hurt?
Most people are pleasantly surprised how little pain there is, when you read about the procedure it seems a tad gruesome but the local anaesthetic and repeated breaks all help. Post-op you might experience some mild pain but nothing that your standard painkillers can’t suppress. Essentially this is the similar to any minor surgical operation, you will experience some mild side effects, but remember no pain, no gain.
How long will i need off work
For the optimum hair transplant, good recovery and after-care are essential. The more rest you can give yourself the better but we are all busy people these days so the general advice is about 3 to 5 days. Your surgeon will inform you personally about what to expect but there is really nothing to worry about.
Scarring / side effects
As a general rule any resultant scarring should be invisible to the untrained eye within a month or so and for most people this will ultimately be hidden under existing hair. Top tip, ask your surgeon to show you photos of his work including scarring before deciding to go ahead.
How do I hide the opp
If you don’t want everyone to know you'll need a minimum of two weeks in hiding, primarily so all the swelling has disappeared. Remember you won’t be able to wear a hat straight away as your scalp will be swollen at first and the back of your head where the donor hair is from maybe be bandaged. After two weeks everything should have all settled down and you can wear a hat and life will return to normal, just be prepared to answer questions from your friends and or colleagues about your appearance and mystery holiday. Pro tip, stick to your story and you will be fine.
When will my new hair show
Hair growth is a slow process even in a person who doesn't experience hair loss, therefore after you have the operation initial signs of growth can take anything from three to four months due to the hairs natural growing cycle. If your new hair falls out do not panic! This is generally a sign that your new hair is pushing out the donated hair. Remember it's the root that's transplanted, not the hair itself. In summary full results should be visible in under a year so book your operation in the autumn to get your barnet summer ready!
Will it last
The good news is that the hair follicles that are transplanted are more likely to be those that are genetically-resistant against baldness so in theory they should continue to grow over your lifetime, however you will still notice hair loss on different areas of your head as you age. Depending on the severity of this, it might mean you need another hair transplant in the future but drugs like propecia can slow and even stabilize this. Speak to your surgeon / doctor about it to get more detailed info.
What will it cost
The cost of a hair transplant can vary dramatically and is generally based on the amount of hair that is to be transplanted, the reputation of your surgeon and the location of their practice. In summary budget around £5,000-£15,000 for surgery in the UK. Thinking of getting the procedure on the NHS? Unfortunately, that's unlikely. Hair transplants are considered cosmetic surgery thus it isn't usually covered.
Should I travel abroad?
Travelling abroad has definitely become more popular with men undertaking the surgery in places like; Thailand, Turkey and India but unfortunately as with almost everything in life you get what you pay for. Yes there are some good surgeons but how good is the clinic? What happens if something goes wrong, how are you going to do any follow up consultations and who manages your treatment in your home country? The standard advice is to find a reputable hair surgeons in your own country and do your research. Remember to often in life if you buy cheap you buy twice!
On That Note
So there you have it, if your heart's set on having a hair transplant we've run down everything you need to know. Although expensive, FUE can do wonders for hair loss sufferers usually with great results and minimal risk. Just remember, with anything in life always do the research yourself and if in doubt please speak to a medical professional as we (The Idle Man) are journalists, not surgeons.