Undergoing a hair transplant is a momentous, even life-changing, step – but it can also be a disappointment. I’ve had ten such receding hairline treatments, and heave learned the hard way that the most important thing you can do before going under the knife is get informed.
Here, then, are my answer to all the questions that commonly crop up among balding men …
1. How much will it cost?
There are three obvious variants at play here: where you go to get it done, who performs the procedure, and the size of the area you need treating.
First, location. Travelling abroad has become popular with men seeking this surgery on the cheap, with options in Thailand, Turkey and India. Unfortunately, as with almost everything in life, you get what you pay for. Better to save up for longer and get something lasting than run the risk of a bodge job, in my opinion.
Second, the ‘who’ question. In the Europe and USA, there are countless reputable hair transplant surgeons. Some will charge more based on longevity and reputation, their surgery’s location and how up to date the equipment is that they use. Others will charge less and be just as effective and this is where extensive research comes in. Do your research and weigh up all options. The more reading, the better.
Lastly, the treatment area. If you only need to resolve a thinning, receding hairline, the cost will likely be in the region of £5,000-£8,000. If your hair is a long way gone and you need the entire top sorted then it’s likely you’re looking at a couple of larger procedures, costing £10,000-12,000 each.
2. Who should I go to for my surgery?
The million-dollar question. Anyone you ask will have their own recommendations and horror stories but you really must do your own research and due diligence. I recommend spending twelve months researching clinics and meeting patients. There are only a handful of clinics I would trust with my own head, so don’t rush in.
Top tip: Start by researching the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons (IAHRS.org), which will help you find suitable surgeons in your area. If you must travel further afield, say to a major city outside your local vicinity, do what it takes to feel a hundred per cent sure. Choosing the right surgeon for you is the most important factor in your decision making process.
3. How much will it hurt?
Honestly, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. When you read about the procedure, it seems a tad gruesome – but the fact is, there’s no pain with the surgery, just a little discomfort. Think of it like getting a filling done at the dentist. You have anaesthetic so there’s no pain but you may not like being at the dentist.
The discomfort comes from being in the chair for up to ten hours for the entire process to be completed, though you will get regular breaks.
Post-op, you might experience some mild pain but nothing that your standard painkillers can’t manage for a few days, just like with any minor surgical procedure.
Top tip: No pain, no gain. But it’s truly nothing to write home about.
4. How noticeable will the scarring be?
Follicular unit grafting requires tiny incisions to the recipient area and any resultant scarring is generally invisible to the untrained eye. There will also be a small scar from the donor area at the back of your scalp, but it will be hidden under existing hair.
Top tip: Ask your surgeon to show you photos of his work, including scarring, before deciding to go ahead. Meet patients too.
5. How long before signs of growth are visible?
Hair growth is a slow process, even in a person who doesn’t experience hair loss. After you have the procedure, initial signs of growth can take anything from three to four months due to the hair’s natural growing cycle. Beyond that, it’s all gravy! As your hair starts to grow, the full effects will take around eight months. At one year post-op, you’ll see the full effect.
Top tip: Keep your expectations in check and remember that hair is a bit like money: you will always want more.
6. Will everyone know?
You’ll need a minimum of three weeks out of the loop – or you can wear a hat – due to the healing process, as the surgical area will be red and a little obvious. The area will be shaved down to provide an ideal surgical environment and to protect existing hairs.
After the procedure, the hair grows in very slowly but as time passes, you’ll probably have people asking if you’ve lost weight; they’ll notice ‘something’ but won’t be able to pinpoint the physical change in you, especially if you’ve only had minimal work done.
Top tip: No need to tell anyone. Lots of guys get away with no one figuring it out.
7. Will the results be permanent?
The hair follicles that are transplanted are genetically-resistant against baldness so they will, in theory, continue to grow over your lifetime. However …
Top tip: You’ll still notice hair loss on different areas of your head, and may choose to explore the option of another transplant procedure in the future.
8. When will I need the next hair transplant?
This really depends on you. A useful approach is to build a solid foundation ahead of surgery by stablishing your hairloss through medical treatment, with a drug such as finasteride. This will give you a sense of your hair’s stability, and prevent against further loss. Consult your doctor as a first port of call.
Top tip: Hair loss is progressive, so keep one eye on the long term when considered a transplant.
9. How long will I need to rest?
You’ll generally only need to take it easy for a couple of days after the procedure. Take it easy while allowing your body to recover.
Top tip: Avoid over-exerting yourself and leave the gym, running and any sexual activity for at least ten days.
10. Will I lose more hair because of the surgery in the area?
When work is done in areas where there is existing hair, you could possibly lose some of those hairs. It’s called ‘shock loss’ and happens especially if the hair is weak and miniaturising (which is why you’re having the work done in the first place). If your hair is too weak, it may not return, but if it’s strong, then it’ll remain.
Top tip: Choosing the right surgeon is vital as their skill levels can vary greatly.
The one thing you should remember
Homework is critical. Your results, the amount you spend and how much better you feel after your hair transplant all depend on doing proper research well in advance. Never rush in to a hair transplant procedure or it will cost you a lot more in the long run, and not just financially.