Dear Dr Poole, I have been thinking about having a hair transplant. I have gone naturally bald, at quite an early age, I am 35, and it embarrasses me. Can you please tell me about the procedure. How painful is it, how long does it take, will the new hair look natural, and will it last or will I have to go through the whole thing again in the future? Many thanks, Mr H from Calpe.
Hello Mr. H, Unfortunately to most, losing hair is part of any man’s life and this is an ongoing process that starts with puberty and is very much related to hormonal and genetic conditions. Male hormones such as testosterone induce the growth of hair follicles all over the body but it will reduce it, sometimes drastically, over the head.
Hair can be transplanted from areas such as the back of the head were follicles are more resistant, to the frontal and parietal areas where it is missing.
The techniques vary but mostly consist of taking the follicles one by one or in small groups. It is normally done in one session under local anaesthesia and the patient can go back home the same day. There will be certainly some amount of swelling in the initial 3-4 days after which normal life can be resumed wearing a cap. Pain killers and/or antibiotics may be needed.
The now transplanted hair implants may eventually lose the contained hair in the root but new hairs will develop and begin to show as early as ten days later. It will take about 2-3 months until hair has grown back again.
It used to be a tiring operation for the surgeon as the follicles have to be taken and then implanted one by one but in recent years a machine has been made to ease the job. It has to be handled by the surgeon who carefully selects the best follicles and then “punches” and vacuums them one by one. The device stores them and then they are re-implanted in the established order.
In recent years hair implant procedures have become a speciality of their own in cosmetic surgery, and therefore some clinics, who only dedicate to it, have this sort of equipment.
There are countries like Turkey where there has been reported an increase of “Health tourism” because of this and they make extraordinary offers that include the whole operation, the stay in a local hotel and the flight for around 2000€.
Figures talk of at least 200.000 Spaniards having been treated so far in that country and a lot more from other European countries and the results seem to be as good as the ones done locally.
The results are lasting enough to say that are permanent but hair will still fall in some of the non treated areas and may require some additional “top up” or if the patient wants it more abundant, a second session can be performed one year later.
In any case, my feeling is that although it seems unfortunate to lose hair at the age of 35, nowadays I don’t think that is a reason to be embarrassed. Hair is no longer the sign of youth as it was in the 60s, the looks of “modern balds” like Jason Statham or Bruce Willis who shave their heads, can be seen as highly attractive.