In this fourth and last in a series on male pattern baldness we're taking an honest look at hair transplants. If you're thinking this option is a final fix for a fine forelock then read on.
For some time now, footballers have set a vogue in hairstyles. David Beckham led the way in everything from the buzz cut to braids, but it was Wayne Rooney who trended in the news in 2011 when he confirmed on Twitter he'd had a hair transplant. Rooney's decision to have a transplant was a milestone in the hair loss industry, breaking down the barriers surrounding men's hair loss and sparking a rise in hair transplant surgery. Men, once only inwardly considering a hair transplant, began to openly voice their intentions of undergoing surgery with less fear of ridicule.
Like many men in the process of losing their hair, Rooney was very sensitive to hair related comments. Days before Rooney underwent surgery, Michael Owen tweeted: "How old are you in that photo? Your face looks like a 12 year olds but your hair looks like a 60 year old!".
"Easy mo u know that's a sensitive subject," was Rooney's response.
With a new head of hair, and "In a happier place", Rooney was more focussed, more in control and played a better game. Though the improvement in Rooney's playing is more likely attributed to taking some time off to "Do nothing" it may also have something to do with feeling good about his hair. More here.
Perhaps you feel a hair transplant is the boost you need. You've experimented with different hairstyles to combat a receding hairline. You may even have gone the next step and embarked on a program of Finasteride or Minoxidil, or both, but the results aren't to your liking. Before rushing in it's worth taking a step back and considering what a hair transplant involves, what the costs are, and the results?
What Is A Hair Transplant?
Firstly, a hair transplant isn't a cure for baldness; it doesn't result in the regrowth of new hair in the areas being lost. Some might understand that transplanting hair results in a tillering-like growth where new roots are formed. It doesn't. Essentially, a hair transplant is cosmetic surgery, taking hair from the back or sides of the head and transplanting them in the balding area. The overall look of the transplant is dependent on the number of hairs removed from one part of the scalp and transferred to another.
What it Involves
Two main techniques are used to obtain follicles for transplantation: Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE).
Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT)
This method involves cutting a strip of skin from the back or sides of the of the head, typically several inches long. The incision is stitched or stapled together. The strip is divided into smaller sections, each section containing a number of hairs depending on the degree of coverage in the balding area.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
This method involves cutting individual units of hair follicles from the back or sides of the head using a punch approximately 1mm in diameter. The amount of units removed is dependent on the amount of coverage required in the balding area and could total thousands of extractions.
Both FUT and FUE methods result in scarring. Where FUT has been employed scarring is more obvious but can be hidden beneath a longer grade haircut. The FUE method results scarring of hundreds or thousands of tiny circular dots distributed across a larger area, which allows for shorter grade hair cuts.
Which Is Best?
The decision on which is best takes into account a number of factors including cost and extent of hair loss. FUE is overtaking FUT as the standard procedure due to medical and technical advancements. The Harley Street Hair Clinic offer FUE as standard. The clinic and surgeon will recommend which method is most suitable during consultation.
Out of the two, FUE is the most costly because it is the most labour intensive. Unlike FUT, which employs a team of a surgeon and a number of technicians, FUE requires the skill and cost of a surgeon to carry out the entire procedure. Many hours of a highly paid surgeon is not cheap. A team of technicians at less cost reduces the time required.
Extent of Hair Loss
Despite the advancements made in FUE, FUT continues to be a common method of hair transplant largely due to the effectiveness of tackling larger areas of hair loss in a comparatively short time.
Transplanted hair is permanent, with little chance of losing it. There might be a small percentage of follicular units that fail to survive but, on the whole, a hair transplant is a sure enough means of tackling a balding head. Several weeks after surgery it's common to shed hair but it will grow back.
Like all things, results are largely dependent on who's carrying out the surgery and what they've got to work with. Assuming the work is carried out by a good surgeon, the scalp is heathy, the donor area of the head is dense and the balding area isn't too extensive, the results are good.
How Much Does It Cost?
Prices vary from as little as £1,500 to £30,000 and up, and a number of factors can influence the wide range in prices. These include: the skill of the surgeon, geographical location, method used (FUT or FUE) and number of units transplanted.
Employing the services of a skilled surgeon is going to cost you a handsome fee. A hair transplant isn't only permanent in that it won't fall out, it's also permanent in that once it's done it can't be undone. Living with a botched job may well be worse than going bald. It's important to do your research and find a surgeon with a good reputation and a good track record.
The cost of living varies from country to country and so will the surgeon's fees. Inexpensive doesn't necessarily equate to poor quality. Again, this is why research is important. Some of the surgeons working at the costly Harley Street Hair Clinic have travelled from abroad where the same work by the same surgeon might be at a fraction of the price.
The hair transplant industry has grown considerably over recent years and, though advancements have been made, it's worth noting that so have the charlatans. There are many great success stories but there are some shockers too. A search for 'hair transplant' on the internet will return an enormous result of clinics promising amazing results at pocket money prices.
There's a lot to consider before rushing into a hair transplant and you would do well to carry out your own research before committing to any permanent changes to your appearance. It's important to reiterate that a hair transplant isn't a cure for male pattern baldness, rather, it's cosmetic surgery.
Though the transplanted hair will remain permanent, existing hair in the regions prone to balding will continue to thin and eventually stop growing back. It is likely that further transplants will be necessary as the process of balding continues. Very likely, the surgeon will recommend a program of Finasteride or Minoxidil, or both to slow down the onset of balding. A link to a previous post on these is below.
Final words - Do your research.
Posts in this series:
4. Hair Transplant - The Bald Truth