Like with anything that becomes more common it doesn’t take long before you know a friend of a friend or someone closer who takes the plunge and has it done. You have lots of questions and you just want somebody you trust to give you the honest lowdown and then you can decide whether it’s something to seriously consider or dismiss and move on.
I’ve been thinking about hair transplants recently. They are becoming much more common, more affordable and are a physical solution to the "problem" of male baldness. There are so many products and supplements targeting the Achilles’ heel of men losing their hair and prey on the desperation to find a solution, but, to me, a physical solution seems the most logical and reasonable answer.
I’m not hung up on my hairloss, but, if somebody said you could have a full head of hair, of course, I would say “yes”. I’ve asked two friends who recently have had the procedure, completely anonymously, their honest thoughts and whether they would recommend it. Here’s what they had to say:
CG: How did the procedure work in practise? Was it painful? Sore?
1) “The procedure took part over the course of two days. Eight hours per day, four hours extracting the hairs from the donor area at the back of the head and four hours implanting the new hairs to the front of the head. Unfortunately, I didn't take well from the meds on the first day so I did feel a level of soreness (they can only put a certain amount of local anaesthetic in the head as it has an adverse effect if they add too much). Discomfort came from laying in the same position for eight hours.”
2) “I had a hair transplant, so the ‘roots’ of my hair were transplanted from one area – called ‘the donor area’ – to the places where hair was missing. The donor area is around the side and back of your head, and the missing areas for me were quite common in many men, the crown and the top of my hairline at the left and right.
They shave the donor area down, they extract the hairs one by one and place them on a petri dish. Incisions are made in the areas that will be receiving the hairs. Obviously you’re under anaesthetic – that is, arguably, the most painful part – so you can’t feel anything, but you can most certainly hear it. It sounds like a knife cutting a raw carrot. So it’s not that it’s painful, really, it’s just that you have a rush of adrenaline because you’re expecting it to be painful. Obviously it can be quite bloody, so it’s not for the faint-hearted…
Don’t forget that each hair was transplanted individually in my case – I felt this would look better than transplanting sections of hair (grafting rather than transplant).”
CG: Was it how you expected? Did you get the results you wanted?
1) “When you have a surgery like this, you don't believe that you can get amazing results as it seems too good to be true. But, a year on I am thrilled with my results and have certainly grown in confidence.”
2) “I think it was exactly how I expected it to be, perhaps a little quicker. I was expecting it to take about eight hours and I was probably done in six, including lunch. The thing with this procedure is it takes up to eight months to really show properly, so you get a bit impatient waiting to see results. It’s also good to go into it knowing that you may need a second and third transplant for it to really take, or to get the kind of density you want.
“But now, almost nine months on, I actually have hair growing in what were previously bald spots. And not just fuzzy little hairs, we’re talking long actual comb-aside hairs. It makes me laugh because obviously you’re not sat there watching it, and suddenly one day you go ‘hang on, I don’t actually have bald spots any more’.
“I think the most telling thing is that I always, always used to wear a hat. It was kind of my ‘thing’. But I don’t anymore. I didn’t make a conscious decision, I just kind of stopped. And I realised that it had really affected my confidence and this transplant had changed all that.
In fact, I’m growing my hair long now. Just to see. Because I can!”
CG: What has been - if any - the biggest disappointment(s)?
1) “After the donor hair is implanted and it starts to go back, after about two months your hair sheds to the same as it looked before. You have to be really patient to see growth, which happens at a slow pace.”
2) "The only disappointment I can say, and this is nothing to do with the actual procedure and everything to do with my age, is that the new hair – i.e. the hair from the back of my head – is growing in grey and wiry! I suppose I could dye it, but I’m going to embrace being a silver fox.”
“I suppose you could add one thing about disappointments. I had hoped it might be a bit thicker, but I guess that’s down to my age and hair being thinner – and obviously being forewarned that I might need a second transplant to get the desired effect. But having said that, I have hair where previously I had none and that’s pretty amazing!”
CG: Would you say it was worth the money?
1) “I was lucky enough to be in a position where I was a case study for the clinic, so did not pay - however, the surgery was valued at 8.5K and I feel it would be worth the money if I was in a position where I had to pay for it.”
2) “It’s costly, but not something that you want to do on the cheap - you’ve got to get it done properly. So I would say, personally in my case, it was worth the money.”
CG: Would you recommend it?
1) “Absolutely, it's improved my confidence beyond belief.”
2) “I would definitely recommend it to anyone bothered by hair loss that can afford the procedure.”
CG: Is there any on-going maintenance or follow ups?
1) “You have the opportunity to start again with your hair, so it's important to use good shampoos (Aveda), wash hair daily, hair masks and hair oils to keep it in top condition.”
2) “The first week is slightly odd, as you have to sleep as though you’re sitting up in a plane – you can’t lay flat on your back. And it’s your natural instinct to do that. You have to spray the transplants all through the day, and you can’t wash it for the first few days. A minor inconvenience for what you’re ultimately going to get though. And it’s quite gratifying after a week or so to be able to knock off the tiny scabs… Too much information? Well, you are having multiple incisions made into your scalp!”
So, overall, it seems very positive. It does feel like a big commitment as the operation is lengthy and I would like to be reassured I could stick it out. The prices are still fairly high, but from these testimonies it seems to be worth it.