Having a hair transplant is a big decision and not one anyone should take lightly. A good procedure can transform a patient's life - improving their appearance, self confidence and even earning power.
There are six key questions anyone should answer before taking the plunge and booking a procedure.
1 Choice of surgeon
This is the most important decision you will make. The right surgeon can make a huge difference to the appearance of your new hair. There are a few small steps you can take to ensure that you pick the right surgeon. The most important consideration is actually meeting your surgeon face-to-face at the first consultation so you can properly plan what procedure is right for you. Lots of clinics in the UK and abroad have sales people as their first points of contact who are more interested in simply booking a fresh procedure than they are in the client's welfare. These types of clinics are to be avoided. Look for surgeon-run clinics such as Crown Clinic where all your needs will be addressed by the surgeon such as our consultant surgeon Asim Shahmalak from day one. You should check the clinic's website for testimonials - multiple, positive recent testimonials are a good sign that you are in good hands. Remember that all UK clinics are regulated by the Care Quality Commission - they can be closed down immediately if they do not meet stringent standards of care. Foreign clinics, particulary those in Turkey, do not face such vigorous regulation. Finally, you should look to see if you are surgeon is affialiated to a recognised medical body such as the BAHRS (British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery).
2 Type of procedure
There are two types of hair transplant procedure carried out by most clinics in the UK. The most popular is FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction), chosen by 80% of patients at Crown Clinic. This is where individual follicles are removed from the donor area on the back and sides of the scalp and replanted in the balding areas. The real skill in hair transplant surgery comes in this replanting. This is where the surgeon really shows their skill by blending the transplanted hair alongside the remaining natural hair for a really natural look. FUE has really grown in popularity in the last five years thanks to high profile celebrity hair transplant cases such as Calum Best from Crown Clinic, Wayne Rooney and other Crown Clinic celebrity patient such as Gogglebox star Chris Steed, soccer star Didi Hamann and Homes Under The Hammer presenter Martin Roberts. A key advantage of FUE is the post-operative scarring is almost invisible. Patients are left with red pin pricks in the donor area and where the new hair is transplanted but these go away after a few weeks.
The second most popular form of hair transplantation is FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation), also known as strip surgery. This is where a strip of skin is surgically removed from the back or side of the scalp to obtain the donor hair and then extracted from the skin under the microscope. The advantage of this method is all the donor hair is taken in one go. It is less time consuming than FUE and therefore more affordable. Some research suggests that more follicles survive this kind of extraction than under FUE. High profile FUE Crown Clinic patients include the TV doctor Christian Jessen. The disadvantage of this method is the scarring from the removal of the strip is more noticeable than under FUE. If you wear your hair reasonably long like Christian the scar is not visible but FUT is not advisable to patients who like to wear their hair shaved or short.
3 Should I go abroad for a treatment?
You may well have seen that hair transplant procedures are cheaper in countries such as Turkey. But do you really want to take a risk on such an important decision on what could be a completely unregulated clinic. The main drawback of going abroad for a procedure is that patients have almost no recourse if the procedure goes wrong or they don't get the result they desired. Do you really want to start legal proceedings in a Turkish court and would you have the first idea about what to do? If you need further care from the surgeon, you will need to fly thousands of miles for a remedy which again may not work. It may be a little more expensive to have treatment in the UK but it is money very well spent.
4 Are there drugs I can take to improve my chances of keeping my natural hair?
Yes, there are. At Crown Clinic, our surgeon Asim Shahmalak prescribes two drugs which are clinically proven to halt or at least slow down hair loss in most patients. Dr Shahmalak often recommends using one of these drugs, Finasteride, in conjuction with a hair transplant procedure. Hair loss is a continual process but the use of Finasteride can completely halt or slow down the loss of natural hair. All the new transplanted hair is permant and should last the patient for the rest of their lives. However, they are in danger of losing more of their natural hair and that is why Finasteride (also known as Propecia) is necessary. Another drug Dr Shahmalak prescribes is Minoxidil, also clinically proven to combat pattern baldness. This is often applied as a mousse.
5 Will I need to take time off after my hair transplant procedure?
Most patients at Crown Clinic are in and out in a day. The procedure starts first thing in the morning and they can go home at the end of the working day - either with a lift from a friend or relative or by train or plane. We are handily placed right by Manchester Airport and its railway station and we don't recommend that patients drive themselves home after a procedure because they could still be feely groggy from the anaesthetic. We recommend that patients take a week off work after a procedure. This allows for the scarring to go down and means they can maintain an optimum environment while the new hair beds in. You should sleep slightlyupright in the first few days after a procedure to protect the new hair. Patients should avoid using a pullover which can dislodge the transplanted hair - wearing a button up shirt instead. Vigorous exercise such as going to the gym should be avoided for the first week. But other than that patients can live their lives normally.
6 Will I need more than one hair transplant?
No two patients are the same. A high profile celebrity patient such as Wayne Rooney, who first experienced male pattern baldness in his late teens and whose has a strong family history of hair loss (his father is almost completely bald) was always going to need more than one procedure after having his first hair transplant at 25. There is some research to suggest that a drug such as Finasteride may make a footballer like Wayne less aggressive on the pitch - so that may have put him off combining his procedures with a medical remedy.
If your hair loss happens at a more advanced age - in your 40s or 50s or even 60s - there is every chance that one procedure will be sufficient. The way to help ensure that you do not need further treatment is by taking the clinically proven medical remedies. Most patients at Crown Clinic are happy with a single procedure.