What makes a good hair loss treatment? Wigs hide hair loss, but they’re not real and do little for your confidence. There’s Rogaine and Propecia, which preserve existing hair, though Rogaine tends to work better for men under 50 and Propecia is linked to erectile dysfunction that might be permanent.
And there is hair transplant surgery.
We’re not talking about the ridiculous hair plugs of yester-year that looked like the uneven coverage of a doll’s scalp. We’re talking about a much more natural look, that blends in with existing hair and can give better hair coverage to many of the 50% of men who experience noticeable hair loss by age 50.
The numbers speak for themselves. An estimated 226,000 men take the plunge with hair transplant surgery each year. Among them, TV chef Gordon Ramsay and Manchester United soccer superstar Wayne Rooney.
As you might expect, hair restoration clinics are popping up at an alarming rate. Even dentists are jumping into the act, with at least one dental practice in the United Kingdom offering the vaunted procedure.
As a hair loss treatment, hair transplants are among the most effective ways to re-grow hair and keep it where it’s so greatly desired. That said, the decision to get hair transplants shouldn’t be taken lightly. Consider the following.
Hair transplants, or hair restoration, move hair from a donor area, of relative abundance and stability, to the balding, or recipient area. Usually, the donor area is the back of the head, just above the neck, and the recipient area is on top of the head, the hairline, or crown.
While the procedure is popular, it’s a case of supply and demand; there must be enough hair at the donor site to transplant to the recipient area. Some men don’t have enough donor hair for the treatment work.
Male pattern baldness is classified according to the Norwood Scale, named after an American dermatologist who built the model in the 1970s. There are seven stages of hair loss in men, ranging from the abundance of hair in Stage 1 to the complete hair loss of Stage 7, characterized by the infamous horseshoe band at the back and sides.
Men at the lower end of the scale tend to do better with hair transplants, with more donor hair to work with. Men at the high end of the Norwood scale may not have the donor hair required to make the treatment a success.
But remember that hair loss is progressive, and a man in his 20s at Stage 3 who undergoes the procedure could end up at Stage 7 years later, with transplanted hair up front and none at the back. A good surgeon should therefore anticipate future hair loss and plan accordingly.
The surgery is painstaking, with thousands of tiny grafts implanted to the recipient area. And while the technology continues to evolve, with better results to match, it requires a skilled team to transplant the 1,500-5,000 grafts of follicular units, each containing one to four hairs.
The procedure takes between eight and 12 hours, and begins with the surgeon removing a strip of donor hair from the back of the head, which the team carefully dissects into follicular units. Meanwhile, the surgeon makes small incisions along the recipient area, in which the team will delicately place each graft, one at a time.
Most of the transplanted hair falls out in first weeks after the surgery, and the new hair typically emerges after three months, with the most noticeable hair growth between eight and 12 months thereafter.
There is usually a scar where the donor strip was taken, though it’s hidden beneath remaining hair.
The procedure can involve up to 15 professionals and can cost up to $60,000, though smaller treatments can sometimes be arranged for under $10,000, depending where you live. Hair restoration is a hair loss treatment in which it pays to look around.
Male pattern baldness can be a distressing ordeal, and hair transplants continue to evolve. In many men, transplants are a permanent and effective hair loss treatment. But look for a board-certified surgeon with at least ten years experience, and with a list of client referrals. The success of hair transplants relies heavily on the expertise of the team you choose.