There’s a scene in Seinfeld’s “The Fix Up” where George sits across from Jerry, rattling off the many attributes he requires in a life-partner. It’s worth noting that the character of George Costanza – and most of the Seinfeld cast, really – is one predisposed to great shallowness. Vain, incredibly tight with his money, and with seemingly little dignity left in his life, George is a character you should hate, but can’t help but feel that on some days, when the coffee is sub-par and those on your work commute have been particularly unkind, he’s really just a reflection of everything you want to vocalise at a loud register. So, as Jerry attempts to set George up on a date, he voices: “What does she look like?” He asks about the body, the personality, if there’s a pinkish hue to her cheek. Then, when he asks about the hair, he posits this while scratching his bald patch: “Is it flowing? I like flowing, cascading hair. Thick lustrous hair is very important to me.”
It might be from a sitcom known for its comedic brilliance, but the scene captures something we’ve come to realise lies at the heart of humanity: the importance of hair. From Hollywood’s biggest stars to those iconic characters we grew up with on our TV screens, those that proved most popular were those with thick, luscious hair. From Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond to sporting stars like David Beckham and Roger Federer, good hair has always fascinated the male species and been something to covet.
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It’s hardly surprising then, that males who see the first signs of hairloss go into a deep emotional spin. A receding hairline is yet to be normalised, so for any male to look into the mirror and see the beginnings of a bald patch is a situation that requires immediate action and now, as The Guardian reports, hair transplants are a booming business. Even celebrities aren’t immune to the promise of thick hair. Wayne Rooney managed to successfully restore his hairline in 2011, while comedian Jimmy Carr recently celebrated his new look, courtesy of a pandemic transplant.
As Simon Usborne writes for the publication, “Lockdowns have presented a challenge and opportunity to men who are worried about hair loss. Many looked down from unforgiving mirrors and webcams to healthy bank balances. With offices closed, and nights out and holidays on hold, social confinement has also provided the perfect cover for recovery, out of sight. The result is that the procedure is now in unprecedented demand.”
Usborne cites the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery, which estimated that the country has about 100 doctors doing hair transplant surgery via more than 200 clinics. This is a number that has grown ten times compared to that which existed just ten years ago. Add to that the fact that international locations now serve as hubs for hair transplant surgery, with Turkey leading the pack with package deals including hotels offered at half the rate of event he cheapest UK clinics, and men now have a wide range of options at their disposal.
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While hair transplant surgery is a viable option for those experiencing hair loss or balding, it isn’t without its concerns. With international travel off the cards, clinics within one’s own country have taken to luring patients through search engine optimisation, prioritising hard sales tactics over safety and training. It means that many men are seeking treatment from places that have no regulation in terms of effectiveness and results. When you have something that is, by its very nature, so emotional, it can be hard to navigate the terrain with sound judgment.
When it comes to the surgery itself, most surgeons use follicular unit extraction (FUE), which sees them take a needle-like tool to pinch out units of up to four healthy hairs, including the follicle. These follicular units can be taken from thicker areas of hair, typically at the back of the head. These units are then insert into balding areas via tiny cuts to the scalp, although some clinics now use robots to make the incisions. These sting-like scars which patients are left with don’t really hurt and the good news is that they tend to heal fast when done properly. The implanted hairs typically drop out in shock but regrow over the next few weeks. For lucky patients, the results look incredibly natural, but it can take a full year to see results meaning it’s not exactly a quick-fix solution but one that takes time.
An alternative to FUE is follicular unit transplantation (FUT), which sees a strip of scalp being sliced out. This piece of hairy flesh is then sliced into units for implantation. It can yield more grafts for extensive transplants but also leaves a bigger scar, which is often permanent.
While the issue of regulation is one that still remains to be solved, The Guardian suggests that red flags to look out for include clinics that promise to get you in tomorrow, or say things like, “We’ll offer you a discount,” and “We’ve just had a cancellation.” Essentially, a waiting list is a good thing and ideally you want a clinic that can’t get you in for a few months. And of course, any clinic that promises claims of “guaranteed results” and “scarless surgery” is one you should be sceptical of. Just like many surgeries, there’s no guarantee with a hair transplant however careful consideration, planning and research can help you mitigate such risks and find a clinic worth placing your trust in.