A Guide To Hair Transplants

A Guide To Hair Transplants


If you’re thinning on top and haven’t had much luck with hair loss products, it might be time to consider a more permanent solution. With more men undergoing hair transplants as a remedy for male pattern baldness, SLMan spoke to The Wimpole Clinic’s Dr Michael May and patient Ben Lewitt about what’s involved.

Michael, can you start by telling us about the different surgical options?
There are two common procedures:

FUE hair transplant which stands for Follicular Unit Extraction. This is when hairs are removed at the back of your head, one by one. It was the transplant that Wayne Rooney opted for and is generally preferred by younger men.

FUT hair transplant which stands for Follicular Unit Transplant. It is when a strip of skin with hair follicles is removed from the back of the head. This is a preferred option for older men who don’t want to shave the donor area.

And at what stage should you start looking at treatment?   
Michael: When you have lost significant hair, leaving clear opening spots on your head. Ideally you’ll have tried prevention and regrowth medication prior to opting for a hair transplant. It should be the ultimate treatment, not the initial treatment.

"As men’s hormones don’t affect the donor-area hair follicles, the results should last forever."
- Dr Michael May

What age do men usually get a hair transplant?
Michael: The ideal age is over 25 and the best age is 32.

So Ben, you have had a hair transplant, why did you decide to have the procedure?
I was 32 and, after quitting rugby, I was looking at a new career. All my young life had been dedicated to heavy physical sports, so I’d ignored my looks. When I retired from the sports scene, I needed to restructure my life and that included improving my appearance.

So what is involved in the procedure?
Michael: Hair is transferred from the nape of your head to the areas with less hair. This is done under local anaesthetic, which numbs the transplant area, just like when you’re having a filling at the dentist. The typical cost of surgery is between £4k and £6k. You’ll need roughly seven to ten days of rest afterwards, with no heavy exercise, heavy lifting or sex. It is generally totally undetectable after 12 days. For four weeks, you should abstain from swimming, getting a haircut or dying your hair.

Does it hurt?
Ben: My father-in-law had a hair transplant, so I knew to a degree what was involved in the process.  I had previously had lots of sports-related injuries and surgeries. This was a walk in the park in comparison, so no – it didn’t hurt.

Is any kind of aftercare necessary?
Michael: Lots of rest. You’ll be given some spray medical solution, which you’ll need to apply on the transplanted area for three days, following which you’ll have to take some aftercare medication. Be sure to learn how to wash your hair. 

Ben: Immediately after the surgery I felt great and drove the family all the way to Cornwall for a holiday, which I was actually told not to do, but I felt and looked completely normal. At the time I was self-employed and decided only to do computer and telephone work for the two weeks after the surgery, as you do feel a bit tired in the following weeks. The aftercare was explained really clearly and was easy to carry out.

What sort of results can you expect?
Michael: You’ll leave the surgery knowing where the new hair is placed. However, the results can take six to eight months to appear, with full results taking up to a year to be visible. As men’s hormones don’t affect the donor-area hair follicles, the results should last forever with no genetic hair loss. Using prevention treatments in order to protect the existing hair from not falling out is also key in improving the results of a hair transplant.

Ben: It took me six to eight months to see the results, with ten to see them fully. I was over the moon. It was the best thing I could do for myself as it gave me the confidence to push for a new career. At the time, I only told my wife I was having the surgery, but when I did tell my friends, they were really supportive and – surprisingly – didn’t tease me.

"It took me six to eight months to see the results and ten to see them fully."
- Ben Lewitt

How do you find a good surgeon?
Michael: It’s usually word of mouth. There is no ranking system or organisation that approves and rates doctors in the UK, sadly. A hair transplant procedure involves an entire team and doesn’t just rely on the surgeon, so it is worth doing your homework before choosing yours. Get to know them by being honest about your fears and asking lots of questions.

How risky is it to go abroad for cheaper treatments?
Michael: It’s not advised to get the procedure done abroad as the infection rate is high if equipment is reused. A language barrier may result in the number of grafts being fiddled, meaning that the patient is not given the accurate number of hairs they were promised. By contrast, UK clinics are obliged to protect their long-term reputation by not over-harvesting the hair and planning for the future, giving age-appropriate treatment for each patient.
Ben: I chose my surgeon purely through word of mouth. I’d not actually tried any hair-loss products previously, but old rugby mates of mine had had the procedure and the results looked great, so I was keen to jump straight in.

If you don’t want to jump straight in, what non-invasive products would you recommend?
Michael: Propecia (or herbal DHT blocker) and minoxidil (Regaine) are good options to try. Laser therapy is also a softer hair-loss solution if you don’t fancy going full transplant.
For more information, visit WimpoleClinic.com

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