But a hair transplant isn’t for everyone; “in 90 per cent of scenarios, a transplant can do more harm than good,” says Reddy, who turns away 85 per cent of prospective patients who come in for a consultation, and there’s still a three-month waitlist. “It’s normally a two to three-year journey,” says the doctor. If a man is receding on either the crown (as I was, so it only showed from certain angles) or on the hairline either can be filled, but there is a point of no return – if the hair is receding rapidly from both sides, and has already reached a certain stage then it might be a case of fighting a losing battle.
“It’s normally a two to three-year journey,” Reddy says. “There’s a point when too much hair has been lost and there’s no way you can achieve the results they’re looking for. It’s not fair to set them down that path. I probably speak to ten people a week that have had bad surgery overseas and that are coming to us for procedures to be repaired.” Bad examples are where the procedure doesn’t follow the natural growth pattern of the spirals on your head, and the end result is tufty, patchy hair that’s uneven. In extreme cases, it can lead to a lot of scarring on the scalp. If there’s one thing worth paying for, it’s this.
When it comes to the actual procedure, the preferred technique is FUE (follicular unit extraction) where hair is harvested from the back and sides of the head in one, two and three follicle clusters. When done properly, it shouldn’t leave any scars – in contrast to the older, well-known FUT (follicular unit transplant) which involved cutting a strip of hair from the scalp. The latter, and how gruesome it sounds, also added to the stigma that’s built up around procedures.
For the average transplant, you’re looking at a minimum of 5,000 hairs to be harvested – in context, the average human head has 100,000 hairs. “You don’t have an endless supply of hair, so you really want to make the first shot work,” says Reddy.
The actual procedure takes one or two days – and long days at that. Some surgeons will happily say they can shift 7 – 8,000 hairs a day, Dr. Reddy draws the line at 4,000 follicles. First, the hair follicles are “harvested” by taking one, two and three follicle clusters out of the back and side of my head using “a specialised punch device” under local anesthetic (and valium), then after being chilled in a petri dish re-inserted by hand to match the natural hair growth pattern and angle.