Beyond taking a medical approach to treating hair loss, you may have heard of a hair transplant, and you might even be considering getting one.
It’s a big commitment, so before you embark on that journey, it’s wise to read up and learn as much as you possibly can.
Whether we like it or not, most of us blokes will experience hair loss at some point during our lives.
Hair loss in Australia
According to Andrology Australia, hair loss affects around one in five men in their 20s (20%), one in three men in their 30s (30%), and almost half of men in their 40s (40%). Around a quarter of men will start to notice their hair thinning at the age of 21.
Countless research papers would show most hair loss is genetic, and while environmental factors do contribute—with the exception of medical or surgical intervention—it’s true that it's somewhat outside of our control.
But hair loss being a regular and normal part of ageing doesn’t mean its effects aren’t a tad confronting, or even downright devastating. This is entirely normal; hair means a lot to men, even if sometimes we don’t like to admit it.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that several remedies, treatments and supposed “cures” have been developed over the years.
When it comes to hair loss treatments, there's plenty dodgy providers advertising untested, scientifically baseless, or unfounded solutions. But there are some medical options – ones we’ve talked about over, and over again – that not only are proven to work, but can work very effectively.
One of which, and perhaps the most extreme remedy available to balding men, is a hair transplant.Start an online consult
What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant or “hair plugs”, as it's known to some, hasn't always had the best reputation for the way it once left men looking (kind of like a worn-out toothbrush), but medical technology in this department has come a long way.
Essentially, the modern-day hair transplant involves harvesting individual follicles from hair-abundant areas of the scalp or body, and grafting these into more sparse sections of the scalp, like a thinning or balding area, like the crown or a receding hairline. There are two main transplant methods used today.
“Depending on how far you’ve gone, you have to decide whether you want a hair transplant that takes the individual follicles – known as Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) – or whether you want a small strip taken out of the back of your head, often referred to as Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT),” says Sydney-based cosmetic surgeon Dr Zac Turner.
FUT, also known as the “strip procedure”, involves a cosmetic surgeon harvesting hair in narrow “strips”, usually taken from the back of the scalp. The strips are then divided into individual follicular units of one to four hairs and transplanted onto the desired area of the scalp. This allows for more natural looking hair regarding both individual follicular units and overall graft distribution.
One significant downside of this type of procedure is that it will leave a scar where the donor hairs were removed. This can be a concern for men who like to wear their hair short.
Follicular unit extraction is a more modern technique, and as of 2017, is the most popular form of hair restoration surgery. FUE is generally associated with quicker recovery times and reduced scarring. However, the procedure is more onerous and time-consuming.
How much is a hair transplant in Australia?
Cosmetic surgery doesn’t usually qualify for rebates through Medicare or private health insurance, so you may find yourself looking at some relatively considerable out-of-pocket expenses.
Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE estimates, on average, hair transplants cost anywhere between AU$11,000 and AU$18,000 – though, in many cases it can cost as much as AU$30,000. The process may also need to be repeated over time as hair continues to thin.
Does it hurt?
As with any kind of surgical intervention, there are associated levels of pain and discomfort in recovery as well as the potential for complications.
After the operation you may experience bruising and swelling, numbness in the area, pain or discomfort, or a tight feeling in the scalp. You will also likely be required to wear bandages that will need to be carefully removed to avoid tearing at the wounds.
When going under the knife there’s always a (small) chance things can go wrong. Be sure to talk with your doctor first to ensure you are adequately prepared for anything that might come up, and to ensure you're comfortable both with the procedure, and the post-procedure recovery.
Complications of a hair transplant can include:
- Adverse reactions to anaesthetic
- Excessive bleeding or wound infection
- Nerve damage or loss of sensation in the area
This list is incomplete. As with all surgery, risk of complication is related to each patient’s personal circumstances and individual medical history. If you are considering hair transplants, be sure that your doctor performs a thorough examination to ensure the treatment is appropriate.
Are the results worth the cost?
As with most treatments for hair loss, your mileage may vary. It’s important to have realistic expectations as to what can be achieved.
Obviously, patients with thicker and denser areas of remaining hair will fare better than those who started with less hair.
“Everybody who is considering a hair transplant should know, this is not a quick fix. It helps for a little while,” says Dr Zac. “If you’re losing your hair because of a hormonal imbalance or stress or something in your life that you’re not fixing, it’s going to continue to fall out if you don’t fix those issues.”
Alternatives to surgery
If you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars lying around or don’t fancy going under the knife to save your hair, there are other effective and proven medical ways to prevent hair loss. Especially if treatment is started early.
Modern day hair loss medications, like those offered by Pilot doctors, are easily available, affordable, and have a high success rate in helping more than 80% of men to keep and regrow their hair.Start an online consult