Hair transplants: the facts

Dubai doctor spills the beans on new celeb craze

Dr Jaffer Ikram
Dr Jaffer Ikram
Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi
James Nesbitt
James Nesbitt
Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis

Celebrities, politicians and TV personalities the world over seem to have been opting for hair transplants recently, with English footballer Wayne Rooney the latest to confess to ‘rejuvenating’ his locks. At Dubai’s Aesthetics International, 20 per cent of the clinic’s clientele is now made up of men, with hair transplants the most popular surgical procedure requested. To get a handle on the basics, we met 52-year-old Dr Jaffer Ikram Khan, a consultant and plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the clinic.

Why might someone think they need hair surgery?
Hair that grows on the head is sensitive to male hormones, so often you get male pattern baldness, where a man loses hair from the front to the back and along the sides, which is what we call a receding hairline. You will never see a bald guy who’s only bald at the back, because these roots are not sensitive to the male hormones.

How does a hair transplant work?
The original hair transplant method was known as punch-grafting, but this looked awful – like little palm trees on the head – so people stopped doing that. One method is called the root technique, where a strip of
hair-bearing skin is taken from the back of the head. From the top of one ear to the top of the other, you take a strip of tissue and then stitch the area closed. On the strip you’ve cut, you can have up to 4,000 hairs. This will go under the microscope, and the cutters will cut each individual or double hair, leaving you with 3,000 or 4,000 grafts in front of you. The surgeon will pack these densely at the front as the hair grows backwards, and will begin to cover the bald area behind. Rarely do you get anyone walking out with something like Silvio Berlusconi ‘s full head of hair; you need up to three transplants for that.

How long does that take?
Normally about seven to 10 hours. There’s another technique called microfollicular or individual follicular grafts, where the grafts are extracted from the back of the head, and planted individually. The latest technique uses stem cells, or stem cell stimulators, called plucking. This is the future, and the cure, if you like, for baldness. Everything you pluck re-grows, and if you’ve got the right stem cell stimulation, then the hair you’re plucking out should grow where you replant it too.

How much does it cost?
It usually works out at about US$6 or US$7 [Dhs22-25] per graft, so a typical hair transplant will cost around US$20-25,000 [Dhs73,000-90,000].

How much would stem cell cost?
We haven’t actually priced it, because we haven’t done a full transplant with it – nobody has yet, because it’s not been fully developed. I don’t think it would be less than US$45,000 [Dhs165,000].

Do you see many women coming in for transplants?
Yes, but their problems are slightly different. They could have genetic issues. They sometimes have hormone issues too – they might have more male hormones than others – and sometimes they just have scalp diseases, and need a dermatologist more than anything else. A lot of women from Africa find their hairline naturally starts quite far back, so we’ve done work for that too.

Do you think people are more likely to opt for this surgery in the UAE, given the reputation for quite poor water quality, which is often attributed to increased hair loss?
Putting a chlorine-blocking filter in your bathroom helps an awful lot towards hair loss prevention. Also, a lot of people in the UAE wear traditional dress, and it’s quite hot under there when you’re wearing
the gafia cap and ghutra headscarf all day – I think some people would say that actually leads to hair loss. There are also genetic influences. In this region, a lot of Arab men tend to have thin hair.
For queries and appointments, contact Aesthetics International, (04 346 9888)

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