Since July 2014, I’ve had three hair transplant procedures; two FUT/strip procedures by Dr. Matthew Huebner and one FUE scar revision procedure by Dr. Daniel McGrath.
You don’t have to do everything exactly like how I’ve done, and you don’t have to have surgery with the two surgeons who have done my procedures. What I hope is you can take these top 10 tips and apply them to your research and get the result you’re hoping for.
So you’re ready to do something about your hair loss and are interested in a hair restoration procedure.
The most important part of having a successful hair transplant procedure is rocking the consultation, before you have surgery.
This is when you need to do your homework and be prepared to ask the right questions so you can be a better educated, savvy patient. Unfortunately you’re more likely to get a bad result in this industry than a good one, so don’t become a victim and ask the right questions.
The truth is, your first consultation is a bit awkward.
If you ever feel pressured to have surgery right away from a hair transplant clinic, walk away. The consultation should be focused on educating the patient and not so much closing a deal.
Here you are in a place of business on one side of a table talking about one of, if not your worst, insecurity to a total stranger.
Most of the time during a hair transplant consultation you will speak with a patient educator/sales consultant whose job is to educate the prospective patient about hair transplant surgery, why we lose our hair, and what sort of result the patient can get at that clinic. Rarely do you get to speak with a surgeon for a first consultation although some doctors will do consultations via Skype.
The reality behind most sales consultants is that they are paid via commission when they sell a hair transplant to a prospective patient — they have to make a living, so this is how they get paid.
But the most important job of a sales consultant should be on patient education, instead of making a sale. There’s a huge difference between a high-pressure sales pitch and learning more about a hair transplant and why you would or would not be a good candidate for it.
To help get you on the right path, I’ve listed my top 10 recommendations on what you should look for in a hair transplant surgeon.
Lance’s Top 10:
1.) Ask which other surgeons a practice recommends
This may sound like a strange question to ask, but a surgeon and practice that is confident in its work will recommend you to other surgeons.
If a surgeon or practice tells you they don’t recommend anyone else, this should be a red flag.
In other medical fields it’s pretty common if you ask a dermatologist which other dermatologists he or she recommends, that person will most likely recommend another dermatologist.
The ABHRS is the only hair transplant board recognized by the medical community. A good place to start when researching hair restoration surgeons is ABHRS.org.
The ABHRS is the only hair transplant board recognized by the medical community. Although it is not required by hair transplant surgeons to practice hair restoration surgery, having this certification is like a gold seal of approval that whomever you have surgery with will do credible work.
The hair transplant industry is heavily unregulated and most of the time a patient is bound to get a bad result than a good one.
3.) Always make sure the clinic you choose specializes only in surgical hair restoration.
It’s surprising how many so-called “hair specialists” actually perform other cosmetic procedures. You don’t want a surgeon who does noses on Monday, breasts on Wednesday, and hair on Friday.
Walk away if a practice you’re researching doesn’t solely specialize in hair restoration.
4.) Always make sure to see hundreds of patient videos and photos!
It’s incredibly easy for many before and after photos to be heavily edited and Photoshopped so do not settle for just a few patient results.
Make sure you see patient results after one surgery, two surgeries, and, if possible, even three surgeries. It’s imperative to know what the BEFORE was and how many surgeries it took to get to the AFTER.
I recommend asking the patient educator or surgeon these questions when looking at their practice’s results:
a.) How many procedures did this patient have?
b.) How much total hair, not just grafts, did this patient receive in his procedures?
c.) Do you have a recent reference list of any patients who would be willing to speak or meet with me?
5.) Avoid paying by the graft
Most hair transplant surgeons quantify the amount of hair a patient receives by the number of grafts. Unfortunately this can be deceptive to the patient who usually doesn’t know that one graft does not equal one hair. Grafts come in one, two, three, or four hairs a piece, so when a surgeon tells a patient he’ll receive 1,000 grafts, how much total hair is that? If it’s 1,000 1-hair grafts, you’ll have a soft, natural hairline but will have almost no density.
Paying by the graft is a great way for many clinics to set you up for a large number of tiny grafts that will require multiple procedures to get a decent result.
Two of my recommended doctors, Dr. Daniel McGrath and Dr. Matthew Huebner, quantify the amount of hair a patient receives by the length of the donor strip multiplied by 200 hairs per square centimeter.
6.) When it comes to pricing, you need to compare apples to apples. How much total hair are you getting? Do you even know?
This goes back to charging by the graft vs. the amount of total hair.
My first two FUT/strip procedures pulled 31.05 and 36.675 square centimeters of tissue which netted 6,210 total hairs (31.05 x 200 hairs per cm2) and about 6,500 total hairs (36.675 x 200 but my first scar was removed during my second procedure, which resulted in a little less hair).
When I asked how much total hair a 30 square centimeter strip would equate to in grafts, I was told another practice would cut strip that long into some 4,000 grafts ranging from 1 to 4 hairs a piece.
7.) DO NOT underestimate the experience of the practice’s technicians and make sure they use microscopes while dissecting the donor tissue.
Never underestimate the experience of the practice’s technicians, and always make sure they use microscopes when dissecting the donor tissue (photo credit: Hasson & Wong).
A hair transplant is an extremely labor-intensive procedure and requires years of experience to be done properly.
A clinic that does not utilize microscopes must be unacceptable to you.
Clinics that do not use microscopes are either too lazy to properly train the staff or use outdated methods which will unfortunately stand out in the hairline and possibly create a strange appearance in other areas as well once the hair grows in.
8.) Make sure you choose a hair transplant surgeon that offers all the latest types of procedures.
DO NOT choose a surgeon that only offers one specific technique. To me, this is a red flag and a top hair doctor should be able to perform all the different procedures offered in the industry.
A surgeon should be able to perform the correct type of procedure based on the patient’s needs, and not just what the surgeon can do.
For example, if you are a class 6 on the Norwood scale, an FUE procedure most likely won’t get you the result you’re looking for. On the contrary, if you’re a slight class 2 and only need minor hairline work done, a massive strip surgery could create a pluggy, unnatural appearance.
If the surgeon you’re looking at only offers FUE with the NeoGraft or ARTAS, guess which type of procedure you’ll get with that surgeon? FUE! Same with a surgeon who only does the FUT/strip method.
9.) Make sure the doctor guarantees his work.
A great surgeon will not only guarantee his work but also offer free scar repairs..
A great hair restoration surgeon must guarantee all transplanted hairs will grow or be replaced at no charge, and your suture line for FUT/strip procedures will be completely undetectable at a 3-guard on a barber shop electric razor.
You must ask your hair transplant doctor, “If I am not pleased with the scar, what will you do about it?”
DO NOT accept this answer: “No need to worry, ALL of my suture lines are perfect and I have never had anyone complain about them.”
If a suture line stretches beyond a 3-guard haircut, how will the doctor correct it and will he fix it at no charge? In my case, both scars from my previous FUT procedures stretched beyond a 3-guard. Unfortunately my surgeon couldn’t do anything for the second scar that stretched because he didn’t practice FUE at the time. I ended up having a third procedure to fill in my linear scar
10.) Walk away if you ever feel pressured into have surgery
If you have a consultation and are quoted a price, you should expect some follow up emails or phone calls to see if you have any other questions. If you start to get a barrage of sales calls telling you the practice will cut the price in half if you book right away, be weary.
These practices are only looking at revenue and are desperate. For some reason they are under extreme pressure to “sell you” a hair transplant. Extreme sales pressure and a very expensive life changing decision are NOT a good mix!
The person whom I learned the most from throughout my journey and got me started on the right path is my hair transplant patient adviser, Steve Cook. Steve used to work with Dr. Huebner and currently works for Dr. McGrath in educating patients about why we lose our hair and what their options are in dealing with hair loss.
Unlike most hair transplant patient advisers, Steve is not one to push someone to have surgery and also refers patients to other doctors in his network that we are working on together.