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Can Hair Be Transplanted?

by Alicia Springer 6 years ago in fact or fiction / how to / body
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Can hair be transplanted through a surgical procedure? Bosley sure thinks so.

Men fear it, women can take it or leave it. On the one hand you have guys as far back as Telly Savalas and Yul Brynner who could pull it off. Yul even did it as a futuristic android in West World. These days its Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. On the other hand you have Seinfeld's George Costanza look. Lets face it guys, it's tough to pull off bald, and it really is an all or nothing decision. From vitamin and hormone treatments, to the Ron Popeil product that was actually just black spray paint, men dig deep in their pockets to maintain their hair. Can hair be transplanted through a surgical procedure? Bosley, one of the largest hair transplant groups in the country sure thinks so.

Hair clinics offer a number different treatments, but by far the most effective is the hair follicle replacement. At Bosley, one of the foremost hair restoration clinics in the New York Metropolitan area, a ‘Class VI Restoration’ can be financed for a mere $367 per month. That’s up to three thousand follicle grafts for about the same cost as an Acura. The question is, does this very expensive cosmetic procedure actually work? There is a classic Saturday Night Live sketch where satisfied Bosley customers don wigs made from their own pubic hair. The real procedure though, uses follicles from elsewhere on the body.

Dr. Norman Orentreich

The first hair transplant surgery for male pattern baldness was performed by Dr. Norman Orentreich in 1952 in New York City. A disbelieving medical community had rejected Dr. Orentreich’s first few paper submissions describing his technique, but his landmark study was finally published in 1959. The basic hair principle of Dr. Norman Orentreich, states that transplanted hair continues to display the same characteristics of the hair from where it was taken and was coined “donor dominance.” Essentially, donor dominance means that healthy hair harvested from the back or sides of the scalp that is transplanted to the balding area on the top of the head will continue to grow as if it were still in its original location.

The excitement over this discovery took the focus away from the reality that merely getting hair to grow did not guarantee a successful cosmetic result. For years, hair transplants were performed using the original 4mm grafts sizes. The graft is approximately the width of a pencil eraser. These large graft techniques made a natural looking result virtually impossible. Since large grafts were the only option for a balding person who wished to have their hair restored, the patient accepted a less than optimal outcome.

Mini-grafting Hair Transplantation

Through the 1970’s, all hair transplantation procedures continued to involve the transplantation of large grafts. Mini-grafting, the technique of using smaller grafts cut from a strip of donor tissue was introduced in 1984. Surgeons began using micro-grafts, which are small grafts of 1-2 hairs, to soften the frontal hairline. The procedure that used larger grafts in the center of the scalp with smaller grafts around them to make the look more natural was called mini-micro grafting. Mini-micro grafting procedures gradually supplanted the larger graft techniques and became the main form of hair restoration surgery over the next 20 years, into the 1990s.

The use of very large numbers of small mini-micro grafts, which is known as Mega-sessions, gained popularity in the mid-1990s. Increasing the size of the hair transplant sessions was a logical extension of the mini-micro grafting technique, as it required basically the same skills of the smaller sessions. However, the introduction of Follicular Unit Transplantation by Drs. Bernstein and Rassman in 1995, where stereo-microscopic graft dissection is used to transplant hair in its naturally occurring groups, dramatically increased the skills required by the surgeon and staff to perform hair transplants. This made transplants far more natural-looking, but also made them harder to come by and much pricier than it had previously been.

Joey Fatone's Bosley hair transplant story in his own words. “Back in the day, the peak of our whole thing of ‘N Sync, being on stage was just an amazing rush. Seeing my face in magazines, TV, t-shirts was pretty funny, pretty surreal. I started losing my hair when I was still with ‘N Sync. You know, touring around, running around you don’t really take a good look and stop and kind of look in the mirror and see exactly what’s going on. But of course, I started wearing hats all the time. Looking at a picture of when I was with ‘N Sync and then looking at a picture, you know, now, and you kind of look and go okay, the hair is thinning a little bit. Nobody was really coming up to me and saying, ‘you know what maybe you should do something about it.’ And I called up my manager and said, “Hey, what do you think is the best thing to do?” And he first says to me, he goes, “You know what, let’s call Bosley.”

Follicular Unit Hair Transplantation

Initially, Follicular Unit Hair Transplantation was met with great skepticism and resistance by the hair transplant community. However, once patients began touting their great results over the internet, physicians reluctantly adopted the technique when more and more customers began demanding it. By the year 2000, Follicular Unit Transplantation had become not only mainstream, but the “gold standard” of surgical hair restoration. From NSYNC's Joey Fatone, and Brady Bunch's Christopher Knight, hair transplant procedures were being advertised on TV by celebrities, athletes and every day folk, telling stories of blissful life changing hair transplant results.

As these new methods of hair transplantation grew in popularity, other older methods were phased out. Laser hair transplants were promoted in the 1990s as a high-tech way of performing hair restoration. The laser, however, caused damage to the skin, scarring and poor growth. The validity of using the laser in hair transplant surgery was challenged in Bernstein’s 1996 paper “Laser Hair Transplantation; Is it really state-of-the-art?” The procedure has since been all but abandoned.

Scalp reductions, the technique where the bald area in the back of the head was literally cut out of the scalp, and flaps where a strip of skin from the side of the scalp, rotated to the frontal hairline, were procedures that saw their heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, the procedures risked excessive scarring and unnatural hair growth. Their use decreased greatly when the Follicular Unit Transplantation was made popular. Unfortunately, by the time the procedure fell completely out of favor, many patient’s had been damaged by its aggressive hair restoration technique.

The Hair Club For Men

Many of the hair transplant companies today have been around for decades. Bosley’s main competitor, Hair Club For Men, launched in 1976. Their spokesman, Sy Sperling was not only the president, but he was also a client. His infomercials were extremly popular. Since then, the process of hair transplantation has become an outpatient procedure which can be completed in a single afternoon. After a team of professionals painstakingly maps your hairline, takes “before” photos, and applies a liberal dose of anesthetic to your scalp, donor tissue is removed from behind the ears and the back of the neck. Several incisions are made in the scalp, and the follicles are implanted four at a time.

Bosley Hair Restoration, and most hair transplantation methods in general are legitimate, but may not turn out quite the way the patient wants it. Candidates for transplant are asked to understand that it can be a long process to get the hair that they really want. Just as important, it is very expensive. Not the kind of thing you want to start and not finish because of financial issues. Thats what happened to Trump in the 90s, or at least looks like it. Chemical treatments like Minoxidil are not only temporary, but they cause your hair to fall out before it grows back. Most other treatments rely mainly on wishful thinking.

fact or fictionhow tobody

About the author

Alicia Springer

Mother of two. Personal trainer. Fitness is about determination, not age.

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