Hair Transplant Surgery in Istanbul: What's in it for Me?

Ever since high-profile celebrities like Wayne Rooney, Robbie Williams and James Nesbitt started raving about the results of their hair transplants, the popularity of the once-taboo treatment has snowballed. Like Calum Best’s bald spot, the stigma surrounding hair transplant surgery has vanished and the treatment is on its way to becoming as socially acceptable as Botox.

It certainly hasn’t always been like that, however. Despite having been around for 30 years, hair restoration surgery has improved vastly over the past five years, so much so that – if done correctly – it is almost impossible to detect if somebody has had a hair transplant. Much of this is owing to transplant techniques becoming increasingly sophisticated and technology playing a greater role. Obvious-looking hair plugs and unsightly scars are thankfully a thing of the past and now thousands of young men and women are opting for hair-transplant surgery to give them back their mojo. Articles in men’s magazines like GQ, Men’s Health, and Esquire have furthered the cause by highlighting that the procedure yields completely natural-looking results.

The only thing holding back many men and women who suffer from pattern baldness (a.k.a androgenetic alopecia) is the high price tag that accompanies the new look. In the U.K. and U.S. the average price for the surgery is £10,000 (€11,200), so many are choosing to travel further afield to seek out the very best hair transplant surgeons who often offer the procedure at a fraction of the price.

In a bid to regain a lustrous head of hair thousands of medical tourists are now flocking to Istanbul each month. Turkey has become the world’s number one destination for hair transplant surgery as it’s home to some of the most experienced hair transplant specialists in the world – with over 200 of the procedures being carried out every day (mostly on foreign visitors). The country’s booming medical tourism industry offers a higher quality of service and considerably lower prices than its neighbors, and patients from the Gulf States as well as increasing numbers from Europe and the U.S. make up the 500,000-plus medical tourists who visit the country each year. And with the average cost of the procedure at up to 80% less than in the U.K. it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination.

We asked Dr Sophie Chung, CEO of Qunomedical, for some insight into the procedure as well as a few tips for anyone seeking treatment abroad.

First of all, how effective is hair transplant surgery?

“It’s very effective. I’d recommend the procedure to anyone who wants a permanent, natural-looking solution to partial baldness. Nowadays hair transplants can permanently restore the hair of both men and women with pattern baldness by transplanting follicles from the back of the head where hair is plentiful into balding or thinning areas. Specialists deem a transplant successful when 85 to 95 percent of transplanted roots grow new hair so you’ll definitely see results.”

How has hair transplant surgery improved over the past few years?

“The latest hair transplant technique is called follicular unit extraction or FUE. Unlike the traditional technique, known as follicular unit transplant FUT or strip harvesting, involving removing a strip of the scalp where follicles are plentiful, with FUE each follicular unit is removed one at a time. It’s a more time consuming process, but it produces incredibly natural results, avoids the linear scar from the donor site, and the recovery period is quicker. At Qunomedical we work exclusively with hospitals which offer follicular unit extraction (FUE).”

If travelling abroad, how long will patients have to stay in the hospital?

“You’ll be able to leave the hospital immediately after your hair transplant but we recommend that you stay in a nearby hotel for 2 nights as you’ll have a check-up the day following the treatment. Your scalp will probably be very tender and you may need to take painkillers for a few days. You may also be prescribed an antibiotic or an anti-inflammatory drug and you will have to wear bandages for a day or two.”

How long after undergoing a hair transplant can patients return to their regular routines?

“Anyone undergoing hair transplantation surgery can return to their regular routine within days. FUE surgery takes between 4 to 8 hours and as it’s a minimally invasive technique it can be performed under local anesthetic which allows for a quick recovery period. Patients can return to work and social activity from around 2 to 5 days. By this point the swelling will have subsided but there are usually visible scabs and redness at the recipient sites which will typically go away around 10 to 14 days after the procedure.”

How long does it take before patients have a full head of hair?

“The transplanted hair will fall out within 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. This is completely normal and not a sign that the operation has failed. You should start to notice new growth within a few months. It’s worth noting that one side effect of the treatment can be shock loss which is when hair in areas that weren’t treated falls out. Although this can be worrying, you should remember that it’s just temporary. Not all transplanted follicles grow new hair, but around 85 to 95 percent of transplanted roots will.

Follow your surgeon’s post-operative care guidelines and you’ll see the results within a few months. Around 60% of new hair growth should be seen between 6 and 9 months after the treatment and by the 12 month mark the full results will be visible.”

Is it a good idea to travel abroad for a surgery like this?

“Absolutely. Anyone considering hair transplant surgery should certainly consider undergoing the treatment abroad as they’ll have access to world-class hair transplant surgeons and be able to save thousands of pounds. A lot of people who travel to Istanbul for the procedure make a holiday out of it and head there a few days earlier to take in the sights and soak up the sun.

Hair transplant packages including hotels, transfers, and often a complimentary PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) — which helps to kick-start the skin’s repair process and stimulate hair growth — cost on average £2,500, in Turkey compared to around £10,000 in the UK. So if you’re looking for a permanent solution to hair loss and want some R&R in a sunny spot, it’s definitely worth considering traveling abroad!”

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