Researching Hair Transplantation (and the Role of Price in Hair Transplant Surgery)

Let’s face it: most of us are not physically or emotionally equipped to peacefully accept our hair loss and seamlessly transition into baldness.  Not every one of us is born with the physical and mental statures of bald iconic legends like Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, or Chris Daughtry, who can wear the look of baldness with natural ease and still draw hundreds of millions of dollars in box office revenues, allure screaming fans, or stage mind-blowing rock shows half-filled with half-naked supermodel-caliber chicks ready and willing to get funky backstage.

Yes, for the vast majority of us hair loss sufferers, witnessing the daily erosion of our hair, arguably the key proponent of our physical appearance to the world, is on par with experiencing a long, swift kick in the nuts.  It hurts, period.  Sometimes, in fact very often, the emotional debilitation caused by our hair loss paired with our desire to bring a level of correction to this reprehensible biological defect is so severe that we commit ourselves to today’s most aggressive hair loss solution on the hair loss solution spectrum: surgical hair restoration.

Have you reached that level of commitment?  If so, the first thing you will likely hear when seeking advice for hair transplantation is “research, research, research”.  So what the heck does this mean?  It’s simple: do not hastily undergo hair transplant surgery under the false notion that hair transplantation is the be-all, end-all “cure” to your hair loss.  The hyper-overdrive marketing machines of the large-chain hair transplant clinics, with their copious Internet ads and glossy infomercials, tend to lead us believe this is true; but, it is not.  The right thing to do instead of rushing into hair transplantation surgery is to take the time to learn the fundamentals of the hair transplantation industry and processes through a carefully-constructed and exhaustive research campaign, before committing yourself to it.  Remember this: hair transplantation is a cosmetic surgery that is available to address a progressive medical condition (male-patterned baldness); it is not a trivial, easy-to-cure, quick-fix condition that late-nite infomercials seem to lead us to believe.  At the end of your research excursion, you should feel as though you can pass a college-level quiz on the subject matter.  How does hair transplantation work?  Where does the hair come from?  Why won’t transplanted hair fall out after it is transplanted to the balding scalp areas?  What are the potential medical risks associated with hair transplantation?  What is the typical recovery time following a hair transplant surgery?

Researching the hair transplantation industry in quest of a surgeon is a Ph.D.-level science in and of itself.  There are so many variables to consider in hair transplantation that sifting through them in search of a hair transplantation surgeon can feel like searching for Waldo in a 100-square mile Where’s Waldo poster.  Here’s a tiny sampling of the myriad of variables (in no particular order) that you will inevitably encounter when you venture into hair transplantation research:

  • Follicular unit transplantation (and other state-of-the-art hair transplantation techniques/technologies)
  • “Strip method” versus follicular unit extraction
  • Megasessions versus the conservative approach
  • Procedures considered to be outdated in light of follicular unit transplantation: plugs, scalp reductions, Fleming/Mayer hair flaps
  • Age-appropriateness in hairline design
  • Achieving naturalness
  • Realistic expectations
  • Integrating future potential hair loss considerations into today’s hair transplantation strategy
  • Density
  • The relationship of donor supply to bald area demand
  • Hair and skin tone characteristics and how they relate to expected hair transplantation outcomes
  • Quantity of hair transplant sessions needed
  • Quantity of grafts needed per session
  • Medical consultations
  • As many hair transplantation clinics as there are Starbucks®
  • The role of FDA-approved and AHLA-recognized hair loss medications pre– and post– hair transplantation surgery
  • Understanding the scarring created by hair transplantation
  • Evaluating one’s candidacy for hair transplantation

For at least two reasons, do not let yourself feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the ocean of information that you’ll come across.  First, the mere fact that you are encountering it is a very positive sign that you are conducting research; you are not emotionally responding to your desire for a quick, immediate fix by signing up for hair transplantation in a knee-jerk response to intentionally misleading late-nite infomercials that egregiously equate complex surgical hair transplantation to the simplicity of teeth whitening.  Second, despite the overwhelming and disheartening volume of misinformation in today’s hair transplantation marketplace (driven by greedy desires to monetarily capitalize on the emotional vulnerability of hair loss sufferers), there is in fact a strong concentration of six valid, ethical research resources.  If you are reading this blog, then a big, fat, hearty congratulations to you are in order, my fellow hair loss sufferer, because your research has led you in the right direction to these six precious resources that will help you intelligently sift through the information and find your Waldo:

1.    Spencer Kobren
2.    The Bald Truth
5.    International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons
6.    American Hair Loss Association

Make no mistake about it: leaping into the hair transplantation world is akin to leaping into an abyss.  The importance of due diligence prior to one’s initiation into hair transplantation cannot be understated, because it is an irreversible process whose outcome is permanent.  But also make no mistake about the fact that, with the right research conducted under the arches of the above resources, and in the hands of the right doctor, hair transplantation could be a life-changing, ultra-positive procedure that can return the priceless feeling of confidence, high self-esteem, and comfort in one’s own skin.

The hair transplantation journey is commonly costly, and rightfully so, in the variables of time, research, emotion, commitment (usually lifelong) and, of course, finance.

So, with this enormous backdrop, where and how does price fit into the hair transplantation equation and how do hair loss sufferers seeking hair transplantation integrate price into their decision-making process?  While I believe there is not a black-and-white answer to this question, I do believe there are certain and clear rules-of-thumb.

Rule of Thumb #1: First and foremost, and if possible, eliminate price as a variable altogether.
Cosmetic surgery of any sort is expensive; hair transplantation is no exception.  If you are financially capable of eliminating price as a variable altogether, then you have effectively empowered yourself to focus entirely on the non-financial variables of hair transplantation.  Don’t be afraid to stretch your budget if necessary, and, if you find the clinic of your choice, but cannot afford it now, consider delaying your hair transplant surgery until you manage the means to gather the additional needed funds.  In all likelihood, the time of the delay will pale in comparison to the permanence of your cosmetic improvement!  Keep in mind that buying cosmetic surgery (hair transplantation) is not the same as buying a new car or a high-definition TV.  The cognitive mechanisms, thought processes, research methods, etc. of one relative to the other simply do not compare; they aren’t even in the same ballpark.  Buying a car or TV should rightfully be price-driven; buying hair transplantation surgery should not.  Cars and TVs (and other like objects) will reach an end-of-life; the results of hair transplantation you will “wear” for rest of your life.  As a hair transplant veteran, I’d personally recommend to men seeking hair transplantation to make certain (to the extent possible) that more-than-sufficient funds are available to finance the surgery.  Then, during the medical consultation processes with the various clinics that will be part of your research campaign, seek the feeling of a “connection”; the kind of bond that cant be purchased or described, but gives you the gut-instinct comfort that the doctor that will lead the charge in a surgery that will physically and permanently alter your appearance to the world will truly care about the outcome and the results and, of course, you.  After all, isn’t this priceless?

Rule of Thumb #2:
Never, ever let price be the number one decisive factor.
While this may be obvious to seasoned hair transplantation researchers and hair transplant veterans, it might not be obvious to newbies, especially newbies struggling with the complex ebbs and flows of their newfound emotional vulnerability.  The easy financial gain to be had at the emotional expense of hair loss sufferers has (unfortunately) heavily peppered the unregulated hair transplantation market with unethical practitioners, ranging from clinics that do not employ state-of-the-art standards to, as scary as it may sound, clinics that may employ very arguably outdated surgeries, such as “old school plugs”, scalp reductions, and the Fleming/Mayer hair flap.  In today’s world, the Internet is a key research vehicle, and over 90% of Internet research is conducted on Google.  As I write this blog, I have a browser opened on the opposite side of my computer screen with the Google results of a search for “low cost hair transplants”.  The results, which could easily be the plotline of a horror movie, lay credence to the rampant unethics in the hair transplantation market!  One search result suggests that I should fly to India for ultra low-cost hair transplant surgery, while another search result says I can get my hair back for only 89-cents per hair.  Never fly to a far away country for hair transplant surgery because it is cheap!  First of all, you have a very high probability of a grossly poor cosmetic result.  Secondly, assuming this probability becomes a reality, what is your course of reprieve?  As far as the 89-cents per hair is concerned, realize that this is nothing more than a marketing technique designed to lull you into the particular clinic.  In your research, you’ll learn that state-of-the-art hair transplantation involves follicular unit transplantation; that is, transplanting hair in “natural groupings”, the way it naturally grows from the scalp.  Given that these “natural groupings” can contain anywhere from 1 to 4 hairs, you can quickly discern that “89-cents per hair” is purely a marketing tactic.  Does this mean that natural groupings with 4 hairs will cost nearly 4 dollars?  There are probably reasons why some clinics promote or allude to incredibly cheap hair transplantation prices.  Perhaps they have an inexperienced staff, use outdated technologies, or focus on patient volume instead of patient care.  Whatever the case may be, the age-old adage plays perfectly well here: If it sounds too good to be true, IT IS!  SO STAY AWAY!

Rule of Thumb #3:
Only price shop for hair transplantation surgery under the umbrella of the IAHRS.Of the 1,500+ hair transplantation surgeons throughout North America (and the many more internationally), only 50 or so perform hair transplantation surgery to state-of-the-art standards using leading-edge technologies (follicular unit transplantation, stereoscopic microscope for graft dissection, etc.).  The IAHRS is the only organization in the world that, through its Code of Ethics, asks surgeons rise above the easy financial gain to be had in this unregulated specialty field of cosmetic surgery by placing hair transplant candidates and patients (and their likely emotionally devastated states-of-mind) at the forefront of their medical practices.  The IAHRS recognizes the world’s best hair transplantation surgeons, each of whom is screened for unwavering patient care and advocacy, high ethical standards, and consistent production of high-quality, excellent hair transplant results – thus the IAHRS provides a safe haven under which we can price shop for hair transplantation.  Clinics under the IAHRS each have their own pricing structures.  Some may charge $9 per graft (or more), as driven by the doctor’s directly-involved-in-every-step surgical philosophy, where he/she may place nearly every single graft himself/herself, while other clinics may charge as low as $3 per graft, as they spread the technical difficulty/demands of hair transplantation over a larger, well-seasoned staff that is led by the doctor.  Of course I am only speculating, and frankly, it’s none of my business how the doctors that lead these clinics – they are in fact business owners and operators – derive their cost structures.  But what is important is that their pricing structures do range, in some cases widely, giving hair loss suffers that may be (understandably) cost conscious an ability to safely price shop for hair transplantation surgery.


About The Author: Teejay
I am an average guy that was profoundly affected by hair loss. When I first started to lose my hair at the age of about 24 or 25, I was extremely emotional and vulnerable. I tried numerous shampoos and lotions to fight my hair loss, and, in a move of haste and impatience driven by raw desperation, had a hair transplant performed by a large-chain hair transplant clinic. [Read More]


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One Comment

  • Love this article. The first question our patients often ask is about price, when really they should be asking about the qualifications of the surgeon, the techniques used, the training of the techs etc.

    We’d love to quote this for our website, what do you think?


    Practice Manager for Sara Wasserbauer, MD



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