Upon experiencing hair thinning, young French gentlemen no longer restrain themselves and contemplate embarking on journeys spanning thousands of miles to Turkey for the exquisite procedure of hair transplantation.
Presently, Turkey facilitates over a dozen flights from Istanbul to Paris each month, hosting a diverse array of passengers. Among them are joyous tourists returning from explorations of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar. Others include individuals on business ventures and peculiar-looking gentlemen, freshly shorn, adorned with scarves that conceal their heads. Adorned with back bandages bearing the insignia of the attending doctor or clinic, these individuals exhibit a distinctive post-surgery marker.
In recent times, the economy class on this route has become a bustling domain, populated by brethren experiencing baldness. A parallel surge in hair transplant clinics across Turkey attests to the nation’s status as the preferred haven for international patrons grappling with hair loss. These overseas visitors contribute substantially to the country’s prosperity, with approximately a quarter hailing from France. In the contemporary landscape, those seeking hair transplants are progressively younger, seeking solace along the Bosporus to alleviate their burgeoning concerns about hair loss at an economical rate.
Turkey has grown accustomed to hosting these bands of bald tourists, often donned in head bandages intended to mitigate edema risk in the transplant region. The camaraderie among French gentlemen who have undergone this transformative procedure extends to chance encounters, where post-operative bandages serve as identifiers, fostering exchanges of shared experiences. “During my hair transplant, I encountered two compatriots at the clinic. The three of us scheduled a rendezvous for the following day. On the return flight, a third of the passengers sported head bandages,” shared Norman, a 31-year-old insurance salesman who underwent the procedure in Istanbul in September 2022.
Hailing from Nantes, France, Norman embarked on this transformative journey after meticulous online research and contemplation spanning two years. His tryst with hair loss commenced at the age of 20, progressively rendering his temples and crown bereft of hair. Tormented by incessant teasing, Norman sought refuge in hats to conceal his baldness, revealing, “I feel a sense of trepidation even when unveiling my bare head.” Initially indifferent to overseas options, Norman’s resolve solidified after consultations with two French physicians, leading him to discover that venturing abroad emerged as the sole viable alternative. Turkey beckoned with a price tag of only 2,400 euros for the entire transplant endeavor, encompassing local conveyance, accommodation, and the surgical intervention. Four months post-operation, Norman witnessed the commencement of hair regrowth, anticipating the final outcome after a year. Elated, he proclaimed, “I sense the rekindling of hope. My confidence is restored, and the specter of nakedness no longer haunts me.”
Norman’s narrative mirrors that of numerous young men, as observed by Dr. Frederic Mooney, a hair transplant specialist in Cannes. He noted a shift in demographics over the past decade, with younger men in their thirties seeking hair transplantation. Driven by societal and aesthetic concerns, these individuals, despite possessing relatively mild hair loss or being in a non-stabilized phase, aspire to address their follicular challenges.
Owing to professional and ethical considerations, Dr. Mooney refrains from performing hair transplants on individuals below the age of 30, emphasizing that a well-defined hairline typically manifests at this juncture. The gradual nature of hair loss mandates a cautious approach, as premature transplantation may result in unsightly gaps between the transplanted and original hair areas, necessitating subsequent interventions.
The hair transplant industry is experiencing unprecedented growth, with promising prospects. Approximately one-fourth of men grapple with androgenic alopecia, a proportion escalating with advancing age. Beyond the age of 50, over half of men contend with hair loss. The younger generation, raised in the era of social media and beauty-enhancing technologies, harbors heightened concerns about the prospect of balding. Hair holds paramount significance for men, and even esteemed bald male figures like Zinedine Zidane and Bruce Willis become fodder for discussions.
In December 2022, comedian Kane Kojadi, previously bald, made waves by appearing on a show with brown hair, sparking widespread commentary. Some accused him of betraying the “Bald Cult,” while others commended his courage in undergoing hair transplant surgery. However, he later revealed the ruse, wearing an incredibly realistic wig, shedding light on the intense stress he faced due to societal perceptions of baldness.
Hair transplant surgery, once shrouded in taboo, has undergone a transformation in societal acceptance. Influential figures and internet celebrities no longer view it as a clandestine affair. Consequently, individuals openly share their experiences on social platforms, extolling the luxurious ambiance of local clinics resembling star hotels. These establishments, heavily invested in online marketing, advocate advanced techniques such as seamless hair transplantation (follicular unit extraction technology). Distinguished by its non-invasive nature and absence of scarring, this procedure entails local anesthesia, employing a micro punch to extract hair follicles from the posterior of the head, subsequently injecting them into the areas experiencing hair loss. The operation, spanning three to eight hours, yields remarkably natural postoperative results.
The primary allure of opting for hair transplantation in Turkey lies in its cost, constituting only half or even a third of the expense incurred in France. David Brondo, known as “Mr. Hair” on social platforms, analyzes the evolving landscape, emphasizing the democratization of access to hair transplants. To cater to discerning clients, hair transplant consultants extend services beyond borders, accompanying clients to Greece for the entire process, from the initial consultation to postoperative recovery. Blondeau, a consultant, cautions that lower-priced Turkish projects may entail standardized procedures, lacking personalized attention. French projects, on the other hand, typically involve transplanting up to 2,000 hair follicles, equivalent to approximately 4,000 hairs. In contrast, overseas clinics may extract double the number of follicles, potentially causing damage to the extraction area.
At the commencement of 2023, Baptiste Dufour, a fitness instructor in his third decade of life, underwent the intricate procedure of hair transplantation in Istanbul. Plagued by profound hair loss, he had previously expended a sum exceeding 10,000 euros within the confines of France. Following meticulous assessments, he resolved to seek remedy in the realms of Turkey. “The initial clinic I engaged with offered the transplantation of 4,000 hair follicles for a fee of 2,200 euros. Originally slated for surgery in June 2022, I ultimately recoiled as the clinic’s allure proved too beguiling to be authentic,” he divulged.
In July 2022, Dufour reached out to an alternate clinic through social platforms, entailing an expenditure of 2,300 euros. “They proposed a bifurcated transplantation approach. My hair follicle extraction area, deemed delicate, necessitated a surgical process contingent upon the evolving state of healing. Presently, the transplantation of the region above the hairline has been accomplished, with the schedule for the second operation yet to be ascertained,” Full articulated, “The proceedings unfolded smoothly, yet it remains an operative endeavor. Upon awakening, my scalp registers discomfort. In the initial days post-surgery, supine repose is mandated, sans exerting pressure on the scalp, lest it impede the convalescence. Physical exertion is an absolute contraindication.” For prudential reasons, Dufour availed himself of an extended respite, prolonging his stay in Turkey post-operation to forestall complications.
Is it an amalgam of affordability and quality?
While certain patrons express contentment, the question looms regarding the multitude that departs in disillusionment. “Hair transplantation ranks among the least precarious cosmetic procedures,” asserted Mooney. “Provided the procedure adheres to established standards, the incidence of infection-related complications remains low.” Disappointment may manifest post-surgery in terms of aesthetic outcomes. On occasion, irreparable damage transpires in the region whence hair follicles are extracted. “Seamless hair transplantation technology constitutes a pivotal innovation, rendering the procedure increasingly ubiquitous. This technique eschews surgery, leaves no conspicuous scars, and is virtually bereft of operative aspects,” elucidated Mooney. “Hence, certain clinics may enlist individuals devoid of medical credentials to execute hair transplantations. In locales like Turkey, where prices are meager, these transplants are essentially assembly line operations.” In France, the hair transplant industry adheres to a more standardized framework.
“Men grappling with hair loss often endure despondency, grappling with the specter of becoming objects of derision, impelling solitary quests within the vast expanse of internet information,” articulated Nathanael Akinen, overseeing the Lutetia Hair Transplant Center. Situated in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, this institution stands as the preeminent hair transplant sanctuary in Europe, accommodating over 2,500 hair transplant recipients annually. “When an individual on the other end of the line, akin to a confidant, extols the exceptional results of a particular hair transplant clinic in Turkey, men contending with hair loss find it arduous to resist this allure,” he expounded.
Within forums dedicated to discussions on hair loss, purveyors employed by hair transplant establishments adeptly procure the personal contact details of potential clientele, fluently communicating in French. “Coincidentally, these forums exhibit a dearth of negative critiques or cautionary posts about institutions. Nonetheless, instances of suboptimal outcomes are indeed discernible,” elucidated Arkenny. “Approximately 30% of our center’s patrons seek remedial interventions, such as rectifying overly straight or coarse hairlines.”
Corinne Aretus, at the helm of the Stark Hair Transplant Center in Montpellier, posits that certain hair transplant institutions deliberately obfuscate the distinction between the number of hair follicles and hairs. “Our standard billing modality revolves around the number of hair follicles transplanted. Conversely, certain Turkish clinics predicate charges on the number of hairs transplanted. Consumers remain oblivious to this disparity. A solitary hair follicle inherently encompasses multiple hairs. The seemingly enticing prices in Turkey mask an array of stratagems,” Aretus disclosed. She further conveyed that her center has welcomed dissatisfied clients who had undergone hair transplants abroad.
When a promotional assertion, proclaiming the transplantation of “4,000 to 5,000 hair follicles,” reached the ears of Baptiste Leroy, a 28-year-old financial manager in the banking sector, skepticism lingered. Despite harboring reservations, Leroy, long harboring a desire for a hair transplant, eventually opted to proceed. “A friend experienced a successful hair transplant in Turkey, incurring a mere 2,400 euros in expenses. Yet, residual reservations persisted within me,” mused Leroy.
Fortuitously, he chanced upon Mr. Hair, prompting him to opt for a hair transplant in Greece, accompanied by a dedicated aide. The expenditure amounted to 3,900 euros, facilitating the transplantation of 1,530 hair follicles, equating to approximately 3,500 hairs. “The cost markedly undercuts that in France,” Leroy proclaimed, disseminating his decision among family, friends, and colleagues. Four months post-surgery, he commenced flaunting his robust tresses. “In safeguarding my scalp, I eschew any plans of trimming my hair. My aspiration entails cultivating ample length within a year. Numerous surfers boast lengthy locks, and I harbor aspirations of surfing in Australia,” he articulated.
Navigating the Boundary Between Authenticity and Artifice
Gregory, now in his thirty-third year, commenced experiencing hair loss around the age of twenty. Over the ensuing years, he adeptly cultivated a skillful art of concealment, wielding a bottle of hair-repair powder as his clandestine arsenal. This powder, an amalgamation of electrostatically charged keratin microfibers, adheres to the scalp with magnetic precision, imparting a visual illusion of augmented hair density. “I invest a considerable amount of time daily in the application of powder to bald regions, periodically reassessing the need for reapplication,” shared Gregory.
Uninclined toward the prospect of a hair transplant due to an innate “fear of surgery,” he inaugurated the portals of a wig emporium three years ago. Long stigmatized as antiquated or indicative of ailments, the wearing of wigs has experienced a renaissance, attracting a growing cadre of youthful adherents marveled by the quality and realism of contemporary wigs.
“This wig epitomizes delicacy akin to a contact lens,” attested Sebastian Kochar, founder of the Belgian wig brand Beixix. “With a thickness of a mere 0.03 mm, it renders imperceptibility upon donning.” Historically reserved for thespians or models, finely crafted wigs of this nature transitioned to accessibility for the general populace in 2016 when Koshar established the Beixix brand. Presently, 60% of their clientele falls within the 20 to 35 age demographic. This demographic, harboring reservations about hair transplantation, either due to severe hair loss or dissatisfaction with prior transplant outcomes, gravitates towards these meticulously crafted wigs.
Beixix’s latest generation of wigs, fabricated from authentic hair, comes in an array of sizes and hues. Clients, following a
requisite head shaving, affix the wig using medical-grade hypoallergenic adhesive. Waterproof and impervious to perspiration, these wigs pose no risk of detachment. Monthly maintenance necessitates a visit to the brand store, entailing the removal, cleansing, and reattachment of the wig.
Claire Tomasi, director of Hair Lovers, offers a bespoke service crafting simulated seamless wigs tailored to the customer’s visage, natural hair density, and subsequently groomed by renowned barbers. Tomasi elucidated, “The prevailing trend revolves around asymmetrical hairstyles, characterized by prolonged crown strands and abbreviated side sections.” The services proffered by the “Hair Lovers” center command a premium, with monthly packages ranging from 150 to 400 euros. This encompasses the procurement of a seamless wig, trimming, maintenance, and subsequent product replacements.
“This investment carries substantial weight, both in terms of financial resources and temporal commitment,” reflected Edward, a 25-year-old graphic designer who harbored profound embarrassment due to his bald pate. Confronting his follicular predicament during the pandemic, he opted for the service. “Only my family and a select few close friends are privy to the fact that I possess tailor-made seamless wigs,” he disclosed. Gazing at his rejuvenated hairline, Edward underwent a two to three-day adaptation period to his newfound self.
Having long forsaken traditional wigs, Edward embraced simulated seamless wigs, conferring a transformative rebirth. When queried about divulging the authenticity of his hair on a first date, Edward remarked, “Possibly not. However, should the query arise, I shall forthrightly disclose the verity. This is not a source of shame.”