Roughly 250,000 hair transplants occur in the U.S. alone each year, approaching 900,000 worldwide. This is not a rare procedure, by a long shot. Consider that well over 33% of men (and women) experience hair loss, and it’s easy to understand the appeal of a hair transplant. Believe it or not, yours truly almost took the transplant plunge…
Getting older has its benefits. In most cases, you can’t help but become at least a little wiser.
The ups and downs of life level off a bit, helping you stay somewhat more even-keeled. With any luck, you’ve gravitated towards a profession that’s a good fit, and your pay reaches new highs.
Then, there’s the crummy part. We’re not all Tom Brady, still slinging deflated footballs at 52 (or however old he is).
Physically, we take longer to recover and heal from injuries. We put on weight easier. Our eyes start to mess with us and reading glasses wind up on our Walgreen’s shopping list. And, if you’re a dude, sometimes you lose your hair.
Although I may attempt to convince you that you don’t need a hair transplant, consider the inspiring story of rocketeer and Tesla chief, Elon Musk.
The guy is an icon for innovation and quite simply making sh*t happen. Not that he needed a full head of hair to make PayPal a success, but his image is front and center these days with SpaceX, Tesla, and pot-smoking on podcasts. He went from having a thinning head of hair to a full, thick mane most men would envy.
But you and I? We’re not Elon Musk. He’s got money to burn along with all that rocket fuel. Most of us workaday fellas are simply trying to eke out a living, and looking our best shouldn’t require a $15,000 (or more) investment.
Hair Transplant Methods
There are two main types of transplants: FUSS / FUT (follicular unit strip surgery / follicular unit transplantation), where a strip of your scalp is harvested for redistribution all over your baldness. And the latest advancement is called FUE (follicular unit extraction).
The latter is a higher-cost hair transplant option, and less reliable. But, you can go about your daily life a bit easier after the procedure. FUE’s follicle-by-follicle method allows for several trips to the transplant shop if you so desire.
With FUSS / FUT, you save a few bucks (it’s about 25%-50% less expensive than FUE), but you better take a week off of work if you don’t want your colleagues to know you just got a hair transplant. Removing the donor strip leaves an incision mark that later forms a scar. And the new implants leave little red dots on the fore of your head.
Bottom line? $15K is a lot of money. And that figure wasn’t even the first one thrown at me by Lyle. The clinic I went to quoted a higher number upfront, only to lop off 25% just before the end of the consult. I suspect this common practice, as most transplant shops cater to males with a penchant for being cheap.
Oh, and it’s worth noting: the majority of hair transplant clients make average, middle-class pay. You know, the kind of gents who should be putting their hard-earned dollars towards their kids’ tuition and mortgage pay-downs?
Do Transplants Even Work?
According to Healthline.com, up to 80% of the transplanted hair will grow back within 3 to 4 months. For $15,000, I’d certainly expect to have an early 60s era Beatles mop-top by month 4.
It’s important to know that transplanted hair will thin over time too, so depending on how young you are when you go under the knife, you could be in for a few return trips later on. And that assumes you have a decent reserve of donor hair on the back of your head.
The male psyche is a fragile thing. Take it from me. For some gents, hair loss comes early and swift. I had friends in college who started losing massive amounts of hair before graduation.
I made it through my 20s and 30s with a decent crop of fuzz. Now in my mid-40s, the gig seems to be up.
I can’t hide my thinning mane with products or cute haircuts. So, when a guy like me starts to run out of options for making a thinning head of hair look good, you might understand why I even considered a hair transplant in the first place…
Besides, there are some compelling stories out there about fellas who boldly go under the knife and come away quite satisfied. Your monkey brain instantly clicks into “What if I did that too? I could pull off an Elon!”
And let’s face it, a full head of hair is what we expect to see in our movie stars, anchormen, erectile dysfunction Rx TV spot actors, and of course, our hair transplant consultants. Give in to the Dark Side… (Or at least wear a helmet?)
What a First-time Consultation Is Like
Yours truly (not a chrome dome, but making good progress in that direction) visited a hair replacement clinic here in town for a free consultation. Nice people there.
The suite was clean and tidy. The waiting room table had a dozen or so gracefully feather-stacked magazines with male models and celebrities on the covers, all (of course) with full heads of hair.
Overall, I found the one-and-a-half-hour experience a bit unnerving. The consult guy had had a transplant himself, and it looked pretty good. But admittedly, his revitalized head of hair seemed a bit “off”.
The dude could’ve been a distant cousin of Lyle Lovett. But Lyle’s famous pompadour is real. I think?? Anyhow, I should’ve got up and run away right then and there.
But I stuck around. As “Lyle” droned on about the glories of the clinic and their work, I noticed his eyes would often shift to scan my thinning hairline. I might as well have had a patient gown on, with feet dangling off the edge of a pneumatic lift table, my left nut unknowingly exposed.
After getting the download on what’s involved with the procedure, I felt pretty good about the idea. But I was curious how quickly I’d heal up to rejoin the workaday world.
I’d have to go maybe two weeks wearing a hat, or working from home, to avoid showing off the red patches where the transplanted grafts were placed. No big deal.
Towards the end of the chat, Lyle took a series of photos of my head and later showed me on the computer screen where I’d benefit from 2,500 grafts of redistributed follicles. Science! Now I was feeling good about this crazy, high-cost hair transplant idea…
The Financial Cost of a Procedure
A hair transplant can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. Of course, it all depends on how many grafts you choose to transplant from the back and side of your head to the top.
Most men (and women) will pay about $10,000 for initial treatment, but if you’re a certifiable chrome-dome with a lot of real estate up top to cover, expect to double that figure. Expect to pay additional amounts for a Propecia Rx to keep the hair you have grown strong.
Forget about shock loss of hair after a transplant procedure… How about the shock loss of cash vanishing from your wallet??
Say you’re a 30-year-old, fighting some wicked vanity issues. You plop $15,000 down for a few follicles, vs. investing those dollars in the S&P 500 (via index funds), where those dollars would grow to $300K – $500K after 40 years. By then, you’ll want those dollars to support your new Viagra habit anyhow.
You could certainly invest all $15,000, but if you’re worried about your appearance, invest $8,000 and splurge the rest on some at-home gym equipment, quality wardrobe pieces, or a tattoo removal procedure.
But remember, for $15,000 (and perhaps another $10 grand later, after the rest of your hair falls out) you can have a permanent head of hair that’s YOUR hair. And, you can check off one box on the “list of things to not have to worry about anymore” list. Just make sure you find a reputable clinic with proven results, BEFORE you plunk down your money and your remaining follicles.
Hair Growth Drugs and Their Side Effects
Besides the money factor, there’s the “Pill Factor”. All transplant shops love to push Propecia prescriptions on unsuspecting clients. After my consult, I was even given a script to fill at our local pill dispensary.
Heck, let’s start popping those pills right away! Well, that little piece of paper went straight to the garbage. Why?
Propecia works to keep the hair you’ve already got. But apparently, it works so well that its side effects are often brushed aside:
– loss of interest in sex (and trouble enjoying it when you do)
– swelling in your hands or feet
– swelling or tenderness in your breasts
– feeling like you might pass out
– runny nose
– skin rash
Then, there are the rarely reported or rarely observed side effects. Still very real. If experienced, these tend to have a Severe expression:
– Breast Cancer In A Male Patient
– Giant Hives
– Having Thoughts Of Suicide
If experienced, these tend to have a Less Severe expression:
– Low Sperm Count
– Muscle Pain
– Muscle Problems
– Muscle Weakness
– Testicular Pain
The Benefits of the Venerable Buzz Cut
And then, you can get to know the heroes of the universe. The Mr. Cleans of the galaxy, who have demonstrated to us thinning heads over the years, a better path to accepting hair loss and owning it, LIKE A MAN.
I’m not talking about Telly Savalas. That’s a classic old-school bloke, far ahead of his time (pun intended).
I’m not even talking about Jean Luc Picard. Though Patrick Stewart rocks a bald head like no other starship captain.
No. I’m talking about THIS guy: Jason Statham. The man. Handsome Rob, no less.
A certified kick-a$$ bald stud you do not want to F with. Credit his buzz-cut head. It gives his look the gravitas that’s practically a billboard, screaming, “Hair is for pansies!”
So yeah, this guy is the new inspiration for me. I won’t ever possess the acting chops, Kung Fu skills, or the look that says “Cross me and I’ll twist you in half, mate!” But I’m good with that. Just give me the buzzcut and a little motivation to do my daily push-ups and pull-ups.
Statham started losing his hair in his 20s. Poor chap. But as soon as his movie-making career shot into high gear at age 32, with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, the buzz-cut became (and remained) his trademark look.
Heck, even Prince William has gone the way of the buzz-cut, and thank Heavens. That comb-over wasn’t doing him any favors.
Only one week into my commitment to losing hair with flare, I can rattle off several benefits of keeping my follicle-farm remnants nice and tight.
1. You can cut your dang hair. Quick and easy. Set the number 1 clip on those shears and go to work! (You need to do this every two weeks to avoid a rough, “middling” look)
2. No more $ spent on hair products. That goop is expensive! I think I was paying $20 for a little puck of Jonathan Dirt. Not anymore. And bonus, I don’t need shampoo anymore, not for 1/8 of an inch of hair.
3. No more hair product winding up on your pillowcase. Nothing beats a fresh pillowcase every week, right? But having to swap out in the middle of the week because Jonathan Dirt wanted to cling to that case… No thanks…
4. You can wear a hat in all situations, and not worry about messing up what longish, spiked, or combed-over hair you used to have. This is vital in Minnesota winters.
5. Your wife gets a break from cutting your hair. Because see benefit #1 at the top. Save yourself $300 – $500 a year in barber costs.
6. You can get ready to work a lot quicker in the morning. No more primping in the mirror. You’re ready to go!
7. You can feel confident that you’ve made the best decision for your thinning hair. Owning that natural balding allows you to focus on other improvements, like fitness, relationships, and of course, your finances.
All that said, Hollywood is not afraid to put its best bald head into the arena. Fast and Furious is a great example, with three of its principal actors, Statham, Vin Diesel, and Dwayne Johnson (The ROCK!) all keeping it clean up top.
I’d expect half of the hard-driving fans of the series to shear off their hair, just to copy these dudes. Those locks just add wind resistance anyhow…
It’s a toss-up for many. Do I give in to the “autumn of my scalp”, or, do I try to fight it with drugs, painful procedures, and gobs of money? All it took was a question to my lovely wife about getting a hair transplant.
“Do you think I should go for it?”
“Hmm… No. I think aging gracefully is the way to go.”
And that was that. The buzz-cut took place exactly two days after that very brief conversation about the future of my hairline. I’m quite content with this decision. The Buzz-cut Brigade has a new member. And it’s me.
Now, every two weeks I get my hair buzzed down to 1/16 of an inch. That’s the 0.5 clipper guard if you’re using a Wahl hair trimmer.