A month ago, New England Patriots star wide receiver Wes Welker announced he had undergone a cutting edge procedure to fight the effects of male pattern baldness called hair transplant surgery.
Recently, we spoke with Dr. H. Rahal, owner of Rahal Hair Transplants, about the specifics of the procedure and what men can do to prevent thinning hair.
Bullz-Eye: What is hair restoration surgery?
Dr. Rahal: Hair restoration surgery could also be called hair relocation surgery, as it involves taking hairs from one area of the head and moving them to another. Most men who are suffering from hair loss will retain hair at the back and sides of their head. We call this the safe zone. This is the donor area, and we extract hairs from here and implant them into the zones where hair has been lost. We only implant individual follicles in their natural groupings of one, two, three and occasionally four hairs. This ensures that the result looks and feels totally natural.
BE: How did you get involved with the science of men’s hair loss?
DR: My brother had a hair transplant procedure in the early 90s. The result wasn’t great and got me thinking about how the technology could be improved. I’ve been performing hair restoration since 1995 and, yes, my brother is a patient of mine!
BE: What is the most ridiculous old wives’ tale you have ever heard about why men lose their hair or a way to regrow it? Does massaging the scalp while laying upside down help at all?
DR: I believe a lot of people tried that back in the 80s. It doesn’t work as the root cause of hair loss is genetic. There are a lot of myths out there regarding hair loss and a lot of people claiming to have miracle cures. One in particular that stands out is the claim that rubbing your finger nails together can help you regrow hair and stop it going gray.
BE: Why do some men lose their hair and some do not? What bearing does your father’s hairline have on yours?
DR: Genetics is the main cause of male pattern hair loss, but it’s difficult to predict and no single family member can indicate your own potential for losing hair. Looking at the general picture of how much hair loss is seen within your family can give some indication in how likely you are to lose hair and how far that hair loss might advance.
BE: How much does stress cause hair loss? How about diet or exercise?
DR: A healthy lifestyle helps keep hair healthy, but many hair loss sufferers take their health seriously but continue to lose hair, so unfortunately, making wise lifestyle choices alone is not enough. Stress can play a part in the onset of hair loss and there are conditions, such as Telogen effluvium, where hair loss is directly related to emotional or physical stress. That’s why it’s important to consult a physician to determine the cause of your hair loss.
BE: How is a hair transplant different from hair plugs? Is there a difference?
DR: Technology has come a long way since the days of hair plugs, and while the basic principle of moving hair is the same, the methods we use and the results we achieve are on a different level. Hair plugs are very conspicuous and they draw attention. This is why so many people continue to associate hair transplant surgery with hair plugs. When something about a person’s appearance doesn’t look natural, the human eye can spot this very easily. A great hair transplant is a combination of the latest refined surgical techniques and the artistry of planting hairs so that their position and angulation appear completely natural – on the level of the individual follicles and when viewed as a complete design.
BE: What is the success rate? Is there a chance the hair transplant won’t be successful?
DR: With any surgery, there is a chance that the outcome won’t completely meet expectations. There are physiological factors which are hard to predict. However, we typically achieve a growth rate of 95-99%. We also offer a Growth Guarantee as part of our commitment to patient satisfaction, where we will replace any non-growing hair transplant graft free of charge.
BE: How long does it take to see results?
DR: Transplanted hairs begin to grow at roughly three months after surgery. Typically, a patient will notice a significant improvement by around five months with the result continuing to improve until 12-15 months after the procedure.
BE: What makes it superior to other methods?
DR: Hair transplants are the only permanent solution to hair loss.
BE: How does it compare in success rates to the use of Rogaine or Propecia? How does the procedure differentiate itself from those popular methods?
DR: Many people benefit greatly from using treatments like Propecia and Rogaine, but these drugs are mainly successful in preventing further loss of hair. I highly recommend that patients use these treatments, but in most cases, hair transplant surgery is the only way that a significant amount of hair can be restored.
BE: Are there any side effects?
DR: There are no side effects to hair restoration surgery.
BE: Is there any way to prevent hair loss from starting in your younger years, if you are afraid you may be in line for future hair loss based on genetics?
DR: People who believe that they might have the genetic predisposition should check their hair regularly, but not obsessively, and consider treatment if or when hair loss begins.
BE: I recently heard an interesting theory, that hair loss was akin to a fungus or a cancer caused by an external force rather than internal genetics/heredity? Could this possibly be considered as true?
DR: There are lots of wild theories out there, but I think you can discount this one as untrue.