‘Follicular Unit Extraction’
Around €1 200 (±R18 000) would get a patient three days in Istanbul and a top quality medical treatment, whereas the same surgery could cost up to €6 000 (±R89 000) in Europe, or only slightly less in the Middle East.
The operation is carried out with Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) where tiny hairs are taken out one by one from areas where the patient still has hair like the nape of the neck.
After the harvesting, they are implanted in the areas where the patient has lost hair. The procedure takes around eight to 10 hours, while the tiny transplanted hairs can take weeks or months to take root and grow.
Emre Ali Kodan, consultant for the Health Tourism Association, said 5 000 foreign patients undergo hair transplants in Turkey every month, with the vast majority coming from the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“We are setting our sights on a 10% increase in hair transplant alone (in 2017). It would not be a dream to reach up to 6 500 patients a month,” he told AFP.
Patients from Greece, Italy and Russia are also showing interest, he said.
High number of operations
“Despite the decline in the tourism sector in 2016, we see a 5% growth in health tourism, based on statistics,” Kodan said, adding that the aim was to achieve up to $7 billion (±R95 billion) in revenue this year.
Tastemel said the hair treatment sector was showing a resilience lacking in other branches of the tourism sector, which saw revenues plummet more than 17% in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2016.
“Even when there were problems in the tourism industry it didn’t affect the medical tourism domain very much,” he said.
“We kept doing a high number of operations even during the crisis period.”
A pharmacist himself, Jameel said he tried many medicines to stop hair loss but they didn’t work.
“At this age, losing your hair has a big impact on your looks.
“That’s why when you lose it, you start looking for solutions to fix this hair problem,” he said.
Tastemel said men need to be proud of their hair.
‘Cars, watches and hair’
“To be honest, men don’t have many accessories to present themselves with. It is mainly our cars, our watches and our hair at the end of the day,” he said.
“We are not able to use make-up.
“The look that we have comes mainly from our hair, so when you lose it, it is like something is taken from you.”
Clinic Expert offers a range of cosmetic surgeries but hair transplants are its main business and Tastemel said success rates tended to be good.