On day six, something magic happens. There are actual tiny little bristles. Hundreds of them. Thousands. My great worry had been the prospect of a large swathe of skinhead-style stubble seeming to emerge from underneath my normal, fairly short hair, giving me the appearance of some kind of National Front werewolf, but my concerns were misplaced.
On the morning of day seven, after a good old wash, the front of my head is alive with tiny little hairs and my heart, I confess, is dancing with glee.
It might be psychosomatic, but once I’ve styled it, there are no bright white patches at the temples and I’m convinced I look five years younger, at least.
For the first time, I leave the house, and peering down to catch the reflection of the top of my head on the windows of the Tube carriage, against all odds, the Phil Collins has gone. It is nothing less than a miracle.
This procedure is known as a Follicular Unit Extraction, or FUE, as the hairs are transplanted one by one. Rooney had this done – although not unshaven. It takes many weeks and months to fully thicken, and there are setbacks too. But it is now eight months since my surgery and over the past three, the change has been quick and dramatic .
Follicular Unit Extraction is not cheap. To have it unshaven is more difficult, more time-consuming, and even more expensive. At £5 a hair, my treatment costs around £14,000. There are many places where it can be done cheaper, but not unshaven. Thailand and Turkey are both popular, but horror stories abound.
It seems obvious how important the individual skill of the surgeon is, and that’s not something that’s easy to test, research, or indeed back out of at the other end of a long-haul flight.
Dr Kouremada-Zioga has done many corrective procedures on people who have received terrible treatment, including the insertion of hairs around men’s ears, giving them a woman’s hairline. Often the older technique of ‘strip’ surgery is used, where a thick stripe of skin is removed from the back of the head, and cut into pieces with two or three follicles on each and reattached. Decent results are still possible, but the scarring can be so severe that a second treatment is required just to cover it up. The industry, both at home and abroad, is essentially completely unregulated.
It would be wrong to imagine an FUE transplant solves all one’s hair woes for good. My permanent, unshrinkable new hairs, primarily at the front, will have no impact on how my follicles behave elsewhere. The front rows are sold out, but if the people at the back start sneaking out, there’s nothing I can do.
If Wayne Rooney, Louis Walsh, Robbie Williams and James Nesbitt can be taken as a representative sample, many if not most people who have hair transplants, end up having more than one.
Personally, I am not worrying about that for now. Mainly, I spend my spare time looking at photos of my hair last summer compared to this one, and am giddily overwhelmed by the wonder of my hairy bonce.
I haven’t summoned the required vanity to ask yet, but in the next few weeks I will get my byline photo retaken, possibly the first journalist in all history to do so on the grounds of having more hair.