Gone today, hair tomorrow: the world of hair transplants
The hidden world of hair transplants is suddenly not so secretive, with celebrities openly embracing the holy grail of male grooming
On the morning of June 4, a seismic shift occurred in the world of male grooming. ‘Just to confirm to all my followers I have had a hair transplant,’ Wayne Rooney tweeted, casually. ‘I was going bald at 25 so why not?’
He went on to explain where he had had the procedure done (a Harley Street clinic), whether it hurt (‘Nah, it was OK’) and the healing process (‘The new hair’s coming along people. Swelling gone down’). He even posted pictures.
Rooney is the latest in a growing list of male celebrities happy to admit to ‘hair restoration’ procedures, but the glee with which he reported his was startling. ‘Rooney’s outing was a watershed moment,’ says Mark Simpson, author ofMetrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story and a leading authority on the shifting nature of masculinity. ‘It’s a sign that something has changed. These days, there’s much less shame about men caring about their appearance. In fact, there’s quite a lot of out-of-the-closet pride.’
This is certainly a far cry from the days when men reluctantly accepted baldness. They now have a raft of options for restoring a thinning thatch. As well as transplants there are laser therapy treatments, which claim to bring follicles back to life, stimulating hair growth. There are nifty little weaves that attach to your existing barnet, and a concealer called Nanogen, essentially microscopic hairlike fibres that you sprinkle on your scalp like hundreds and thousands, and which cling to your thinning strands (nanogenhair.com). There is even hope for billiard-ball baldies in the shape of a tattooing treatment that creates the effect of scalp stubble (hishairclinic.com).
Most of these options have been around for a while, of course, but thanks to Rooney it’s the transplant – ultimately the most effective treatment – that is the procedure du jour. ‘We saw a 350 per cent increase in inquiries about hair transplants following Rooney’s admission,’ says Louise Hardaker, the hair transplant coordinator for Transform, Britain’s biggest cosmetic surgery group. ‘He brought transplants into mainstream consciousness.’
There is definitely a market out there for hair restoration. Eight million men in Britain suffer from hair loss, with 40 per cent of under-35s already going thin on top – and they are worried sick about it. A recent survey showed that men fret more about baldness than they do about finding a long-term partner, bankruptcy or their bedroom performance – a fact that comes as no surprise to the psychotherapist Lucy Beresford. ‘Hair loss in most cultures is associated with ageing, and the subtext of ageing is a loss of strength and power,’ she says. ‘The implication is that men with thinning hair aren’t alpha males.’
Certainly, you’ve got to have an alpha-male sense of adventure – not to mention a deep pocket – to undergo a transplant (Rooney’s allegedly cost between £10,000 and £30,000, depending which tabloid you believe). The procedure, though, is relatively straightforward. The preferred technique (the one Rooney opted for) is third-generation follicular unit extraction (FUE), a treatment that involves hairs from the back or side of the head (or the chest, if necessary) being removed and implanted into the bald spots. Because the ‘donor hair’ from these areas is resistant to the effects of dihydrotestosterone (the hormone that triggers male-pattern baldness) it has a better chance of staying put once transplanted.