While the £34,000 cost of the star striker’s procedure may have acted as a barrier to the majority of those less follically blessed, the growth of cut-price procedures abroad as well as other celebrities such as James Nesbitt ‘outing’ themselves has sparked a boom in interest among Irish men.
Previously, the majority of Irish ‘health tourists’ went to parts of Eastern Europe for weight-loss surgery such as stomach stapling, while soaring numbers have also travelled for cosmetic dentistry and removal of under-eye bags.
However, it has emerged that Turkey has become the destination of choice for a growing number seeking hair replacement services.
In the past four months alone, at least six men from Belfast have travelled to an Istanbul-based clinic for the weekend procedure.
Costs range between £1,750 to £2,500 depending on the number of “grafts” they receive. Similar ‘restorations’ can cost up to £8,000 in Ireland.
One Belfast recipient who underwent a transplant in Turkey four years ago said he had no regrets and was considering a ‘top-up’ as it significantly increased his confidence.
Marty Pilkiewicz (35) began losing his hair in his late twenties and even took part in clinical trials in his home city.
“I had done a lot of research and realised the procedures they were doing in Harley Street in London were the same as those the Turkish surgeons were carrying out,” he said.
“I had sent a few head shots to the clinic and booked for early December 2014. The £1,500 cost also covered a two-night stay in a nice hotel.
“The procedure itself took nine hours. I went in on a Saturday morning and they shaved my head and gave me a local anaesthetic. They basically removed healthy hair follicles from the back of my head and then make thousands of slits in the front of my head with a scalpel. They implant the grafts from the back into the front.
“It takes about four or five months for the growth to begin but the improvement was great. Unfortunately the hair isn’t as dense as it was in 2015 but it’s still a lot better than pre-transplant.”