Read more Patients must show passport to use NHS in ‘health tourism’ crackdown
Mehdi Ben Said, allegedly planning a bomb attack on Turkish soil, is said to have told police that he needed to “look better” before blowing himself up.
With patients from all over the world, Dr Tayfun Oguzoglu has built up tropes of the different nationalities and their follicular foibles. “The most important thing that the British guys want is a natural look,” said the surgeon.
“Arabs don’t care about hair density but they want hair down to here,” he says with a chuckle, placing his finger just above the bridge of his nose.
“Some of the guys coming from the US are scared of being in Turkey. Italians want huge density. Huge! Italians are very complicated. I love the Spanish. They say: ‘Doctor, I trust you. Whatever you do, I accept it’.”
His company, the straightforwardly-named GetHair, has seen a steady growth in British custom after setting up a London office five years ago. Last year it brought over 215 patients from London – up from 110 two years previously.
When they arrive, clients are collected from the airport by a chauffeur and driven to an all-inclusive hotel. Many turn the trip into a holiday, travelling to Istanbul a few days early to tour the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar before embarking on their scalpel makeover.
The surgery, known as follicular unit extraction, involves using what looks like a micro apple-corer to lift thousands of hairs and their follicles from the back of the head before replanting them on the bare or thinning patches. Patients are given only a local anaesthetic and can watch TV, snooze or stare out at the sprawling cityscape as the doctor and his team of nurses work away. By the end of the process the clients look like something out of a horror film, with up to 4,000 bloody globules across the top and sides of their head. They rest for a day after the operation before flying home. It takes six to eight months for the transplants to settle and for the bald patch to be consigned to history.
British cosmetic surgery associations urge caution when travelling overseas for surgery. Peek into the thousands of pages of online forums where bald men swap notes on clinics and you will find plenty of horror stories about surgeons who left all the work to technicians, gruesome post-operative infections, or simply disappointing results.
Ibrahim, the London dentist, did worry about travelling to a new country and placing his head in the hands of an unknown clinic.
“Coming from a medical background, you’re a bit worried about complications; about what could happen,” he says. “But this guy has been doing it a long time.”
The whole endeavour, including flights, will have cost him £2,500, saving about £10,000 on the price tag in Britain.