The number of patients who pour into the country to graft their hair is approximately 5,000 per month, with some 3,500 coming from Arab countries (mainly the Gulf nations and Saudi Arabia). Photojournalist Emanuele Satolli moved to Istanbul in 2015 and began observing the large number of health tourists pouring into the country. The lure of cheap costs for large operations, specifically hair transplants, has made the country a major center for foreigners seeking affordable cosmetic beauty treatments.
Ali Adnan Qassim from Iraq is checking the pictures he took of himself while grafts extraction were going on. On his head is the map with indications of the number of roots to be transplanted into each section. (Emanuele Satolli)
The fact that Arabs are such a large part of the total number is caused by a number of factors. The hot and dry climate of their countries, the habit of covering their heads, and the use of purified sea water for personal hygiene all can contribute to hair weakening. And in Arab culture, strong hair is often considered highly desirable for men.
The technique employed is known as FUE (follicular unit extraction). It consist of harvesting around 4,000 individual follicular units from the posterior scalp, and meticulously transplanting each one of them where needed, accordingly to a predetermined density and pattern.
Most Arab patients take this opportunity to come and spend four or five days in Istanbul with their families.
Khawla Abo Abdo (on the left with brown headscarf) is waiting for a client at Istanbul’s airport. Khawla fled from Syria because of the civil war, and she currently works as an interpreter for Arab clients who come to Turkey as health tourists. (Emanuele Satolli)
Doctor Yeliz Parlatici (on the right) and an Arabic-Turkish interpreter, are examining Ehsan Albalushi’s head before the operation. Ehsan, from Barhain, already underwent a hair transplant surgery in Istanbul a year ago but it didn’t turn out successfully. (Emanuele Satolli)
Ehsan Albalushi, from Barhain, after the surgery. Eshan already underwent a hair transplant surgery in Istanbul a year ago but it didn’t turn out successfully. (Emanuele Satolli)
Some patients who have undergone the operation are waiting to see the doctor. (Emanuele Satolli)
Two nurses are harvesting a patient’s roots from the thickest hair growth zone. The number of harvested roots is about 4.000 units and must belong to the patient himself. (Emanuele Satolli)
A nurse is harvesting grafts from a patient’s scalp. (Emanuele Satolli)
A man with head bandage after an hair transplant is walking in Istanbul city center. (Emanuele Satolli)
A man with a head bandage is walking with his family in the center of Istanbul. Most of hair transplant patients take advantage of the health trip to spend a few days around the city. (Emanuele Satolli)