One of them was Dr. Suheyl Jubara, 42, a Kuwaiti-born dentist of Jordanian origin who has worked in a Turkish state hospital for 21 years. He was intrigued by the Arab men he often saw at the airports with black bandages wrapped around their heads, waiting for their flight home.
He began studying hair transplant techniques. “Finally on a cold Ankara morning a few weeks ago, I found myself here at this clinic where the whole staff guided me very well throughout the process,” he said.
Istanbul alone has around 350 licensed hair restoration clinics. Some have branches in other major cities such as Ankara, Izmir and Bursa, the cities most visited by Arab tourists.
One of the biggest, Estetik International, where Dr. Jubara was treated, opened its first overseas branch in Dubai last year.
Founded in 1999 by Dr. Bulent Cihantimur, Estetik International uses cutting-edge technology. The most common procedure, known as organic hair transplantation, involves injecting the patient with a chemical mixture that also contains his own fatty tissue and stem cells. This mixture nourishes the scalp, creating prime conditions for transplanted hair to grow. Another procedure, follicular transfer, involves harvesting hair follicles from the back of the patient’s head and inserting them through micro cuts in the bald area. The procedure takes six to eight hours, and is followed by six weeks of vitamin and protein injections. Results show after three to four months.
Dr. Jubara’s follicular transfer was so successful that his brother and brother-in-law were persuaded to come to Turkey to have the same procedure. His own self-confidence improved dramatically, he added.
“I’m still impressed by my before and after pictures. With the happiness I discovered in the new me, I found the love of my life, a Turkish girl. We are getting engaged next week,” he told Arab News.
Privacy is another factor, he added. Some clinics offer package deals that include collection from the airport, a private driver and a hotel stay during the after-care period. Many Arab patients take a holiday at one of Turkey’s southern resorts first, then book into a clinic after they’ve sent the family home.
But experts warn that there are reportedly several hundred clinics operating illegally in Istanbul alone. While the transplant industry in Turkey is supposedly regulated, unlicensed clinics are able to attract customers because in a highly competitive market they are invariably cheaper.
However, since they are by nature “underground” setups, they are also less likely to adhere to clinical standards, not least because most do not operate from hospital premises. In short, patients have no way knowing if an unlicensed clinic is safe.