My Hair Transplant

I started losing my hair when I was in my early 20’s and I hated it. Who wouldn’t? Men are supposed to be tough, strong, and not care about their looks. We’re rugged. But I will bet that hair loss upsets every man. Rugged or not.

I don’t like to admit that I care about my looks. I should just shave my head and be done with it.

I have a fairly big head and I look like an alien with a shaved head.

Here’s some more honesty – I think I’m a pretty good looking guy. I love that I’m good looking. Seriously. Is that shallow? Maybe. But who cares. People like good looking people. I liked that I was good looking.

With a receding hairline, I looked older. And my hairline didn’t recede like Johnny Knoxville’s (I think Johnny Knoxville’s looks cool), it receded like Master Higgins on Magnum PI. My right front temple was almost completely gone by the time I finished college. My self-confidence was also gone.

Some would say that this is a good way to build character. Adversity make us better people. I’m already a good person. I don’t need to lose my hair to make me a better person. I decided to battle my hair loss.

I spent hours every night on hair loss forums. I won’t get into all of the details of the crazy experiments I tried. Below are a few of the off-the-wall ones.

  • Needling (sticking needles into my head to draw blood with the hopes the process of the skin repairing itself would stimulate growth).
  • Needling and then applying Rogaine.
  • Standing on my head for 5 minutes after applying Rogaine. I was hoping to increase blood flow.
  • Washing my hair with vinegar.
  • Not washing my hair at all.
  • Trying silly, expensive shampoos like Nioxin.
  • Buying and trying a hair system.
  • Quit exercising for fear it was increasing testosterone.
  • Emu Oil applications.
  • Coconut Oil applications.
  • Powdered caffeine mixed with Emu Oil.
  • Biotin supplements.
  • Laser Light Therapy ($700).
  • Doubling my Propecia dose.

The list goes on but I won’t bore you.

7 years ago I decided to get a hair transplant. I probably spent over a hundred hours researching surgeons, techniques, studying results. I decided to go with Dr. Sanusi Umar. He’s based in Southern California. I live in Texas.

I chose Dr. Umar because he seemed to be performing a cutting edge technique, called FUE (I’ll get into this), and had good results. I took out a medical loan for $20k. I was fortunate to be making good money and my wife supported my decision. I knew I’d pay off the loan without an issue.

Dr. Umar was pioneering a technique that uses nape hair (the thin hairs on the back of your neck) in the hairline. This would supposedly create a softer, more natural looking hairline. The risk with nape hair? Nape hair might be susceptible to DHT (the hormone that makes us lose our hair). But I like risks and I like forward thinking surgeons.

Why I Chose FUE

This is the million dollar question when considering a hair transplant. FUE stands for Follicular Unit Extraction. This is when the surgeon shaves your head, and removes hairs from the back of your head with a device that grabs the hair from the root and yanks it out. The hair growing on the back of your head often grows in small groups. So the surgeon often pulls up more than one hair, separates them into single and double hairs and then sets them aside.

The surgeon then makes tiny holes in your balding area where the extracted hair will be placed. The key to a good transplant is density. It’s an art to get these tiny holes very close together and then carefully insert the new single or double hairs into them. The hairs should be placed in the proper direction so that they later grow in the proper direction.

The key to a good result is made up by 4 factors.

  1. The viability of the hair transplanted.
  2. The density the hair the transplanted hair  (how close the new hairs are placed to each other).
  3. The hair characteristics (is your hair thick, dark, etc.)
  4. The direction the hair is placed to make it look natural when it grows out.

The viability of the hair is primarily a result of the technique used to remove the hair. If the root is cut or damaged during extraction, the hair is unlikely to grow. This is the major risk with FUE. Because the surgeon removes each hair, rather than removing a big strip of skin with the hair attached, there is the risk that the root is damaged during removal. Thus increasing the risk of the hair not growing after transplantation.

The Benefit Of FUE

The primary benefit of FUE is that you don’t end up with a scar on the back of your head. This typically is not a big deal unless you want to shave your head. I wanted to keep the option of shaving my head. What if the transplant didn’t look good. It’s pretty tough to remove implanted hairs. And once I had a hairline, it might look good if I shaved my head (not totally bald but very short).

Traditional Transplants

Most people see someone with what looks like plugs of hair coming from their head and think transplant. They’d be right. That person probably had a transplant in the 1980’s. Today, the traditional transplant is much different.  Today, standard transplants are called an FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation). The surgeon cuts a large strip of skin and hair from the back of the patient’s head. The surgeon then uses a microscope to remove the hairs very carefully one by one. Then individual hairs are placed in the front of the head with the same technique that is done with FUE. The results are totally undetectable other than a small scar on the back of the head that is typically hidden with hair.

My Results

My results were pretty good. The transplant made a huge difference in the overall appearance of my hair. I went from a receding hairline to a solid but mature hairline. I didn’t want the hairline of a 15 year old. I wanted something to match my age.

However, I do have some gaps where the hair didn’t grow and I have a fairly large bald spot on the right side of my head where my surgeon probably removed too many hairs. I’m able to cover that with DermMatch. I believe my results would have been better if I went with an FUT and a more experienced surgeon.

Would I Do It Again?

I would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m going in for a touch-up procedure in May. I’m going with a different surgeon, Dr. Victor Hasson from Vancouver Canada. He’s done thousands of procedures and has amazing results. He uses the traditional FUT technique. I’ve decided that I’d rather have better density and growth with a small hidden scar than opt for another FUE.