Norman Orentreich, the innovative dermatologist who pioneered hair transplant surgery in the 1950s, has died, age 96.
A New York native, he is said to have passed away in Manhattan, USA, on 23rd January 2019, after suffering complications from pneumonia.
Developed hair transplant techniques
This common, hereditary form of hair loss only affects the top of the scalp and hairline in those with the relevant genetic predisposition. Therefore, Dr. Orentreich had the idea of taking follicles from the unaffected areas around the back and sides of the scalp, then grafting them into areas where there was noticeable hair thinning, or to fill in a receding hairline.
Although hair transplantation had been investigated in Japan as early as the 1930s to help restore eyebrow hair and eyelashes, it had not, until Dr. Orentreich’s work, been used to treat men’s hair loss. He performed the first hair transplant in 1952.
Given the now well-established, clinically-proven, non-surgical male hair loss treatments were not discovered until much later – 1988 for high strength minoxidil (though this was prescribed off–label by some doctors earlier in the 1980s) and 1997 for finasteride 1mg – this gave men their first viable option for preventing baldness.
Initially these early hair transplantation techniques – now known as hair plugs – tended to produce somewhat unnatural-looking results. As hairs were grouped together in small bunches before being grafted into incisions in the scalp, rather than as individual follicles – as the hair would grow normally – they often gave the appearance of doll’s hair.
This fairly rudimentary method was just the starting point, however, and the springboard for today’s more advanced FUT procedures. Indeed, it paved the way for what has now become a popular area of cosmetic surgery, worldwide.
About Dr. Norman Orentreich
In addition to being considered the founding father of hair transplantation, Dr. Norman Orentreich had a number of other notable credits to his name.
The former Navy Medical Corps pharmacist’s assistant went on to become head of the NYU (New York University) hair clinic in 1953.
Three years later he set up the Orentreich Medical Group, a family practice based on Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side, and which is now run by his son and daughter, Drs. Catherine and David Orentreich.
In the early 1960s Orentreich helped to develop Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo. Never one to rest on his laurels, he then co-created the hugely successful Clinique skincare brand, with its enduring hero product Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion, being based on one of Dr. Orentreich’s own formulations. This collaboration is credited with sparking the trend for well-known dermatologist- and plastic surgeon-led skincare lines.
In 1970 Orentreich Snr became the first President of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, eventually retiring from his dermatology practice in 2004 at the age of 81.
His work is said to have been loved by celebrities, including Andy Warhol – who is rumoured to have had the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Totalis, a more extensive form of Alopecia Areata, which causes hairloss of the scalp and facial hair, including eyebrows and lashes – who wrote about visiting Dr. Orentreich’s clinic in his diaries.
You can read Dr. Norman Orentreich’s full obituary in The New York Times.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.