The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons (ISHRS) has launched a campaign to warn people of the dangers associated with getting a 'black market' hair transplant.
In a shocking press statement from March 2019, the industry body advised that 77.5 per cent of its members - qualified hair restoration surgeons - have seen an increase in the number of people coming to them for help after 'botched' procedures.
The reason for the number of poor results has been put squarely at the door of illegal hair transplant clinics, and poorly trained - or completely unqualified - non-medical practitioners carrying out these highly skilled procedures.
The ISHRS reports that, due to the demand for hair transplants, often cheap ones carried out abroad, and unscrupulous attempts to cash in on people's hair loss concerns, they have even heard of instances where the operation has been carried out by a taxi driver.
ISHRS members reported cases where post-op patients of these dubious 'clinics', presented to them with scarring and infections, over-harvesting - where too much donor hair has been removed, leaving the area bald with little hope of there being enough to use for any corrective procedures - and infections.
Additionally, poor results such as "disfiguring" unnatural looking hairlines and follicles being placed so that grafted hair grows in the wrong direction, were obvious.
Another issue the medical association feels potential customers, particularly those seeking a hair transplant abroad and looking into medical tourism, should be aware of is inaccurate graft counts.
The cost of hair transplants tends to be worked out based on the number of grafts, which is essentially a per-hair price. The ISHRS advised that patients have been booked in - and charged for - a specific number of grafts, but in reality have received around half that amount.
When having medical procedures in a foreign country, whilst their marketing may be sophisticated, including online reviews which cannot be easily verified by the viewer, the reality can often include poor-to-no aftercare and language barriers, making it hard to address any concerns or pursue recourse.
This is, of course, in addition to any issues with the conditions of the clinic and its equipment, not to mention ensuring the staff carrying out your operation are properly, medically trained and have the relevant skills and qualifications.
One way to avoid falling into the black market hair transplant trap is to check the ISHRS website - ishrs.org - to verify credentials for a specific clinic and/or surgeon, before going ahead.
“This is a serious crisis for anyone seeking help for hair loss, which is why the ISHRS is working diligently to educate patients about these dangers. We have many competent doctors in the ISHRS operating in the medical tourism industry who have signed a commitment that the Doctor does the surgery and have attended educational meetings regularly to assure the hair restoration surgery in the end makes you happy and not one you will regret for a lifetime," says Ricardo Mejia, MD, chair of the ISHRS Committee on Issues Pertaining to the Unlicensed Practice of Medicine.
Unethical hair restoration practitioners are unlikely to provide unbiased advice when it comes to dealing with hairloss.
Where there is a drop in hair density and thinning hair or a receding hairline but the hair is still present - the scalp has not yet taken on the smooth, shiny look associated with going bald - non-surgical hair loss treatment is generally the first step to consider.
Many top surgeons advise men considering hair replacement surgery to first follow a course of clinically-proven hair treatments - high strength minoxidil and/or finasteride 1mg - for a minimum of 6 to 12 months.
Doing so will give the candidate an idea of what can be achieved without surgery but, should they still decide to go ahead with the op, they will have maximised their hair growth and stabilised hair fall in preparation for the procedure. This is likely to lead to better results as it gives the surgeon more to work with, as well as a cleaner area with less shedding to deal with.
For those who have a hair transplant, aftercare is critical in maintaining the results obtained, which should become fully realised around 12 months post-op. Continuing to follow this type of pharmaceutical hair loss treatment programme, with additional hair growth supporting products where desired, plays a big role in preventing baldness around the grafts.
When choosing a surgical practitioner or hair loss specialist, it is vital to not only do your research, but to meet with a number of different businesses in order to make an informed decision.
Dealing with hairloss can be a tough and emotional ordeal so, once you know they are properly qualified and equipped to meet your needs, go with the professionals you feel most comfortable dealing with and will be comfortable about reaching out to for help, should you need it.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic 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 from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.