For several months, the cap was Paul’s indispensable ally. He wore it summer and winter, outdoors and indoors. Not to protect himself from the sun, but to hide his growing baldness. “The jokes from those telling me I was losing my hair had become unbearable”, solve the one that began to see his skull bald at 25 years old. At 28, his baldness had become a real complex.
In the fall of 2020, he came across a live Instagram from a friend who received a hair transplant in Turkey, a country known for this industry and more generally for medical tourism. Prices are much more attractive there than in France. The operation consists of taking hair from the back of the skull, where the density is higher, to implant them in the front, on the bald areas.
Interestingly, Paul asks him if the surgery went well. His friend is happy. Three months later, the young man went to Istanbul with a friend who also wanted to play billiards. “We didn’t hesitate long: my friend had been happy with her clinic, which was clean and gave convincing results according to the before/after pictures of patients that she posted on Instagram. »
Another argument that tipped the balance: the price, “very affordable”. The duo pay 1,800 euros each for a package including the surgery, three nights at an on-site hotel with breakfast and airport transfers. To this sum is added 200 euros in plane tickets from Toulouse.
The day after their arrival, the duo consult a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. In the afternoon, both are operated under local anaesthetic. Back in France two days later, time for regrowth, which requires at least six months to hope for a homogeneous result. A year and a half later, Paul has put down his cap. “The rendering is natural, he enthuses. It changed my life and for the price it is a godsend! »
An operation that is becoming more democratic
They are more and more, like him, pushing the door of clinics to afford hair implants. According to figures from the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, hair transplant surgeries increased by 5% between 2019 and 2021 in Europe and by 240% between 2010 and 2021. “This intervention becomes more democratic”, confirms Tracy Cohen Sayag, director of the Clinique des Champs Elysées, a large group of aesthetic medicine, which has seven clinics in France, one in New York and one in Dubai. In his clinic in Paris, 740 appointments were made in 2021 to perform a hair transplant, compared to 230 in 2019.
According to her, there are several reasons for this. Firstly, the development of FUE (Follicular unit extraction). This surgical technique consists of removing the hair one by one from the areas of the skull that have hair, without leaving a scar. That’s what Paul used. A less invasive technique than FUT (follicular unit transplantation), an older process. This requires taking a strip of scalp from the back of the head, from which follicular units are removed, which are then transplanted one by one. The skin is then sewn together, leaving a mark on the back of the skull that can be seen on short hair.
People talking about it
Another reason for the increase in demand, according to Tracy Cohen Sayag: the fact that the transplant is less taboo, especially because “Influencers talk openly about it when they have surgery. This allows us to reveal behind the scenes in an unknown sector that could perhaps be scary ».
Among those who have told their community that they have used it, with supporting photos, are reality TV candidates followed by at least 1 million people on Instagram: Thibault Garcia, Greg Yeya, Nikola Lozina, Ricardo… Other personalities have publicly said to have had hair implants: singers Florent Pagny, Elton John, Robbie Williams, former TV host Julien Lepers… The topic is also discussed in series or movies and is the subject of memes on social networks.
Some personalities have even made a business out of it. The Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo, owner of several aesthetic clinics, announced in September 2021 on Instagram the opening of a clinic specializing in hair transplantation in Spain with 15 rooms dedicated to this intervention.
If the transplant is less taboo, it is perhaps also due to the aggressive marketing of certain foreign clinics, with large swaths of sponsored postings on social networks, buying search terms on search engines and publicity – press releases in the media. Kevin, 28, took the plunge after doing some research online into beard transplants and then being bombarded with advertisements. He too ended up flying to Turkey in 2021 to perform a hair and beard transplant from his hair for 4,500 euros all inclusive.
This offensive communication, French surgeons deplore it and condemn unfair competition. “They will shamelessly apply in France, while we, French practitioners, do not have the right to communicate for advertising purposes”thunders plastic surgeon Guillaume Lemierre, member of the French Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
This represents a serious deficiency for them. But French surgeons know that the price battle is lost against certain countries. In France, transplants cost between 3,000 and 11,000 euros. In Turkey, patients can potentially get out of it for half the price, with a package of services on site. Tunisia also appears among the attractive countries. Rates that can be explained, among other things, by much lower rates.
Is the quality there abroad? Tracy Cohen Sayag and Guillaume Lemierre speak with one voice: there is something very good and something less good. Patients may experience complications. It’s still left “fairly rare and less serious than surgeries like a facelift or breast implants”explains the plastic surgeon.
In terms of results, some may be disappointing. ” Over the months I have noticed very little regrowth, laments a young man at the International Hair Loss Forum supporting photos after an operation in Turkey. Scions that aren’t dead are just a field of rubble. They were planted out of order. They have been placed too far apart so there is no density, with white holes showing the skull everywhere. »
The disappointments are not specific to foreign clinics. Also in France, patients report failed transplants. But for those returning from abroad, it is above all the postoperative follow-up that is missing, warns Muriel Bessis, president of the Association for Successes and Failures in Cosmetic Surgery (Arches). In France, surgeons can easily see patients again in case of complications. To stimulate regrowth, they sometimes offer them PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) sessions or joint sessions if needed.
A follow-up to the fact that the French do not operate outside our borders. “When they have problems after an operation, they are told ‘good come back!’ They feel isolated, left to fend for themselves and then want to knock on the door of French surgeons. » But the latter are not always open to receiving them, especially because they do not know under what conditions the patients were operated on.
French professionals warn: It is not because the price is particularly attractive that you should rush headlong. If the operation is performed too early, alopecia (hair loss) can develop and the young man will then end up with a bald area between the grafted hair at the front and back of the skull. A not really aesthetic result, which pushes some to get a new transplant… but you still have to have enough hair in your donor.
If specialists recommend thinking long-term, it is also because the profile of patients who take the leap has evolved. Ten years ago, the exclusive scalp surgeon dermatologist Pierre Bouhanna operated mainly on people in their forties. Now the patient group is younger. “Men in their twenties, with still very moderate baldness, approach us. » Tracy Cohen Sayag goes in the same direction. At the Clinique des Champs Elysées, the 25-35 age group is most represented among those who undergo hair transplants. They represent 39% of patients in 2020, followed by 35-45 year olds.
Paul, he knows his baldness can progress. “I preferred to have a first operation, regain confidence and possibly have a second operation rather than wait…”
A business that takes root in Turkey
In 2019, 480,000 people traveled to the country for hair transplants, according to Emin Cakmak, chairman of Turkey’s Health Tourism Development Council. In 2021, there were 756,000, or 57% more. Hair implant tourism thus brings almost six out of ten patients from abroad to Turkey.
In Istanbul, there are about 2,000 clinics and hospitals that perform this procedure, according to Emin Cakmak. Patients from abroad travel primarily from the Middle East, followed by Europe.