The Dangers Of The Hair Transplant Industry (& What’s Being Done About It)
Hair Loss Industry Event Puts Charlatan Operators on Notice
There’s a new era unfolding in the hair transplant surgery industry, and it’s about time. Those of us involved in it – whether as medical professionals, influencers or other – who actually give a damn about the patients signing up for this surgery, have been deeply concerned for a long time. It’s no exaggeration to say that the industry has been rife with charlatans for years. It’s become flooded with unqualified, money-hungry, maiming amateurs, hell bent on filling their pockets at the expense of their hapless patients. As Dr John Cole states, “This industry is in more danger now than its ever been!”
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: hair transplant surgery is a last resort – and once you’re cut, you’re cut. I also abide by the mantra, “trust no one”. I stand by both those statements every single day. When it comes to hair transplant surgery, it’s a case of “buyer beware”. You must do your due diligence because there are some very dark and shady operators out there. You don’t get a second chance to have a good, safe, effective first hair transplant. Considering you will probably need more than one transplant over the course of your lifetime – that’s the nature of it, thanks to the hair’s natural growth cycles – that very first one sets the foundation for all ensuing ones. I will say though, for those poor gents who’ve been on the receiving end of some botched surgeries, there is hope.
A foundation of trust, confidence and optimism
I recently spoke at the 8th Annual FUE Europe Conference in Manchester, a collaboration between FUE Europe and the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons. The event brought together pretty much a who’s who of industry superstars as well as passionate newcomers and everyone in between. What each individual had in common was the deep desire to do right by patients. FUE Europe and the IAHRS exist to preach best practice, promote accountability and provide a community that invites, supports and encourages ethical players to attain and maintain supremely high standards. You could think of it as an exclusive club that only admits members with the best intentions, who genuinely want to see this industry thrive and who truly care about patients’ rights, needs and results.
The event played a vital and much-needed role in generating awareness of the many terrible things happening out there across the world. I was invited to present my views on the state of the industry and believe me, I did not hold back. Happily, my points of view were extremely well received, due in no small part to the fact that I myself have been the recipient of no less than 13 hair transplant surgeries. If anyone knows this game, it’s me. I’ve been “that guy’”who has suffered at the hands of greedy amateurs and I’ve got the scars to prove it. Today, I’m a success story but it’s been a hard slog soaked in actual blood, sweat and tears.
My role as a patient advocate, influencer and trusted spokesperson is one I don’t take lightly. My presentation at the conference was quite passionate and animated but I make no apology for that. I’m angry that so many hair transplant patients have been so poorly treated that their already low self-confidence has been destroyed. I’m angry that countless healthy albeit thinning scalps have been traumatised by, effectively, butchers. I’m angry that the bad guys have gotten away with this for so long.
Draining the swamp of the hair loss industry
What I’m extremely heartened to tell you today is that although the cogs have been turning for a while behind the scenes at FUE Europe and the IAHRS, the conference basically put the bad guys on notice. In fact, it sent a strong, clear message to even those who might be fence-sitters.
Not all wolves in sheep’s clothing wear the full costume. There are those who might be tempted to cut corners, relax their standards or coerce patients into procedures they don’t need, even though, for all intents and purposes, they seem as though they’re doing everything by the book.
One of the most important themes of the conference echoed the old adage, “United we stand, divided we fall”. Those who genuinely have the industry and patients’ best interests at heart are rising up to stand together and rehabilitate the field of hair transplant surgeries. We are issuing a challenge: “You’re either with us, or against us; part of the solution or part of the problem.” And believe me when I say, those who are against us will not prevail as the army of very driven, ethical and honourable hair transplant surgeons are getting their industry back under helm.
For me, it was very special to bear witness to the new wave of young physicians whose enthusiasm can truly help steady the ship and get it back on course.
The role of the patient in building a safer, healthier hair transplant community
For patients, education, awareness and responsibility are key. If you’re in the market for a hair transplant – or think you might be – do your research. Seek a second (informed) opinion, ask around, look up reviews, join forums, participate in conversations and become a regular listener of The Bald Truth podcast and listen to Joe Tillman, Spencer Kobren and myself. Hell, even pay attention to your gut; you know when something doesn’t sound or feel right. Take responsibility for your wellbeing and safety and look beyond price and pretty promises.
Likewise, help us to help you. Be vocal when you smell a rat or, in fact, meet one. Blow the whistle on dodgy operators, even if what happened to you was a long time ago.
The role of hair transplant operators in restoring integrity in their community
Operators who are proud of their work often maintain a dignified silence, which can make them harder to identify. What they don’t do is hide behind slick marketing campaigns, make outlandish promises or change their trading name and/or move premises on a regular basis.
Only ethical, high-benchmark medical professionals can be found on the membership rolls of FUE Europe and the IAHRS. They may also be found not yet on the rolls but we’re working to change that. Membership is not mandatory but operators who are not members will, through our awareness campaigns, increasingly be seen by consumers as ones to avoid.
At the June conference, it was abundantly clear that these two organisations are leading the way in their combined mission to create a cohesive community. This collective community serves two main purposes: 1) to support and nurture the goodwill among the industry’s diligent and reputable surgeons and clinics, and 2) to protect and guide men and women who have been, are currently, or will be looking to have their first or subsequent hair transplant surgery.
As Spencer Kobren pointed out: “This event is potentially the catalyst for the greatest expression of collective change.” You know what? Change is already happening and there are going to be interesting times ahead.
Visit spexhair.com for further information and or to contact the writer of this article – Spencer Stevenson, Ape’s resident hair loss expert.