By Kelvin Tan
On 4th June, 2011, Wayne Rooney shocked the football fraternity with a single tweet that read: “Just to confirm to all my followers I have had a hair transplant. I was going bald at 25 why not. I’m delighted with the result.”
Why not indeed? The day and age when great footballers like Zinedine Zidane proudly showing off their chrome domes is clearly over- today’s footballers are commercial entities; walking billboards, if you like.
In this selfie-driven era, the angst that guys suffering from premature balding gets even worse, really. These were some of the thoughts that went through my mind as I bit the bullet, and sat down with Dr Israr Wong’s at his Knightbridge clinic to see if there was anything he could do about my rapidly diminishing hairline.
First Things First
Of course, before I even considered doing something drastic like a hair transplant, other options were considered. Over the period of three months, I popped by J’s Salon (js.com.sg) for an intensive regime of treatments designed to try to stem hair fall and rejuvenate my hair follicles. The trouble for most guys, explained June Ng, the director of the salon, is that a lack of scalp care tends to leave men with clogged hair follicles. This prevents hair from being able to escape the based of the follicle, especially when it’s plugged with sebum.
Before she began the regime, June did extensive tests and checks on my hair scalp- documenting my current hair condition and density, which was a dismal 96 hairs/cm2. On average, June revealed, most guys my age would have a hair density of around 110-120 hairs/cm2. Clearly there was a lot to do, and over the course of the twelve weeks, she had me go on a product called Aminexil Force R, by Kerastase, which is a conditioning and protecting hair application to treat thinning hair and hair loss. On top of that, I would also have treatments at J’s to help clear out those clogged follicles.
Three months later- it was clear the regime was working- hairfall had clearly slowed, and my hair density had shot up to an impressive 125 hairs/cm2. But the trouble was, the bald patches at my crown still remained- and sadly there was nothing June could do to help with that- once the hair follicles die they’re really lost for good. It was time to try something else.
The Science Of Transplants
And here I was, sitting in Dr Israr’s clinic, inspired by Rooney’s example. Could I achieve the same results, I asked the good doctor? After a detailed examination of my scalp, he thought it might be possible, as my hair loss was caused by male pattern baldness (MPB). What was that, I asked.
“MPB is the most common cause of hair loss, and will affect up to 70% of men and 40% of women at some point in their lifetimes”, explained Dr Israr. For most guys, they tend to have hairline recession at the temples or vertex (back of the head). For a fair bit of folks, this has a genetic cause- from a sensitivity to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) produced by our bodies. Of course, it’s possible to treat this with DHT-blockers such as Finasteride, an oral medication which works by reducing the level of DHT, the hair doc explained, but a hair transplant is still necessary if a full frontal head of hair was desired.
The transplant would involve a surgical technique that moves individual hair follicles from a part of the body called the “doner site” to bald or balding parts of the scalp known as the “recipient site”. Dr Israr’s clinic specialised in a technique called follicular unit extraction
Not Exactly Pain Free
Sign me up, I said to the doctor. Of course, it wasn’t just as simple as that. On the day itself, the clinic’s nurses had to shave my head completely down to GI-Jane levels- this was to make it much easier to transplant the hair from the back of my head -why the hairs at the back of the sides and back of the head are less affected by DHT is still a medical mystery.
I was then given a general anesthetic, which left me pretty stoned out, and the procedure began, with Dr Israr taking individual follicular grafts by cutting around it through a tiny specialised machine, and removing them. I have to admit, the process was extremely tedious, as the doctors had determined I needed to transplant at least 1,000 hairs in order to achieve a good result. It took a whole day of hard work, pain, and a fair bit of bleeding, but close to ten hours later the deed was done.
While the doctor did warn swelling of the scalp and face was common for the first few days, I was still fairly freaked out and aghast to see my face look like I was auditioning for the Elephant Man– apparently this was due to the large amounts of saline used during the surgery making it’s way down the insides of my face.
Thankfully, the saline dissolves within the bloodstream after a week, which was also around the same amount of time it took for the bleeding to fully stop. In addition, I also had to constantly wet the grafts with saline for that week, and wash my hair very carefully with baby shampoo swiped from my son’s stash- it’s less harsh for the newly transplanted grafts.
Two months later, the transplanted hair started falling out- but no worries- that’s apparently par for the course, as it’s the new growth that happens after three to six months that matters, advised Dr Israr.
At The End Of It All
I must admit the nine months seemed to crawl by- each time I looked at the mirror nothing seemed to have changed- all I saw was really short cropped hair with still nothing much to show for my efforts.
But after the transplanted hair fell out, it started to become apparent the transplant had worked- with each passing month the new hair grew in tandem with the rest of my hair- and finally, the good doctor took a final review and pronounced the operation a great success.
Now, time to grow some long, flowy locks…
Day 365 Post Transplant