Doctors Are Warning Young Men About 'Dodgy Black Market' Hair Transplant Clinics

EXCLUSIVE: An increasing number of Australian and New Zealand men are falling victim to "dodgy" hair transplant clinics overseas which prey on insecurity and vulnerability, a leading cosmetic surgeon has warned.

Terry * is a 31 -year-old retail worker who began losing his hair at the age of 22.

"It bothered me very much, my hair at the time was everything," he told 10 daily.

He decided to research hair transplant options, but found local clinics were far too expensive.

"I ended up going to Turkey, I made the mistake of rushing it, I should have done more research... I don't even know if they were doctors, the guys looked really young," he said.

Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that removes hair follicles from one part of the body, called the 'donor site', to a bald or balding part of the body known as the 'recipient site'. The technique is primarily used to treat male pattern baldness.

There was no counselling and no consultation. In total, the procedure, his hotel room and airport transfers cost Terry just $3000 -- but in Australia the procedure could cost up to $20,000.

"I got no good result, it actually looks worse and it hurt a lot... now I wear a cap all the time and I am embarrassed about what my hair looks like," he said.

The practitioner didn't do the top of his head, and took all the good donor hair at the back.

Terry's result includes over harvested hair from the back of of his  head. This mean they took all donor hair at the back of the head - so now he doesn't have enough hair to cover the top of his head . IMAGE: supplied

"My current concern is, in the last two years, the Turkish market in hair transplantation industry has exploded," past President of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, Dr Russell Knudsen, told 10 daily.

"And I wouldn't have a problem with it other than the fraudulent nature of much of the operators."

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Knudsen has performed more than 6000 hair transplants, and said he now has an increasing number of men coming to him to fix 'dodgy' transplants done overseas.

"Medical tourism typically in the past has been Thailand. They maybe would have an operation over there with a doctor, have a few days to recover, and then come back home and that's fine," he said.

Dr Knudsen said poorly performed procedures run the risk of infections and long-term scalp damage. IMAGE: ISHRS

"But now, we have this massive increase of young men going to Turkey... it's a massive black market," he continued.

"These technicians aren't  even registered nurses and they don't have formal credentials or training."

Knudsen said the results include incorrectly placed hairlines, hair going in wrong directions, hair not going in the places it's supposed to go, and infections.

“Dodgy clinics prey on the insecurity and vulnerability of these men by promising to build up their confidence, only to crash it back down again," he said.

A report released earlier this year by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) warned that an growing amount of non doctors are performing this invasive surgery.

A clinic in Pakistan which claims to be  Asia’s top hair transplant clinic specialising in hair transplants. IMAGE: supplied

The report, The Ugly Side Of The Hair Transplantation Industry, found the spike is driven by medical tourism, which offers cheap package deals including flights, accommodation as well as the procedure.

It identified Turkey, Pakistan, India, Iran and USA as the locations where non-doctors tend to do the work.

"Doctors in Turkey are not doing most of the transplants. A lot of the models are businessmen opening the clinics, doctors do the anaesthetics, and non -doctors do the transplant," Knudsen said.

For about $4000, a medical tourist in Turkey can get a hair transplant, airport transfers and accommodation costs covered.

Australia is an increasingly image conscious nation -- there were 500,000 cosmetic procedures done in the last year alone to the tune of $1 billion.

Female patients who had unsatisfactory hair transplant surgery IMAGE: ISHRS

According to an IBIS world report, the hair transplant industry’s main target market is adult males, particularly those aged 30 to 49, who are more susceptible to being self-conscious about hair loss.

The hair transplant industry has grown over the past five years, with increased image-consciousness boosting the industry's revenue.

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Dr Knudsen said the cost in Australia for the same treatment  at least three or four times that amount offered in places like Turkey.

"This is going to come back and bite them in years to come, because they are going to lose more hair and there is not going to be hair in the back of the head to repair the work," he said.

Knudsen is also reviewing Terry's case, and may operate on him pro bono or for a reduced fee.

"As a way of raising awareness about the dangers of these clinics, a group of international doctors including myself are working towards - 'Operation Restore' later this year," he said.

"This is the charitable arm of the international society [ISHRS] and we will perform corrective surgery free of charge."

*Terry's name has been changed.  

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