My hair transplant and me

My hair transplant and me


Photos Antoine Testu

Words Anonyme

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One guy tells us how taking control of his hair changed his life.

It all started in 2009, I was 17. I was at boarding school, revising for my upcoming exams. I used to run my hand through my hair as a means of coping with stress. Except this time, it felt different. My mane had shed more than a few hair strands. From that day on, hair loss became an obsession. The more I’d fret about it, the more I’d helplessly notice my hair falling out.

I've taken care of my hair ever since I was a child. My mother often tells me that I would ask her to style my hair with gel before I went off to nursery school. As a teenager, I continued to take care of my looks. Like many boys, I wanted to be liked. I knew that hair was a key ingredient to successful seduction. I’d never imagined it would be a problem. That all changed on that fateful 2009 evening.

From the moment I noticed the first signs, I took matters into my own hands. After some Googling, I was able to clearly identify the source of my suffering: alopecia. I quickly talked about it to my friends and family. Several people blamed stress, tiredness, seasonal changes, etc. I found it hard to believe. I decided to see a dermatologist, who confirmed that I was losing my hair and that it was going to last. Poor genetics were to blame. While my father wasn't bald, some of my uncles were. None of this made me feel any better.

The dermatologist prescribed Minoxidil, a hair lotion to be applied in the morning and the evening. While it was only supposed to slow down hair loss rather than completely stop it, I still considered it a great start. I followed the treatment rigorously. My friends didn't understand why I was doing it. I was often told “come on, you're not losing your hair”. At the time, I was the only one who saw it. But that only lasted for a while.

By the time I turned 20, my hairline had started to recede. I adapted my hairstyle accordingly. At the hairdresser's, I explained my problem so they’d find a way to hide it. I would comb my hair forward. It worked, or so I thought. My friends started saying things such as: “Hey, your hairline’s receding, another 10 years of that and you'll be bald”. There was no ill-intent on their side, but it was just so hurtful.

That's when I really lost my self-confidence. Every time I met someone, I wondered if they’d noticed my bald spot. I started asking myself questions I’d never even considered before. What was I going to look like in a few years’ time? Would I look good with a shaved head? Would I find a girlfriend who’d accept my baldness? Everything seemed simpler when I had a head full of hair.

The same friends who used to tease me made clumsy attempts to reassure me: “If I lost my hair, I'd own it, nobody cares, to be honest”. That's not true. Nobody’s ready to own their baldness at 20. Nobody knows what it's like until it actually happens to them. I could see my face changing. I hated the way my head had started to look. I couldn’t even look at pictures of myself. I had to do something.

I kept on searching for a miracle solution. Finasteride, a daily oral treatment, regularly came up. I was put off by its controversial side effects. Another method that also came up frequently was getting hair implants. A lot of progress had been made in that area, and the strip-based FUT system and the large scars it left had been replaced with FUE transplants in which each bulb is extracted one by one and reimplanted in the area to be covered. I liked the idea. It was radical, effective but terribly expensive. As a student, it was absolutely unaffordable. But I’d made up my mind; I’d do it one day.

I finished my studies with this idea in mind. It helped keep me going, I knew there was a solution. When exactly would I be able to afford it? No idea. When I started working, I kept an eye on my expenses. Part of my salary was set aside to pay for my future transplant.

After a few years, I’d saved enough money to start seriously considering the operation. I signed up to a hair loss forum to get as much information as I could. I read a lot of testimonials; it was good for me. I wasn't the only one who felt the pain that had been eating away at me for years. Men would share their hair transplant stories with before/after pictures, the results were amazing. The names of Turkish surgeons came back regularly, the feedback was good, the prices were unbeatable (€2,000 vs. €7,000 euros in France). After 3 weeks of reading everything I could lay my eyes on, I went for it. My operation was scheduled for July 2018. I felt so relieved.

That’s how I ended up in Istanbul. I’d convinced an old friend, who was also bald, to come with me. We had each other's backs. We had lost our hair at the same age; we felt the same way. We knew this transplant would take a load off our shoulders. Our hotel was crawling with patients. You could recognize them by the large bandages on the back of their heads. Excitement mingled with fear. The next day, it was our turn.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt as stressed as I was on the day of the operation. After a brief meeting with the surgeon to draw our new hairline, everything went very quickly. They drew my blood, they shaved my head, gave me anaesthetics, and the operation could begin. The extraction of the bulbs was very uncomfortable, I had to lay on my stomach in insane postures, I could see the blood flowing on the floor. In the middle of the operation, I was turned around, put on my back, and blindfolded. The transplant could begin. After 5 hours, they tapped me on the shoulder: “it's over”. At last. It was a long procedure! Painless, though. In retrospect, the most difficult stage was the local anaesthetic.

The weeks following the transplant weren’t fun: you’re only allowed to sleep on your back, you’ve got scabs on your skull, you have to stay out of the sun, no exercising, no alcohol, etc. But it didn't matter, I was going to get my hair back!

The first regrowth took place after 2 months. Honestly, it looked terrible. A few thin hairs appeared in the middle of my temples. By the fourth month, the results were very encouraging! It was far from perfect but the density was much thicker. Every week, the results would get better and better. I was experiencing the opposite effect of the beginning of my alopecia. It was in the sixth month that the result really became convincing. I went back to the hairdresser. What used to be an ordeal was now a pleasure. What a joy to be able to get the cut you want. No limitations. When I left the hairdresser’s, I was born again.

A year after the operation, the results were final. I was fully satisfied. My friends and family were astonished. My girlfriend, who accepted me even with my baldness, even told me that: “it's true that you look better, it changes your face”.

These days, I’m much more self-confident. The way others look at me no longer matters to me. I no longer need to be reassured. My hair has stopped being an obsession. Every morning, I love spending time styling my hair. I am no longer afraid of the wind; I am no longer afraid of the rain. I'm no longer afraid of the way I look. My alopecia isn’t over, and I still take my daily Minoxidil treatment. I know I'll have to go through the transplant process again in a few years to fill in the rest of my head. But it doesn't matter, I have enough hair to be happy for many years to come.