Growing the hair transplant sector

Man looking at hair loss, referencing hair transplant sector

Hair transplants are more popular and techniques are improving but black market practices are booming, according to results from a new survey from The International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), a global non-profit medical association active in over 70 countries.

Over the last 30 years, the field of hair restoration surgery has experienced a considerable transformation, resulting in enhanced results with fewer procedures for patients seeking a permanent solution for hair loss.

According to the ISHRS 2022 Practice Census, 68% reported performing an average of one procedure per patient in 2021 to achieve the desired hair restoration result. This represents a significant improvement, as ISHRS members estimated an average of 3.4 procedures in 2019 and 5 procedures in 2016 were needed per patient to achieve the desired result.

With refined Follicular Unit Transplantation techniques – both linear excision and follicular unit excision – male and female patients are benefiting from the latest advances.  The report found:

  • ISHRS members treated more patients seeking nonsurgical treatments for hair loss than those opting for surgical.
  • The total market size for hair restoration surgery in 2021 was US$4.5 billion.
  • More than half of both male and female surgical patients worldwide fell between the ages of 30 to 49 years old.
  • ISHRS members treated a higher percentage of men with surgical hair restoration procedures (87%) than women (13%).
  • Body hair transplantation remains popular.
  • Among men, 13% of procedures targeted non-scalp areas of the body, of which beards/moustaches accounted for 4% of procedures.
  • Among women, 17% of procedures targeted non-scalp areas of the body, of which eyebrows accounted for 11% of procedures.
  • 51% of members reported there are black market hair transplant clinics in their cities.
  • 5% of hair restoration patients sought treatment to repair previous surgery from another physician/black market hair transplant in 2021, up from 4% in 2019.
  • 16% of ISHRS members changed their pricing structure as a result of the black market.

ISHRS have a campaign, Fight the Fight, to shed light on the dangers of the medical black market and medical tourism package deals.

Launched in response to the growing number of people going to unlicensed technicians to get hair surgeries, the organisation offers support to victims of treatments that have gone wrong and provides education and training about the subject.

Although clinics and hospitals are inspected, there many back street places that are much cheaper.

ISHRS says there have been cases where doctors or those purporting to have medical training have misled patients and carried out illegal practices, resulting in injuries, scarring and the depleted or uneven appearance of hair.

ISHRS warns that it is very important to examine social media and videos, as the words they say and what is written must match up.

One of the main issues within the industry is the lack of follow-up after the operation to ensure there are no complications.

According to local media reports, more than 100,000 people visit Turkey for hair transplant procedures alone, the vast majority being from Arab states. But as well as many black market clinics in Istanbul, even registered ones rarely follow up after the operation.

Cheap prices and lax regulation abroad have left some people with botched results.

The British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery (BAHRS), places some of the responsibility for those failed procedures on unethical marketing tactics by clinics based in Turkey.  Package deals are often advertised with unlimited amounts of grafts and are time limited, which pressurises patients to make a decision. This goes against the advice of doctors in the UK.