Five of the most common questions about hair transplants answered by our surgeon Asim Shahmalak

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Dr Asim Shahmalak, from Crown Clinic is one of the UK’s leading hair transplant surgeons. He is known as the surgeon to the stars through his work with Coronation Street star Jack P Shepherd, who plays David Platt in the soap, model Calum Best, TV doctor Christian Jessen, Homes Under the Hammer star Martin Roberts and Gogglebox star Chris Butland-Steed. Dr Shahmalak, who also has consulting rooms in Harley Street, was a general surgeon in the NHS before switching to private hair transplantation surgery 12 years ago when he opened his own clinic. As well as hair transplants, he also does more unusual procedures such as eyebrow, eyelash, beard and sideburn transplants. He was the first surgeon in the UK to perform an eyelash transplant – on a young woman from Greater Manchester 10 years ago.

1 What are the different types?

Dr Shahmalak said: “There are two different types of hair transplant for men and women – FUE and FUT.

FUE (follicular unit extraction) is the most popular and the one is chosen by around 80% of the patients at my clinic – Crown Clinic in Manchester.

With FUE, individual follicles are removed from the back and side of the scalp and then re-planted by the surgeon on the balding areas on the top of the scalp. The advantage of this method is that the scarring is minimal. Patients have small scabs where the hair is extracted and replanted which tend to heal after two weeks. FUE is particularly suitable for patients who liked to wear their hair short or shaved because the scarring is not particularly noticeable. Most stars have FUE for their transplants: my patients Jack P Shepherd, David Platt from Coronation Street, Calum Best and other big names such as Wayne Rooney.

FUT (follicular unit transplantation) is the more traditional method. The donor hair is obtained by surgically removing a strip of skin from the back or side of the scalp. From this strip, the donor follicles are extracted under a microscope and then replanted in the balding areas in the same way as FUE. Patients are left with a lined scar on the scalp which is not noticeable if they like to wear their hair relatively long. The TV doctor Christian Jessen has had two FUT procedures with me. FUT is less labour than FUE so it is slightly cheaper.

“FUE has gradually taken over in popularity from FUT in the last five years, thanks in large part because of FUE’s popularity with celebrity clients. Lots more men are wearing their hair very short or completely shaved at the back and sides and FUE is more suitable for those hair styles.

“As well as these conventional transplant procedures, other more unusual methods are also available using the same techniques.

“I am one of the few hair transplant surgeons in the world to perform eyelash transplants – most commonly on women who have naturally thin eyelashes or have damaged their eyelashes through the use of stick-on false eyelashes. The donor hair is extracted from the scalp in the same way through FUE or FUT and then sewn into the upper eyelid. It won’t work on the lower eyelid. Because head hair is extracted, it grows in the same way as head hair, so these new eyelashes need curling (to blend in with existing lashes) and trimming.

“Patients can also have eyebrow transplants – most commonly women who have damaged their eyebrows by overplucking. It works in much the same way as the eyelash transplant and again the transplanted hair needs trimming.

“Finally, I do beard and sideburn transplants for men who have thin beards – a surprisingly high number of men have this problem. It means they can grow a full beard without any gaps.”

2 How does each procedure work?

Dr Shahmalak said: “FUE takes around six to seven hours. Most patients start their surgery in the morning and are ready to go home the same day.

“The donor area at the back of the scalp is numbed with anaesthetic and then the donor follicles are removed individually, leaving small red scars where the hair is attracted.

“We typically extract around 1,500 follicles which amounts to around 3,000 hairs (because there is more than one hair in each follicle root). These are then replanted in the balding areas, again leaving small red scars which heal in around two weeks and just drop off like any scab.

“I advise most patients to take a week off work to allow for recovering after surgery.

“The procedure is relatively pain-free and most patients watch films on DVD during the extraction and replanting process. Some are so relaxed they fall asleep.

“Patients have to sleep with pillows propping up their back for the first couple of nights after the procedure so they don’t dislodge any of the transplanted hair. They should avoid strenuous exercise for at least week. But most patients feel as right as rain the day after the procedure and can lead normal lives while they wait for the scars to heal.

“My client Jack P Shepherd from Coronation Street was back filming the show two weeks after the transplant with viewers unaware that he had the surgery. That shows how quickly the scars heal.

“It takes up to a year for the transplanted hair to grow back so patients need to be patient – you don’t get an instant overnight transformation.

“FUT is a little quicker than FUE because the extraction of the donor hair is quicker – so the whole procedure takes around five hours. Scarring heals a little more slowly than FUE because a strip of skin is removed from the patient to obtain the donor hair rather than individual follicles.

“Eyelash, eyebrow and beard transplants take even less time – around four hours – because fewer donor hairs need to be extracted as you are covering a smaller bald area.

3 What are the benefits of using one over the other?

Dr Shahmalak said: “Around 80% of my patients chose FUE because the scarring is minimal and they would rather the donor hair was extracted individually rather all in one go with the removal of a strip of skin.

“FUE patients can wear their head short or shaved following a procedure without the scars being visible. It is why this procedure is so popular with celebrities.

“It is more expensive as a result because the extraction of the donor hair is more labour intensive.

“Around 20% of my patients still chose FUT – partly because it is cheaper than FUE. The scar from the removal of the strip of skin for the donor hair is noticeable but not if you wear your hair longer. There is some evidence to suggest that slightly fewer follicles survive extraction by being removed in a strip rather than individually, though I find that FUE is a highly effective form of hair transplantation and it has gradually taken over from FUT.”

4 Why might a hair transplant be needed?

Dr Shahmalak said: “A hair transplant is needed because the vast majority of men will experience hair loss at some point in their lives.

By the age of 30, around 40% of men will be losing their hair, this figure rises to half of men by the age of 40 and 60% of men by 50 onwards.

“As my patient Jack P Shepherd explained, a hair transplant is like the male equivalent of a boob job – it is a quick fix cosmetic procedure which will make a huge difference to their appearance. It can make men looks years younger and research shows that, as well as improving their self-confidence, it can also enhance their career prospects. There is a body of research pointing to the fact that men with a full head of hair earn more than those who are bald.

“But the main benefit is just to look and feel better. You can transform your life for the same cost as changing your car.

“We should not forget that 40% of women also experience hair loss in their lives. For many this is temporary – post-pregnancy or during menopause. However, a significant number of women have naturally thin hair or experience permanent hair loss and can benefit from the same procedures as men. About 10% of my patients are women.”

5 How does he think he has helped patients?

Dr Shahmalak said: “You only have to look at the experiences of my celebrity patients to see how hair transplants can help patients. They all say they look years younger and they are frank enough to admit that restoring their balding locks has benefited their careers. Their income depends on them looking good and they are to be congratulated on going public with their procedures and showing to millions of men how this simple procedure can transform their lives. Please read my testimonials to see what a difference I have made to patients' lives.”

Our Surgeon

Dr. Asim Shahmalak

Dr Asim Shahmalak is a world-renowned hair transplant surgeon who performed the UK’s first eyelash transplant in 2009. He runs Crown Clinic – one of Britain’s most successful and best known hair transplant clinics. He has treated a number of high-profile industry leaders and celebrities including the medical broadcaster Dr Christian Jessen, best known for Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.

Expert hair transplant surgery by Dr Shahmalak

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When the sun comes out, we know that we need to apply sunscreen to protect our skin, but many people forget to pay the same care to protecting their hair. Between the sun, sea and swimming pools, many of our favourite summer activities can significantly damage our hair – so the next time you go out to enjoy the sunshine, find out what you can do to protect it.


Why does sun damage the hair?


Sun damage to the hair is caused by the harmful UVA and UVB rays, which damage the outermost layer of the layer – the cuticle – and weaken the protein structure of the hair, making it dry, brittle and more prone to breaking. Some people find that their hair lightens in the sun, as the rays act in a similar fashion to bleach, stripping the melanin from the hair.


Protecting your hair from the sun


Wearing a hat is an easy way to protect your hair and scalp from the sun, especially if you’re outside when the sun is at its strongest. Hair SPF is also an option, which can usually be bought as a spray to be misted over the hair. Pay extra attention to the scalp – many people forget that the scalp can burn just as easily as the rest of the skin, ending up with an itchy, flaky, burnt scalp. If you do burn your scalp, rinse your hair in cool water and apply aloe vera to the affected areas, and make sure to keep your head covered when going outdoors.

If your hair is looking dry, try a deep conditioning treatment to restore some of the lost moisture to the hair, and avoid wearing your hair in any tight styles that may pull on the scalp. Summer is also a good time to temporarily stop using hairdryers, straighteners and any other hot tools to avoid adding to the sun damage.


Protecting your hair from the sea


Salt water is notorious for drying out the hair. It leaches moisture out of it, making it incredibly brittle and tangled, which can cause significant breakage. Before you go swimming, saturate your hair with clean water to prevent it from absorbing as much salt water, and don’t let it sit in your hair – rinse it thoroughly as soon as you get out of the sea. Deep conditioners and hair masks will also help replenish the moisture.


Protecting your hair in a swimming pool


Just like salt water, chlorinated water is very harsh and drying on the hair, so you can take similar precautions to swim in the sea. You could also try a swimming cap, as this not only prevents the chlorine from damaging your hair, but it will also protect your scalp from sunburn. If you have highlighted or blonde hair, be especially careful when in a swimming pool, as the copper and chlorine in the water have been known to form a film that sticks to the proteins in hair, turning it a green shade. Thankfully, this isn’t permanent, but make sure to enter the pool with wet hair and rinse it as soon as you get out.

However you are spending your summer, if you have any questions or queries about your hair, take a look at our hair advice or give our team a call.

Over the past few months, there have been a significant number of reports in the news of people experiencing hair loss after being diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed hair loss as a possible long-term effect of the illness, along with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and joint pain. 

A study published by the medical journal The Lancet reported that 22% of the patients it had observed suffered from some degree of hair loss six months after falling ill, with women being more affected than men. 


Why does COVID-19 cause hair loss? 


Although there are several studies linking coronavirus and hair loss, many of the reports we hear about are anecdotal – at the moment, it’s too soon for scientists to officially establish a link between the two. 

However, the type of hair loss that COVID-19 sufferers are reporting seems to be consistent with telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium occurs when more hairs than usual suddenly enter the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle at once, causing a more noticeable amount of hair to shed at once. It’s normal to lose up to 150 hairs per day, but if you spot that you’re losing much more than that – such as clumps coming out when you’re brushing or washing your hair – it could be telogen effluvium. 

Due to the length of the hair cycle, telogen effluvium typically occurs two or three months after a period of significant stress, which can include illnesses such as COVID-19. When undergoing stressful situations, the body puts all its resources into maintaining essential functions only – which, unsurprisingly, does not include hair growth. As a result, you end up with hair loss. 

However, several other conditions can cause hair loss – such as thyroid issues or nutritional deficiencies – so if you are concerned, visit your GP, who can rule out other underlying causes with a simple blood test. 


Will my hair grow back after having COVID? 


If the hair loss is the result of telogen effluvium, most people will find that the hair will eventually grow back without the need for treatment. Typically, once the trigger or stressor is removed, the hair will grow back on its own. 

If you notice that the hair loss is persisting, there are a number of medical, cosmetic and hair transplant treatments available to help – Crown Clinic offers a range of options to support those struggling with hair loss, so don’t hesitate to get in touch

When performed by a qualified, experienced hair transplant surgeon, hair transplants are a very safe procedure. Hair restoration is a minimally invasive treatment that allows patients to return home the same day, with the procedure only requiring local anaesthetic. 

However, if you undergo a hair transplant abroad – such as in Turkey – the risk attached is much higher. 


Risks of hair transplants in Turkey 


It’s no secret that undergoing hair transplant surgery in countries such as Turkey is a gamble. Every year, countless patients are reeled in by the low prices and package deals offered by overseas clinics. Many of the clinics boast ‘five-star’ ratings and an active social media presence, duping unsuspecting patients into thinking they are visiting a reputable clinic. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you may discover the reviews are faked and the ‘after’ pictures are heavily edited or taken from other clinics. 

Another trick that patients fall for is believing that a surgeon will be carrying out the procedure, as many of the clinics advertise that a surgeon leads them to convince patients that they are legitimate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a surgeon will be carrying out the hair transplant itself. In fact, many clinics hire under-qualified technicians with little training to keep the costs down, only seeking the supervision of a surgeon if the procedure goes wrong. 

Over the years, Crown Clinic has fixed countless botched hair transplants, mainly from overseas clinics. The most common problems that we see are unnatural-looking hairlines and unsightly scarring as the result of the surgery being carried out by unlicensed practitioners. Other risks are infections, as sanitation is often extremely poor at the clinics and damage to the scalp due to the result of the incorrect tools being used to carry out the surgery. 


Are there any side effects to having a hair transplant? 


If you choose to have a hair transplant in the UK with a reputable surgeon, side effects will be minimal. The hygiene standards will be incredibly high, meaning the risk of infection is negligible, and you will be given clear instructions on how to take care of your scalp after the procedure. Crown Clinic has an excellent aftercare service, offering a day-by-day guide to ensure optimum healing and results.  

Unlike at overseas clinics, where it can be impossible to follow up after the procedure to discuss any concerns related to your hair transplant, Crown Clinic is more than happy to answer any questions you may have during this phase.