Risks of having a hair transplant abroad explained by our consultant surgeon Dr Shahmalak

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Health tourism is booming with a 109% rise in the number of Britons having cosmetic surgery overseas in the last two years
Turkey and Thailand are popular destination with some clinics using the tagline: 'Have a holiday and an operation at the same time.'
Cyprus, India, Greece and particularly Turkey are popular for hair transplants.
There are 650 hair transplant clinics in Turkey compared to only around 40 in the UK.
Prices are cheaper but there is very little regulation and patients expecting their operation to be carried out by a qualified surgeon can find they are left in the hands of junior technicians.
Research carried out by Leeds University found that one in six patients (16.5%) who had cosmetic surgery abroad suffered complications.
Hair transplant surgeon Asim Shahmalak from Crown Clinic often has to repair the mistake of the victims of health tourism.
Around 10% of his work is doing a second procedure on a patient who has undergone botched surgery abroad.
He said: “People are taking terrifying risks with their health by seeking surgery overseas. 
'I have seen the results of botched surgery, including poor hair growth, density and direction, wide strip scars, donor site depletion from graft over-harvesting and, in the worst cases, skin loss from necrosis.
'Our health is the most precious thing that we all have – why gamble with it to save a few pounds?
'Anyone performing surgery in the UK is very tightly regulated. Yes, you pay a little more but you know that you are dealing with an expert who must adhere to stringent standards from the Care Quality Commission. It really is worth paying that little bit extra.”
Dr Shahmalak is one of the world's leading hair transplant surgeons and his celebrity patients include Calum Best, Gogglebox star Chris Butland-Steed and the ex-footballer Didi Hamann, who all had FUE (follicular unit extraction) hair transplant with him. Dr Shahmalak also treated TV doctor Christian Jessen who had two FUT (follicular unit transplantation) procedures at Crown Clinic – this is the more traditional type of hair transplantation also known as strip surgery.. 
Here  Dr Shahmalak's explains the three key points patients need to consider before embarking on surgery in Turkey.

1 The clinic you choose may be operating illegally 

Many of the clinics operating in Turkey which advertise in the UK do not have a licence – that means they are operating illegally.

There is a risk with any of surgery – though it is very small if you are working with a reputable surgeon in the UK who will be heavily regulated.  

However, if you are going to an illegal clinic you have no recourse if the surgery goes wrong. And what level of expertise will your surgeon have? That is, if you actually have a qualified surgeon working on your case. You may just be fobbed with poorly trained technicians.

You can find out more about the large numbers of Turkish clinics operating illegally here.

2 You won't know until too late if you have got value for money 

No successful hair transplant shows off its best results for at least six months.

That is because the transplanted hair falls out in the immediate aftermath of the operation. This is perfectly normal. The key is that the new transplanted follicles have bedded into their new home. In time, new hair will grow back from these roots and you will see the transformation in your hair – but not until several months after the procedure.

By this time, you will have returned home to the UK. If there are problems or if the procedure has not worked as you expected, are you really going to want to go to the time and expense of returning to Turkey or India to see the surgeon again to put it right?

As part of our after-care at Crown Clinic, we have face-to-face catch-ups with our patients long after the procedure to check that they are happy with every aspect of their care. You won't get this attention to detail at most clinics abroad.

3 Questions you need answering before choosing a clinic for a hair transplant

Choosing to have a hair transplant is a big decision in anyone's life. There are lot of questions you need answering before picking an individual surgeon or clinic.

Some are pretty basic but highly relevant if you considering choosing a clinic abroad.

Is it easy to contact and visit the clinic?

Are there independent checks you can make to ensure that they are using registered doctors? You would not just want to take their word for it.

Is the clinic registered with a profession body? This is an important consideration. At Crown Clinic we are registered with the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery (BAHRS). All its clinics operate to high standards.

Does the clinic have testimonials from satisfied patients that you can look at? It is worth looking at these testimonials closely to check these are genuine.

Crown Clinic has dozens and dozens of testimonials from patients thrilled with their treatment over several years. You can read them here.

Our consultant surgeon Asim Shahmalak operating on a patient at Crown Clinic in Manchester 

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.