The Truth About Elton John’s baldness and hair transplants

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The big movie hit of the summer so far has been the Elton John biogpic, Rocket Man.

The movie deals honestly with the singer's battle with hair loss which dates back right to the start of his career in the early 1970s.

Throughout the story, friends, lovers and family members mention how his hair loss is speeding up.

As a boy, Elton, then still with a full head of hair, dreamed of being Britian's answer to Elvis Presely with the same elaborate quiff.

His mum – aware of the strong baldness gene running through the family – told him to enjoy his hair while he could because, by the time he was 20, he would be as 'bald as an egg.'

The film makes no secret of the fact that Elton often got stressed about his hair. 

Pictures of Elton throughout his career show his aggressive male pattern baldness. 

Throughout the 1970s his hair got thinner and thinner until he started to display increased growth sometime in the mid-80s.

Elton has a glorious full head of hair these days – and has done for a number of years.

So what has brought about this transformation?

Crown Clinic's consultant hair transplant surgeon Asim Shahmalak has been sifting through the evidence including some of Elton's own comments about the remedies he has used.

As far back as 1978, at the age of 30, Elton confirmd that he had undergone two hair transplants on his scalp.

He blamed constantly dying his hair for his hair loss – “messing around with my hair – pink, green, orange dyes.”

He said he'd had the procedures for reasons of “a hundred percent vanity,” adding: “I'll just be grateful if it grows.”

The surgery was combined with a new healthy lifestyle – no junk food or booze.

Dr Shahmalak explained that hair transplantation was in its very early stages back in the late 70s.

Elton would have almost certainly have had two FUT transplants (follicular unit transplantation).

This traditional method is still used today and is highly effective.

Donor hair is obtained from the back or sides of the scalp by surgically cutting out a strip of skin and removing the hair grafts individually under the microscope.

These are then expertly planted in the balding areas by the surgeon.

In its early days, FUE was not as successful as it is now and some patients complained of the transplant looking like doll's hair – with clumps of hair transplanted together, giving an unnatural look.

Techniques have improved appreciably since then and masters of the art such as Dr Shahmalak can seamlessly blend transplanted hair alongside existing natural hair so you cannot see the join.

Many experts believe that Elton started wearing a hairpiece in the 1980s because his hair loss was so rapid and the transplants would not have fully covered up his bald patches. 

There is a strong likelihood that Elton has had further surgery since the 1980s.

Most stars opt for the more modern hair transplant technique, FUE (follicular unit extraction). This is where the donor grafts are removed individually from the back and sides of the scalp – so there is no need to surgically remove a strip.

Around 80% of Dr Shahmalak's patients at Crown Clinic opt for FUE.

It is a little more expensive than FUT because obtaining the donor grafts is a lot more labour intensive. The donor hair is replanted in the bald patches in the same way as FUT.

Most of Dr Shahmalak's celebrity hair transplant patients have opted for FUE including Coronation Street star Jack P Shepherd, who plays David Platt, Homes Under The Hammer star Martin Roberts, former footballer Didi Hamann and former Gogglebox star Chris Butland-Steed.

Dr Shahmalak has also performed two FUT procedures on the TV doctor Christian Jessen. 

Elton may also have used clinically proven hair loss medication such as Finasteride, also known as Propecia. This won't have helped the star to grow any new hair but it may have prevented him from losing any more of his natural hair. Surgeons such as Dr Shahmalak often use Finasteride in conjunction with a hair transplant in a twin surgical and medicinal approach to combating hair loss.

Elton asked Chris Evans if he was using loss remedies such as Propecia in an interview in 2011. 

Elton is to be congratulated on his efforts to restore his hair over the last 40 years. He has got a great result and his hair is looking better than ever.


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.