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Doctors Need Not Apply - Welcome To The New World of Hair Transplant Surgery

Spencer Kobren and Joe Tillman speak with a caller who voices his disappointment in the current state of the hair transplant field and explain why the hair transplant industry is more dangerous for consumers than it has been in more than two decades.

Joe Tillman: I think I told you that I personally think that the industry is worse today than it was when you were on the forums back in the day just because there's so much more deception, and so much more competition for your dollar, basically, is what it comes down to, and more and more people are in the industry, and more and more people are lowering the threshold of what people will and won't do to get your business.

Spencer Kobren: Well let's put it this way. I was just asked to speak at a mainstream cosmetic surgery conference. It's a big conference in the LA area, and the person who contacted me wanted me to speak on, the title was, "How to Grow a Successful Hair Transplant Practice." So I said, "You know what, I have no problem speaking, but I think it would be a better talk and it would help to empower your audience and all these guys who want to get involved in the field a little bit more if I kind of express what not to do if you want to build a successful hair transplant practice."

What that means to me is don't believe the device manufacturers. Don't go with the typical bullshit marketing that we see and that is really flooding the internet more than ever before. Make sure that you understand what proper patient selection is. Make sure that you learn to know what the fuck you're doing, and not just rely on a bunch of traveling techs, never knowing what kind of consistency you're going to have because your name goes on every transplant and obviously a lot of other things. The person hasn't gotten back to me once I sent that to her. I'm sure that she will because it's an important topic. I think it's going to really help all these guys, but Joe is absolutely right.

The hair transplant industry is now taking a really clear, it's a clear shift. There's a clear paradigm shift, and there are more novices than ever who are going into the industry. They think that they're purchasing a turn-key solution to bring in ancillary income or just another stream of income into their current cosmetic surgery or plastic surgery practice. What's happening is more people are being harmed, in my view, than ever before, just based on volume and based on the fact that this surgery is becoming more and more popular, and more and more socially acceptable to have, so people just think, okay, it's one-size-fits-all and I'm going to get involved in this. When you had it done, it was difficult enough to make a decision. Now it's almost impossible for people to really get the information they need unless they do a little digging.

Look, when you look up hair transplants and whatever, you're going to find WebMD information that we provide WebMD with through the American Hair Loss Association, also our resources, and some other really good resources. But what happens is, people just want to get fixed, and you know it as well as anybody else, Jason. When you're in that situation you want to get fixed, and you might not listen initially.

[Caller] Yeah, it's an industry rife with gimmicks and euphemisms, and even in my little SMP search, I saw some of the usual suspects of like different lighting and-

Spencer Kobren: Oh shit.

[Caller] ... how they do the SMP, and then the person, all the sudden they had a comb-over, and the full head of hair was restored-

Joe Tillman: Yep.

[Caller] .. and the promises of full heads of hair and-

Spencer Kobren: Big fucking smiles, and you know, the whole thing.

[Caller] ... but I was surprised and saddened to hear that ... I had hoped that the internet and all the social media that, and things like Yelp, that the word would get out, so why do you think in spite of those things it's gotten worse?

Spencer Kobren: Well I think because there's just so much information out there, and misinformation, and also because device manufactures have come into the game. These are device manufacturers that are well-backed. They have a lot of money to spend on marketing, and they basically have a lot of money to spend on sales and distribution. So what do they do? I'll give you an example. A company, NeoGraft, there's nothing wrong with the device. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the device, but essentially this device is being sold to people in most cases, who are not hair transplant surgeons. So what do they do? They provide the device for, I think it's 80,000 now. It's less than it was before, maybe a hundred, and I could be wrong about the price.

They essentially say, "Look, this is a turn-key solution. We have all these incredible marketing material that we have developed for our clients. You get to be listed on our website, which is a popular website with a lot of traffic so you're going to get leads, and you're also going to get a group of technicians who have been trained specifically on the NeoGraft to perform the vast majority of the surgery, where it's legal to have that done." So for a plastic surgeon, he thinks, "Shit, I can make this much money for a 2,000 graft hair transplant, and I only have to give this much money back to the company, and this money to the technicians, and I can be in another room doing consultations or doing a rhinoplasty."

Find A Surgeon

The International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons is a consumer organization that selectively screens skilled and ethical hair transplant surgeons. The IAHRS does not offer an open membership policy to doctors practicing hair transplatation, and is the only group that recognizes that all surgeons are not equal in their skill and technique. Its elite membership seeks to represent the best in the discipline, the true leaders in the field of surgical hair restoration.