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Hair Transplants On The Cheap - “I Know I Sound Like a Fool, But I Was Desperate” 

In Turkey’s cutthroat hair transplant tourism industry, the financial costs of surgical hair restoration to patients may seem to be getting cheaper,  but the long term physical and emotional stakes are far higher than most naive consumers could have ever expected. Listen to this BBC Radio exclusive interview of a UK hair transplant repair patient discussing his experience in detail and hear what The Bald Truth’s UK contributor Spencer (Spex) Stevenson has to say about the importance of doing your due diligence before considering this life altering cosmetic procedure.

BBC Interviewer: One of the aspects I have been talking about as well is men turning to hair transplants because they're worried about thinning out on top, receding, and it's causing them a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety.

BBC Interviewer: Sometimes, though, these can go wrong. I was speaking earlier to James from Pangbourne, who went to Turkey for an all inclusive hair transplant package, and here's how he described what they did to his hair.

James: If you can imagine a hair line with hair sort of going in all different directions, almost like, you know, I don't know, like an action man figure from the '80s or something. But yeah, so it was incredibly emotional, and the holiday was spent panicking and thinking, what have I done? 

James:  I'd been led to believe it would be a doctor carrying out the procedure, and as I say, it wasn't. Post the holiday, post that experience, I went online and actually did my research, which, a huge piece of advice to listeners, you know, I mean, I know I sound like a fool, but I was desperate. Do your research before you do anything.

James:  There's a lot of material out there. There's a guy called Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson  Stevenson, or Spex, is an online forum, and you can find loads of information out there from that. There's a radio show called The Bald Truth, again I think Spex is on that, and there's another guy called Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson  in the U.S. 

James: You can go on there and talk to them and get advice. Since that experience, I have rectified the problem. I went to the Harley Street Hair Clinic, which is, it's kind of famous because Wayne Rooney went there, and I'm now very happy with the results. But it was five thousand pounds, which is, obviously, like two and a half times as much as I'd initially spent, but I'd wasted two thousand pounds in Turkey.

BBC Interviewer: Yeah. And are these clinics popping up all over the place, then, sort of luring men across to have this procedure done?

James: Well, I don't want to just badmouth Turkey per se, you know. Possibly, there are clinics out there that are working well, I would say, you know, again, it's a question of research. But, I think there is a huge problem with men suffering in a code of silence, you know, and shame surrounding hair loss, which there shouldn't be. And, in that desperation, you will jump at anything you think will rectify the problem, especially something that, again, two thousand pounds is a lot of money, but it's something that people are willing to chuck on the credit card, you know. Because, you are in a state ... 

James: You know, with my work, I can't be insecure. I've gotta be resolute, and I was suffering and, you know, it was affecting my home life. It was affecting my relationship with my wife. It was ... You could say it was vanity, I don't know, but it doesn't remove the fact that I was suffering.

BBC Interviewer: That was James, who went to Turkey to have a hair transplant, and it went quite badly wrong.

BBC Interviewer: Spencer (Spex) Stevenson  Stevenson is a hair transplant specialist in the UK, and he joins me now.

BBC Interviewer:  Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson , hello.

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson:  Oh, hi there.

BBC Interviewer: Are you seeing a lot of this, men sort of trying to head off to those destinations to get a hair transplant on the cheap?

Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson: Indeed, I do, on a regular, daily basis. I get many emails from guys who have been over to the likes of Turkey and it's a little, it's quite an epidemic at the moment, because it's getting sorted, and they're luring them in with regards to the affordability of it. 

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: And as your previous caller mentioned, people are very desperate, and they want to get this fixed, and they aren't prepared to go where the price is necessarily cheaper, but unfortunately, the caliber of the surgery that is being performed isn't, because, the surgery overseas in Turkey is being performed by technicians, and technicians that were trained by technicians, so the caliber of the work is very poor.

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: And, yeah, I see a high number of patients that are seeking repair. You know, it is, unfortunately, hair loss and hair transplantation, it's a hidden epidemic. 

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: There is a vast number of guys out there on a daily basis that are wanting to resolve their issues with regards to hair loss, and it's hard enough as it is, nevermind having poor work done, because then they're in the tunnel, so to speak, and they can't back out, and they have to move forward, and it doesn't necessarily bode well for them, because then they have a lot of limitations presented upon them with regards to what is available to them, when if they'd come to a good, ethical surgeon clinic to start with, their options would have been a great deal ... There would have been a great deal more options for them, and the results could have been a lot more natural and better, regardless of the price, if you know what I mean.

BBC Interviewer: Well, James was saying do your research. That's the lesson he learned. But, I mean, how do you start? How do you know whether a clinic in Turkey is good or bad?

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: It's a really good question, because, unfortunately, with the Internet, there is a plethora of information out there. It's very hard to know what is right and what is wrong, and I learned that the hard way, myself. And, it is a case of now there are really solid, good, reliable resources out there, you just have to find them. And, I mean, I started out doing my role as a hair loss and hair transplant mentor through my own bitter experience. Set up my own website, spexhair.com, but there are also, you know, very well-known organizations and platforms to be searched. 

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: There is an upcoming conference, which is going to be quite ground-breaking, where two well-known, established organizations, the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons and FUE Europe are combining their forces to help educate patients and educate them in terms of whether or not they are eligible for surgery. Because surgery is a last resort, and it's important that people don't rush in, they try to do their research. 

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: We do run a radio show called "The Bald Truth," which hundreds of thousands of people tune into on a monthly basis, to gain support, because it's an emotional aspect to hair loss which makes you very vulnerable and very desperate. And it's important for these guys to know they're not on their own. There are like-minded guys out there that have been through this, like myself. I've had 13 hair transplants over the course of 20 years.

BBC Interviewer: Thirteen?

Spencer (Spex) Stevenson: So, I've been there, done it, and worn the T-shirt.

Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson: And it's important that people get empowered and learn by people's mistakes, like my own. But it is a mine field out there. There are a number of clinics that prey on the vulnerable, still, and the industry is as unsafe now as it ever has been, unfortunately, despite the efforts of incredible organizations like the International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgeons to protect and empower the patient.

BBC Interviewer: Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson, there's so much more I want to ask you, particularly about those 13 transplants, but I'm afraid I'm out of time. I've got to go to the travel. We'll have you on again, I reckon. Thank you very much for talking to me, Spencer (Spex)  Stevenson  Stevenson, hair transplant specialist in the UK. 

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.