If you are considering a hair transplant then you are a hair transplant candidate. The question is; are you a good candidate or a bad candidate?
There are many factors that go into considering surgical hair restoration. On the surface it appears to be a simple affair. You see that you are losing your hair so you go online and start looking at the galleries of the first few hair transplant clinics you find. You see one or two that look good with favorable Yelp reviews so you call or visit for a consultation and you make the decision to have surgery. This is exactly what you should do when researching a mechanic to fix your car but not what you should do when considering surgery.
One can be considered a bad hair transplant candidate for one or sometimes two reasons.
The patient has not performed enough research.
The patient has unrealistic expectations given their specific surgical characteristics.
The first reason listed above is the most common reason why one may not be a good hair transplant candidate but is also the least discussed. If a clinic realizes a patient has not done a lot of research they usually will not encourage the patient to leave their clinic and investigate other clinics as they wish to keep that patient for themselves. It makes sense for the clinic but it is not in the best interest of the patient.
Patients should take their time when considering surgical hair restoration and in fact surgery should be considered as only the very last resort to fighting hair loss if other methods have failed to achieve the desired result. Patients should first visit their local doctor to discuss the medical options available to them. Currently, there are only two FDA approved medical therapies for treating hair loss. Those are Propecia and Rogaine but just because these are available does not necessarily mean your doctor will recommend them. This can be due to ignorance on the part of the doctor or their opinion that neither are needed. If you feel that you are losing your hair and your doctor does not cooperate with medications, seeks a second and even a third opinion.
Assuming you are able to secure medical treatment you should use them for as long as possible before considering surgery. When we take action to deal with a problem we seek immediate results. Unfortunately, nothing about treating hair loss is immediate and it takes many months and even years to see the benefits of our efforts. If a patient decides to use both FDA approved medications to fight their hair loss they should not start both at the same time. While some doctors do believe that Propecia and Rogaine have a synergistic effect it is best to isolate which medication is working, separate from the other, so you have more control over your regimen and can better assess the outcome should you need to cease one or both medications.
One should also never begin any medical treatment at the same time as surgical treatment. When one is using medical treatment for their hair loss any surgical plan will usually account for this and many times the doctor will make a more aggressive surgical plan due to medical treatments being used as it is assumed that the treatment will be effective thereby making a more aggressive plan more viable. The idea is that if medical treatment is halting existing hair loss then more hair can be used for the target problem area(s). This means that less hair will be available for potential future need as such need is deemed to be a reduced risk. However, if one begins medical treatment at the same time as surgical treatment and the patient has adverse side effects to the medication after they have had surgery then the expected long term surgical benefits can be at risk. The patient will resume losing their hair at the previous rate since they can no longer take medication and the need for additional surgeries is assured. With the assumed reduced donor supply due to the aggressive surgical approach taken the patient is at risk of having insufficient donor hair for future needs. If you are not willing to try one or both FDA approved medications before having hair transplant surgery then you are a bad hair transplant candidate.
When researching surgical options there are an almost endless list of questions one should ask themselves, of which only a few can be addressed here. The very first question that a potential hair transplant candidate should ask themselves is whether or not they have to have surgery in the first place. Too many people today turn to surgical therapy to attain some sort of cosmetic improvement. This can be due to many reasons but too many patients do not stop to think about what they are getting themselves into. Having hair loss does not make one unique in this world as billions of men and women worldwide are losing or have lost their hair. It is a normal occurrence but unfortunately, due to social pressures of perfection, millions of people worldwide have cosmetic surgeries including surgical hair restoration. Unfortunately few people ask themselves what they will do if the procedure they undergo does not have the desired effect, or worse, winds up having complications that causes a negative cosmetic impact rather than a cosmetic improvement. With regards to surgical hair restoration, the best outcome one can hope for after a failed surgery is little to no growth with minimal scarring as this will have the highest chance of not drawing visual attention. The majority of cases where the procedure was classified as a failure cause much more damage including unacceptable levels of donor and recipient site scarring, healthy growth but with unnatural angles and direction and/or a pluggy appearance, permanent donor and/or recipient shock loss, visibly thinned donor zones due to poorly planned extraction zones and even persistent infection and inflammation.
When one decides to have surgical hair restoration they immediately have a vision of what they would like to achieve. We all have our ideal cosmetic image and logically one expects this to be the final outcome. The first challenge experienced by patients is that their ideal image is not a realistic image for their particular case. This is usually because of the law of supply and demand. If the patient’s donor zone does not have enough hair to meet the demand of their expectations then they will be disappointed with any attempts to meet this expectation. This is typically the issue with patients with aggressive levels of hair loss but it can also be the case if a patient currently has minor levels of hair loss but is expected to have aggressive hair loss in the future. This is addressed with proper donor management in addition to setting safe patient expectations.
Unrealistic expectations are also seen on patients that wish for a result that is not considered to be natural by the doctor. Patients that have an unrealistic body image commonly find their way to hair restoration doctors wishing to have hairlines lowered to an unnatural degree or to increase density in areas where hair loss has not occurred. In some cases this can be classified as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) which is an entirely different discussion altogether but bears mentioning due to the logical correlation to the subject at hand. Regardless, in many cases, such disorders are not present and with proper discussion the patient can realize that their needs are not only unrealistic but unsafe and surgery will provide no relief for their issue.
When considering surgical hair restoration patients must understand that it is a limited procedure. Hair is a finite resource and once it is used it cannot be reused and more hair cannot be generated. If you have aggressive hair loss you must understand the law of supply and demand and how it relates to your specific case. When performing surgical hair restoration doctors are trying to make a cosmetic improvement with a limited resource so compromises must be made. For instance, if a patient with aggressive hair loss wishes to have a strong harline with relatively high density they must accept the fact that there is not enough donor hair to give an equal amount of density throughout the rest of the recipient scalp. Any work performed behind the hairline, into the mid-scalp or crown, will be performed at a progressively lower density as hair is moved from front to back. For patients with moderate hair loss they must understand the potential for future hair loss, regardless of family history. A family history of no hair loss becomes completely irrelevant if you are experiencing hair loss yourself, and in fact, lends itself to making your specific case completely unpredictable and potentially making any result gained from surgery to be highly unstable.
If you are losing your hair and wish to reverse the problem you must resist the temptation of the quick fix. Researching your medical and surgical options is paramount to success both in the short term and long term. To do anything less is a recipe for potential disaster.