Hair we go: Wayne Rooney does it my way
At 33, Patrick Strudwick had a hair transplant just like Wayne Rooney’s. He reveals why he did it and the results.
This could all go spectacularly awry. I am sitting in the waiting room of a cosmetic surgery clinic about to have a hair transplant and two words are tormenting me: Silvio Berlusconi. The prospect of leaving here with the Italian Prime Minster’s scouring-pad-on-a-slaphead look is making me size up the sash windows for an escape route.
Then there is the procedure itself to consider. My pain threshold is a little higher than a baby vole’s. And my neuroses have a tendency to unleash a torrent of cataclysmic thoughts at the most inopportune moments. Why, then, am I here? Six months ago I wrote in The Times about the emotional cost of going bald. I interviewed other follically challenged young men (I am 33) about the cruelty that is losing one’s locks while still capable of acne. Wayne Rooney knows this indignity all too well — last week he admitted to having a hair transplant, tweeting, by way of explanation, “I was going bald at 25”.
While researching the article I interviewed a leading hair transplant surgeon, Dr Raghu Reddy, of The Private Clinic, Harley Street, London. Intrigued by his techniques and the remarkable results enjoyed by the actor James Nesbitt recently, I asked Reddy to perform the procedure on me. I will have hair again! The technique he uses is called Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). It is the latest approach and was the transplant of choice for Nesbitt and Rooney. The other, older technique involves removing a strip of skin from the back of the head and implanting hairs back into the front or crown. FUE is more delicate — artistic, if you will.
Individual follicular units, containing between one and four hairs, are removed from the back and sides. With this dotted-about approach you are left with several minuscule scars rather than the one big one from the strip method. Then, after a tiny incision is made, each unit — complete with its sebaceous glands and nerves — is inserted into the required area. It is done by hand using a titanium needle. Each hair is implanted at an angle to mimic that of the original hair. It takes hours, or in my advanced case of baldness, it will be two whole days. But it can last a lifetime as these hairs are largely immune to the effect of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, which kills hairs on the top of the head. Reddy has advanced the technique into what he calls the Third Generation of FUE.
This means that he can extract more grafts more quickly than normal.
He has also developed surgical instruments to make the implantatian of hairs more precise. The result should be unusually natural.
Back in the waiting room, however, optimism is not winning. When Reddy enters carrying a surgical gown the ultimate defence mechanism kicks in: denial. Thus, as I change into it, I tell myself I’m an actor in a Carry On film. When he guides me to the treatment room and on to what looks like a massage table, I am, in my head, face down in a Balinese spa about to have a body wrap. The ice he applies to my scalp is a lolly that someone has lobbed in my direction. The series of anaesthetic jabs into the back of my head is a petulant child pulling my hair.
As numbness sets in Reddy trims the hair and begins the extraction process. This will take four to five hours as there are, in my case, 7,000 hairs to remove. Some people have as few as 500 hairs extracted for a small bald patch. The clinic’s rate is £2.50 a hair: so my bill is £17,500. Tug, yank, pull. Imagine someone is plaiting your hair for hours and you get an idea how painless but annoying it is. But a disturbing new sight emerges: blood. The bin, visible through the table’s peephole, is filling up with red-stained swabs, the result of Reddy soaking up my leaking scalp.
“It’s very unusual to bleed like this,” he says. “Your skin is incredibly thick.”
I’m a journalist, I explain. “It keeps blunting my instruments,” he adds. I tell him that I was once investigated for a blood-clotting disorder.
We stop for a break every hour or so. After lunch, the bleeding abated, Reddy whips out a marker pen. “Where would you like your hairline?” he asks. I stare blankly at him, so he starts drawing a line about halfway down my forehead. It wasn’t like that when I was 12. He rubs it off and goes higher. Still too low, but in two minutes we settle on a level similar to how it was in my early twenties. Then he sets about planting the crop. Because I don’t have enough donor hairs to fill my bald area, we agree that part of the crown will be left sparse. The anaesthetic injections hurt more in the top of my head. I squeal. More hours of prodding and poking ensue. I feel like the Bayeux Tapestry.
At the end of the first day Reddy shows me the results in a mirror. I ask to use the toilet: I don’t want him or his assistants to see me well up. Through the redness and the blood I can see something they can’t: me, when I was younger. This is why I’m here. Thanks to a series of traumas and illnesses my twenties were a bit of a write-off. I wanted the transplant to make me look how I did before it all happened.
The next day, we repeat the same process — extraction in the morning, planting in the afternoon. After which I’m sent home with an exhaustive list of post-procedure instructions: take antibiotics to prevent infection and steroids to quicken the healing process. Spray the new hair with saline solution every half an hour for five days to keep it clean. Sleep on your back for five days to prevent the hairs being dislodged. And don’t wear a hat until day six.
I do not leave my house for a week. I stand in front of mirrors obsessively regarding the plantation. Is the redness going down? Is it looking natural? Am I the vainest man in Britain? The reactions when I go out are split. Not between those who love it and those who don’t, but between those who comment and those who do not. “You look like you did when I met you,” says my ex. I assume that’s a compliment. “I fancy you more now,” says a colleague. I assume that’s a joke.
In the first few weeks up to 90 per cent of the hairs that are transplanted can fall out in what is called “shock loss”, due to the trauma of the procedure. But in their place new hairs start to regrow about four months later. The full results don’t become apparent until ten months. Despite Rooney tweeting a picture of his head days after his transplant, he’ll have a long wait yet.
Three weeks after my procedure — as these pictures show — the redness had nearly gone, but I’d shock-lost about 30 per cent of the new hairs. Now, after three months, I’ve lost about 70 per cent, but being curly-haired the effect is fuller. Regardless, I’m hugely happy with the result. I went on a date last night and halfway through realised that I wasn’t overcompensating for once. This must be what John Lennon was referring to with his famous anti-war slogan: give hair peace a chance.
Source: The Times Body and Soul