Not all of us are blessed with a full head of hair, and if you’re beginning to notice a few too many strands in the plughole, there are two ways to deal with it. Number one: you can get an actual number one all over and buzz it all off. Or two, you can attempt to find a solution and finance a hair transplant.

There’s no shame in it, by the way. According to a study by the International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery (or ISHRS, for short), 1 in 13 dudes will going under the knife to preserve their locks at some point in their life. Baldness can be a big blow to anyone’s confidence, and that’s compacted in the age of social media and the alarming normalisation of steroid-assisted six packs. But the solution isn’t quite a walk-in centre with instant results. The process can be confusing and overwhelming, and there are hundreds of clinics out there who will try and exploit you. It’s depressing, but it’s true.

So, we sat down with some patients and specialists to talk about what guys should be looking out for in their doctor, in their treatment, in the process, and in the aftermath. We’ll also be getting to the bottom of hair transplant cost.

Types of hair transplant surgery

There are two main types of hair transplant surgery available on the market: FUT and FUE. There are other types, involving stem cells and other things like that, but they’re more experimental.

FUT stands for follicular unit transplantation and is otherwise known as “strip surgery.” This involves removing a piece of skin, dividing it under a microscope into individual groupings of follicular units, and then transplanting those into the recipient area.

FUE, on the other hand, stands for follicular unit excision. It used to stand for extraction, but excision sounds more like the sorta thing that only doctors should do, so it was changed. Rather than a strip, FUE involves “individual follicular extraction in which follicles are removed within a small circular punch that is less than a millimetre in diameter,” says Dr Munir Somji, aesthetic doctor and clinical director at Dr MediSpa.

Hair transplant consultation

“There is, realistically, only a handful of surgeons who perform very good, state-of-the-art surgery, and who utilise the right hairs in the right places,” says Spencer Stevenson, a go-to advisor for hair transplant patients. “I’ve lost track of the number of patients who wish they’d paid double for half the result.”

Hair transplant cost is a good guide to whether a clinic is trustworthy or not. You should be looking to pay anything between £3,000 and £7,000, depending on the amount of follicles being transplanted. Anything less is a massive red flag. If you’re looking for somewhere to get it done, one important rule is that the doctor that you’re speaking to shouldn’t seem too desperate or keen to get you into the operating theatre.

“You have to take people back a few steps, because people need to know what’s going to happen to the rest of their hair,” says Dr Edward Ball, lead surgeon and medical director at The Maitland Clinic. “We have a limited amount of hair and an increasingly large area of loss. Ill-informed decisions by people desperate for a quick fix, or a doctor just trying to take someone’s money, can end up making such bad decisions.”

“You need somebody who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,” says Stevenson. “They’ll tell you it’s easy to do. They’ll get you in next week, offer you a discount. A good practitioner will inform you and educate you that surgery is a last resort and they should try other proven treatments.”

“Hair restoration is a personal procedure and you will be continuing to lose hair throughout your lifetime,” says Somji “Therefore finding a surgeon who makes a 10 or 15-year plan is the one for you.”

What to look for in a hair transplant doctor

1. Who is doing the surgery? “If the person you’re talking to can’t tell you who the doctor is going to be, that’s an alarm bell, as they might be flying in an unlicensed, unaccountable doctor,” says Ball. “If a clinic is fronted by a salesperson and not a doctor, be very careful.”

2. What parts of the procedure are done by the doctor? Cheaper clinics may aim to have nurses or technicians perform the entire procedure. But there are certain parts that only a doctor should do. “The cutting of skin and the injecting of the anaesthetic, the planning of the hairline, seem like simple things, but in reality you’ve got to be able to plan something that works for the rest of the patient’s life,” says Ball.

3. What are their qualifications? “I’d recommend looking to see if the doctor is a member of the British Association Of Hair Restoration Surgery or the International Alliance Of Hair Restoration Surgeons,” says Dr Eibi Iniekio, hair restoration surgeon at The Chiswick Hair Clinic.

4. Do they have proof of their work? “You may be shown a lot of pretty pictures that may be evidence from another company,” says Ball. “You want to see really detailed photos, not slightly out of focus, poorly lit images where you can’t see the softness of the hairline and they’re wearing product in their hair. You want a clinic to be demonstrating really honest photo or video evidence.”

5. Have you met patients formerly treated by the doctor? Some clinics have a bank of former clients who are more than happy to be spoken to. Many patients also complete vlogs documenting their experience independent from the clinic themselves. “Terrifying, of course. You have to hope they get good results,” says Ball. “But they are honest accounts of their journey, freely available on YouTube, not endorsed by the people who treated them.”

6. Other simple questions. What’s the success rate? What happens if things go wrong? What’s your policy if you’re not happy with the results? The support during aftercare and accountability are both huge things any patient should seek from a good clinic. “Overseas, the people working on you are not accountable because it’s highly likely they’ll never see you again,” says Ball.

If you’re not really sure where to even begin, one safe bet might be to consider a doctor that someone you’ve seen with a hair transplant has previously used. Edward Lemont, a fashion and grooming blogger at The Discerning Man, decided to get in contact with the Harley Street Hair Clinic because they’d done Wayne Rooney’s transplant.

Hair transplant surgery

Lemont had several consultations with the clinic’s director, where his donor area – the back of his head – was checked for strength and density, as were his bald patches. “My doctor advised a transplant of 2,000 grafts over a two-day procedure, lasting eight hours per day,” says Lemont. “The big day started off with having my head shaved, which confirmed how badly I needed the transplant.”

After the area was cleaned and he was given local anaesthetic, the doctor began with his FUE procedure. “After 1,000 hairs had been extracted over a four-hour period, the doctor spent the remaining four hours implanting the hairs to the bald areas at the front of my head. This same process was repeated on the second day.”

After the surgery, Lemont took two weeks off of work and was advised not to exercise or use public transport during this time. At home, he sprayed the newly behaired area with a saline solution every 30 minutes. This should last for around five days. “I washed my head twice a day with baby shampoo and took medication a few times a day,” says Lemont. “Sleeping was difficult as I was advised to sleep upright or on one side. Insider tip: invest in a travel pillow.”

“Healing should be relatively quick,” says Iniekio. “Redness, swelling, and bruising are all normal. Swelling will last between two and three days, redness – especially on the dome – usually takes a week to fade. The thing that will last longer is bruising, and can last between three and four weeks, depending on the person.”

“If, weeks after, you start developing pain in certain areas, that could be because you have an infection in the area. That’s why it’s important to have a doctor who offers regular check-ups following the procedure. There’s usually one within the first two weeks and then one normally at six months and finally one 12 months after the procedure.”

Tips for hair transplant aftercare

1. Don’t touch it. “You must treat your newly transplanted hair with extra special care; avoid touching, combing, or rubbing the area for around three days post-procedure,” says hair transplant surgeon Dr Mark Tam. “Be careful when getting in and out of cars because your scalp will still be numb initially, and a small bang to the head will likely undo some of your surgeon’s good work, meaning your hairline will need repairing.”

2. Spray with a saline solution. During the first few hours post-surgery, the transplanted area can ooze; spraying it with a saline solution will help to wash off any blood and avoid clot formation. “This also improves the appearance of the hairline over the coming week – nobody wants to return to work with noticeable blood along their hairline; that would be the biggest giveaway that you have had work done,” says Tam. “Continue to spray the solution on the area every 30 minutes for the first three days; moistening will help the grafts to heal.”

3. Washing your hair. From day four onwards, you’ll be able to wash the transplanted area, but you must follow your surgeon’s advice on how to do it and when the right time will be. This will vary depending on the hair transplant technique used. However, you must wash the area because not washing can lead to infection, which will stop the transplanted hair from thriving.

4. Patience is a virtue. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says Tam. “Your transplanted hair will take several months before it starts to grow. Typically, results take 12 to 18 months to mature. When you look at it after a few weeks, the shedding process will have taken place. This is normal, but it will look patchy. Avoid becoming overly-anxious about this because stress can further accelerate hair loss.”

5. Take medication. As Lemont mentioned, taking medication is part of the recovery process. “Unless you have lost most of the native hair on top of your scalp, medications often help to thicken and maintain the hair that you have,” says Tam. “Modern approaches to hair restoration usually combine hair transplants with prescribed medication to reduce future hair loss.”

The results

“From day one I saw instant results,” says Lemont. “The donor hair did shed after one month, but this is actually a good sign that the new hair is coming through and pushing out the donor hair. It’s important to remember that it’s actually the root that has been transplanted, not the hair.”