I am 32 years old and have been...
I am 32 years old and have been suffering from hair loss for the last 10 years. When I first realized that I was losing my hair I was legitimately depressed for about 2 weeks. I started cutting my hair progressively shorter to make the thinning less obvious. The more I lost, the shorter I would go until I got to a no guard with the clippers. I have razor shaved but don't like the feel. Currently, I have grade 3/4 hair loss on the top and some minor thinning on the crown. I have been using Minoxidil for the past few years but only started using religiously (twice a day) about 6 months ago. I have also been using LLLT for the last couple months. At this point I think the hair loss has stopped with the use of these two products but the damage is done. I had looked into hair transplantation in the past but it was too expensive. I just couldn't justify spending $15k+ as I could use this money to save for retirement or pay down my mortgage/car loan. I was researching cheaper alternatives (PRP, stem cell therapy) and I came across Realself.com. I never realized that Turkey was such a popular place to get HTs. I did a TON of research both on realself and other sites, including Dr Maral's. I decided to email some photos to Dr Maral to see what he said and I was amazed at how quickly he responded. I booked the flight for 6 weeks out and here I am today. Im sure that I'm missing some things but this has been long enough so I'll stop here. I'll post another update with my thoughts on the flight, driver, hotel, etc.
Post-Op - 4,250 grafts!
22 Feb 2016
Day of treatment
Ok so I just got back from the clinic and it's 1am, haha. The Maral Clinic is a machine! They completed AT LEAST 6 HTs today. I got picked up at 3pm. Traffic was bad so we didn't get there until 3:30. Had to wait until about 5 to be seen for the consultation as the other patients were finishing up. I had a nice chat with Dr Maral...very cool guy. He was knowledgeable and honest. We decided in a hairline and I was in the table with hair buzzed and getting the injections to numb the area being worked on at 6pm. After I was numb they started right in in the donor area. They use a micro motor (I assume this where Microefue comes from) to punch small holes. They do this very quickly and another tech follows right behind with small forceps extracting the grafts. This too about 1 1/2 hours. They then numbed the top of my head and the lead tech created the "channels" or holes for the grafts to go in. She was lightning fast doing it all by hand. This took about an hour to open 4,250 holes (this is how many grafts they harvested). I then took a 20 min break for dinner. I believe they pick it up from a local vendor (they're everywhere in that area) and it was very good. I got Turkish meatballs with bread and sliced tomatoes. After dinner the techs went right at inserting the grafts. This took the longest at 2 1/2 hours. Dr Maral was still there when I was done, have me some medication for the pain, swelling, and infection prevention. He told me that I need to stay up for 4 hours sitting upright to avoid swelling and for anything touching the grafts. Apparently the grafts are pretty secure after 4 hours. I figured since I'm up why not write this update! Couple other things of note. The flight was long from the US but it went fine. I didn't have much trouble finding the driver for the clinic. He brought me to the hotel and got me all checked in. The hotel is clean and has all the essentially. Couple of minor complaints. It is fairly noisy, especially when it is prayer time and there are several Mosques in the area. The doors are also fairly thin. Not an issue with my white noise app on my phone. The other problem is that the wifi is very slow in the room. I basically don't have anything to do except watch Netflix and I also can't talk to anyone from home without wifi since it would cost an arm and a leg. Besides that, everything is great here and at the clinic. Two thumbs up. Take a peek at a couple of post op selfies!
Day 3 - Quick update
I have a few minutes on a layover back to the States to get a quick update in. To be specific in the time frame, my procedure was complete on Monday at midnight so it's actually less than 48 hours. Scabs are formed and hair is growing. I'm really happy with how clean of a job they did. I didn't have any bleeding after the procedure like some others and my donor looked good as well. Once I get the next day photos from Dr Maral I will post them. I am getting some swelling in the forehead and even around the back in the donor area. It just got worse fast and I'm willing to bet it was due to the salty meal that was served on the flight. Still taking the meds (Prednisone, antibiotic, and pain killers) so that should help keep it down as I just took another dose.
p.s. Dr Maral did provide a hat for camouflage but I haven't worn it once. I'm actually getting a kick out of the looks I'm getting. Hey, I'm never going to see any of these people again! I also don't mind talking about it at all. I'm confident in the decision and not embarrassed at all.
Day 4 - First wash!
So I washed for the first time today. I put a good amount of lotion (provided by clinic) on the recipient area and let soak in for about 30 minutes. I brought a plastic cup into the shower and poured warm water on my head to rinse off the lotion. I then lathered up the shampoo and gently tapped the recipient area to apply it. I took a good amount of rinsing to get all the lotion and shampoo out but mission accomplished. Not many scabs fell off but this is to be expected given that it's only been 4 days. I still have a good amount of swelling on my forehead and around the back but it hasn't spread to my eyes, which is good. I'll try to post again in the next day or two.
Ok, it's been a week and everything has progressed as expected. I have been washing for 4 days, once per day. I still have a good amount of scabbing and I go back to work in two days so I would like to get these off before that time. Today I started washing 2 times per day with a VERY LIGHT fingertip massage. I have not been picking at any of the scabs, just letting them come off by themselves. The donor area is almost not noticeable at all except when there is direct light on it (looks red). There have been some hair coming off with the scabs but this is to be expected based on everything that I have read.
Today I will begin using LLLT laser therapy. I have a hand held device that I bought years back. From what I understand, shock loss occurs due to trauma from the transplant and a lack of blood supply. LLLT is supposed to stimulate blood supply to the follicles. I figure, why not try to reduce the amount of shock loss? What's the worst that happens?.....I lose the transplanted hairs, which was going to happen anyway! Any thoughts on this are welcome.
I went back to work yesterday (day 9). People seemed to notice that something was different but couldn't pinpoint it. I told a couple of people and they said they never would have guessed that it was a hair transplant. They thought it looked really good too so that was encouraging. Pretty much all the scabs are gone but there is some redness. It's not really noticeable unless light is shining directly on the top of my head. I guess I could just tell people it is a sunburn if I wanted too! The recipient and donor areas are still numb and apparently this will persist potentially for a couple of months until the nerve endings heal. Not s big deal but definitely something to note. Anyways, here's a pic from today at work.
Sorry for the update delay.....it's amazing how much work can pile up in 10 days! Speaking of work, I wanted to comment on the amount of time I took off. I may have mentioned this before but I did feel fairly comfortable taking 8 days off and going back on day 9 after surgery. If I could do it over again I probably would have just taken the full two weeks off to be safe.
I'm now at day 15. I started allowing direct water contact from the shower head a couple of days ago with reduced pressure and have been lightly massaging the recipient area. There is still some redness, mostly in the donor area, which is only noticeable in direct light.
I have noticed some shedding. If I rub my hand on the recipient area a couple of hairs usually fall out but I know this is part of the process. If I had to guess, I would say that I have lost about 10 percent of the transplanted hairs so far. With that said, I am seeing growth in many of the hairs, which is a good sign. While there isn't any definitive research proving this, many of the doctors that comment on this site believe that this is positive. Some say that this is a sign that I may not lose the hairs. If I could keep even 50% of the hairs while I wait for the new growth to kick in I would be ecstatic! Only time will tell.
I have attached some photos. I apologize for the poor lighting. These were taken at night with artificial light. I'll try to post the next round of photos using natural light.
4 Week Update!
Sorry for posting late but these pix were taken 4 weeks post op. Definitely smack in the middle of the "Ugly Duckling" phase. I started shedding at about 2 weeks post op. The shedding was fairly rapid between 3-4 weeks and then slowed a bit. The redness is a bit more obvious since losing the grafts. I'm really happy with my donor area. Almost all irritation is gone and you can't tell anything was done. I have been cutting my hair once a week keeping the sides buzzed to #1 guard and trimming the top with scissors. I'll continue to do this for the next few months until I start to get some decent growth. I'll begin updating monthly from now on. Can't wait for the next 2 months to pass!
10 Week Update
Here is my progress at week 10. As you can see, I still have quite a bit of redness. More grafts have fallen since the last update but I feel like I have retained a decent amount compared to most people.
I continue to cut my hair once a week and keep it very short. I was trimming the top with scissors for the first few cuts per Dr. Maral's instructions but it was difficult to keep it even. I have since started lightly going over it with a 2 guard. I have a high quality set of clippers and there doesn't seem to be any pulling at all so I don't see this as a problem. Based on extensive research, the grafts are secure after 9 days, therefore, theoretically it should be fine to cut with clippers after that point. I personally would wait about a month before cutting the top with clippers just to be safe.
I continue to get pimples but they come in waves. I will get 4 or 5 in the donor area and 1 or 2 in the recipient area at a time and then there is a break for a few days. I only pop them if they are completely white....to the point that I barely have to touch them to break.
I have been alternating shampoos and go between Sebamed (provided by Dr. Maral), Pura D'or, and Nizoral. The only real reason I am using the Pura D'or is because I already had it and it's very hard to tell if this is helping at all.
I will continue to play the waiting game. Reading all the reviews on Realself has been a huge help in managing expectations. Of course, I really want the new hair to start growing in but it really hasn't been too bad. I'll provide another update 2-4 weeks from now.
p.s. I've been starting to wonder how it will look when filled in and more importantly, what hair style I will choose. Any suggestions??
3 Month Update
25 May 2016
3 months post
Here's my 3 month update or just over 13 weeks. I'm still in the ugly duckling stage but hoping that new growth will begin now. I just cut my hair this morning, once again keeping it very short. I have a quite a few bumps and pimples, which I'm considering to be a good thing as I'm hoping these are new hairs trying to pop through. The recipient area is still quite red and is noticeable under direct light. The same goes for the donor area but you have to be looking at it closely with a lot of light.
Based on other patient's experience this is the toughest time as you begin to question whether you will obtain a good result. I'm staying very positive and will not be concerned unless I don't see any improvement at month 5. I'm hoping to show improvement in my 4 month update though!
4 Month Update
22 Jun 2016
4 months post
So here we are at 4 months. I feel like I'm progressing as expected, if not slightly better. There is definitely new growth as the recipient area is getting darker by the day.
One odd thing that I would like to bounce off the members here is crusting at this stage. I still have some light scabs that I can easily pick off. When I do the hair shaft will come with it. I know this is not the loss of a graft so I'm not freaking out but I would like to know if anyone else has experienced this.
I continue to use Rogaine and LLLT on my crown as it does appear thinner. Hopefully I can thicken that area a bit while my recipient grows out.
That's it for now. More pix in a month!
22 Sep 2016
7 months post
Aaaaaaaand I'm back! 7 months today and I'm very happy with the progress. Since I haven't updated in 3 months there is a pretty significant difference. It's a bit difficult to see exactly how much new growth there is because I decided to grow it out. As you can see, there is decent coverage in the recipient area but still needs to fill in a bit. I'm hoping it will blend a bit better with the native hair over the next two months....finger crossed! I'm still noticing improvement each week, which is encouraging.
I've been using American Crew Fiber to keep it under control and also add a bit of thickness. I highly recommend this product. Just be sure to distribute evenly in your palms before applying or it will get your hair stuck in clumps. I put some Fiber in this morning and as you can see it has a very low to non-existent shine.
As for the emotional element, I'm getting compliments left and right. I went to a wedding a couple weekends ago and people I haven't seen in a while said I looked great. The people that didn't know I got the transplant said I looked different but couldn't put a finger on it. The people that I told were amazed at the difference over the last few months. I've been getting carded consistently at bars, which rarely happened prior to the procedure.
I couldn't be happier with the progress so far and am looking forward to what the next few months brings!
29 Dec 2016
10 months post
Happy holidays! Here I am with a 10 month update.
I'm happy to say that I am very satisfied with the results. I have experienced some new growth since the last update and thickening of the existing follicles. The biggest difference you'll notice is the length as I recently got a cut. I started going to a barber a few months ago and within a minute of sitting down, I told him about the transplant. None of the barbers at the shop had ever met anyone that got a transplant. They were very impressed with the results and one of the barbers actually asked for the clinic's info as he was balding. It always amazes me how few people have ever met someone that has had a transplant (or likely more accurate, someone who has admitted to getting a transplant). If you read my previous posts, you already know that I am not shy about telling people about the procedure. I've been going to the barber for almost 3 months about every 3 weeks. Each time he has commented that it is getting thicker. We came up with a hairstyle that compliments my hair...going short on the side with a high fade. He also thins out the top middle and crown so it blends better with the newly transplanted hair. I didn't do anything to my hair for these photos beside combing it when I got out of the shower earlier in the day. Sometimes I'll use American Crew Fiber or this other pomade I got from the barber but I'm happy with the way with looks product-free. My hair is very dry so I have been washing every 3rd day or so with Redken All Soft Shampoo and Conditioner. I do have Nizoral and T Gel but they dry my hair out even more. I'm thinking about getting some leave in conditioner because it's THAT dry after I shampoo even if I condition. Anyone else have this issue? Any suggestions are welcome.
As far as coverage goes, I would say that my results are about what I expected. I have seen better coverage in some other reviews but I have seen worse as well. I'm also hoping that the hair will continue to thicken as everyone reaches their full result at different times. I'm looking forward to the texture improving as it's still fairly wavy and as I mentioned...dry.
I want to reiterate something I mentioned in a prior post....managing expectations. It is very important to understand that a transplant will not give you the thick head of hair that you had as an 18 year old. I think this has been a big reason why I am so happy with the results. Regardless of how thick the hair gets, it's much better than what I had! The best part in my opinion, is having my hairline back. People have told me that I look years younger. I even get carded at restaurants from time to time (I'm 33) when I never got carded before. I wouldn't say that I lacked confidence before the procedure because I actually embraced buzzing my head. I will say that I have even more confidence now and am so glad I did it!
I'm sure I'm forgetting something here so if you have questions feel free to ask away.
Happy New Year!