TWENTY-SIX-YEAR-OLD IMRAN KHAN FROM BORIVALI looks bored. He sits in what resembles a dentist’s chair, watching Slumdog Millionaire on a large plasma TV, as a man systematically punches holes in the top of his head with a needle.
Welcome to Nu/Hart Hair Transplant Clinic. Khan is halfway through a hair transplant procedure – usually about eight hours long – to move 1,200 hairs from the back of his head to the bald patch on top.
It’s straightforward but tedious. Your scalp is numbed with an anaesthetic, and a 10cm by 1cm strip of hair, skin and fat is cut from the back of your head. While doctors suture up the wound (it’ll be unnoticeable after healing – the rest of the hair covers it), technicians cut up the strip of hairy, fatty tissue with scalpels, separating out each hair follicle.
Meanwhile, a doctor punches holes 1mm deep into your anaesthetized scalp with an 18-gauge needle. These are the receptor sites, which have been planned out on a whorl inked on the scalp. The doctor then implants a hair follicle into each site using microforceps and a cotton bud. If you need a bathroom break, you can halt the procedure at any time.
Khan will need a couple of days of rest to let the holes close tight around the follicles, and give his scalp a chance to begin healing. It’ll be another three months before he can expect the transplanted follicles to begin growing. In six months, if all goes well, he’ll maybe have an inch of new hair on his old bald patch. The procedure costs around Rs 1.2 lakh, depending on the number of individual follicle grafts.
The treatment has a high success rate, although you’ll never get the density of natural hair. Instead of 100-150 follicles per square centimetre, you end up with around 25 follicles per sq cm. “We’re not trying to replace the hair loss,” says Dr. Mark Boles, international medical director at Nu/Hart. “We’re trying to create the illusion of hair.” That depends on arranging the receptor sites in a way that mimics the shape and flow of real hair, despite having a lot less to work with.
© 2009 GQ