Thinning hair is a common fate, affecting men and women alike, but recent years have brought a peak in the popularity of such procedures. Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of surgical hair transplant procedures were performed last year by hair transplant surgeons, with Asia leading the way; there were over 195,000 procedures in Asia performed in 2016. There were also over one million non-surgical procedures performed during 2016.
What’s driving the enormous growth of the hair restoration industry? Both internal and external factors have converged on the field, to create a prime moment for hair restoration, with more growth still to come.
Unsurprisingly, one of the main factors driving the increase in hair transplant procedures is the improvement of technology for the field. For example, when we talk about hair transplantation today, we aren’t talking about the hair plugs of a decade ago. Today’s surgeries can be scar-free, high-tech undertakings that produce realistic and predictable outcomes.
New technology such as follicular unit extraction (FUE) can be performed while the patient is awake, involves no linear scarring or stitches, and there is minimal recovery, though the procedure may take several hours to complete. In some cases, individuals can even undergo mega hair transplant sessions to reduce repeat procedures, transplanting over 4,000 grafts in a single procedure rather than 1,000 to 2,000 grafts. This is a significant improvement over past approaches, such as the punchouts used in hair plug transplants from the 1990s.
The rise of an online community around hair transplantation also plays a role in the growth of the industry. For example, digital marketing has found a space within the industry, borrowing from technology used by salons, medical practices, and other affiliated fields. Understanding the broad market base for hair transplant surgery, which now includes older candidates and larger numbers of Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, Indians and African Americans, has allowed the industry to boost engagement.
Individuals with hair loss are also pushing industry growth through digital community interaction. Many learn about new offerings through chat groups for people with hair loss and these clients make decisions about procedures based on peer feedback. For example, there has been an increasing number of botched micropigmentation procedures, resulting in greater reliance on FUE or strip (FUT) hair transplant procedures.
Simply put, it’s become more acceptable to talk about hair loss and hair loss treatment. The male model Justin Hopwood has even put a face to alopecia, an autoimmune condition that results in hair loss. For a high profile individual whose career is based on appearances, speaking openly about hair loss could have had serious repercussions, but as Hopwood puts it, “I think everyone has really, over the last couple years, really grown into this idea of accepting people for who they are, what they are.” And for many people, this means being open about hair loss.
Hair transplantation is a fundamentally global industry and the field expects to see big gains through 2023. Of course, international conditions will impact how this plays out. Turkey, for example, is home to a booming hair transplantation market but regulations require that physicians perform all procedures. However, with an influx of valuable – though often unqualified – Syrian refugees flooding the country, refugee technicians oversee more procedures. Patient care suffers, but so do refugees working in the industry since they can be paid poverty wages and have no official recourse when treated badly.
The Philippines is a growing destination for hair transplants. Not only Filipinos but Balikbayans, Overseas Filipino Workers also known as OFWs, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Australians, Arabs, Chinese, Indians and other Asians flock to Manila, Philippines, for their hair transplants because many of the surgeons there are U.S.-trained, including some U.S. companies who operate clinics there. Furthermore, the leading hair transplant centers in Manila use registered nurses as hair transplant technicians.
It’s an exciting time in the hair transplantation industry and the procedure is more affordable than ever. Whether the global economy will, in fact, support predicted growth remains to be seen, but all signs point to yes. As potential clients become more educated about the dangers and shortcomings of mass-market hair loss solutions, true transplantation is set to flourish.