Long time listener, first time caller. I’m not long back from Istanbul where I had an FUE hair transplant procedure with Dr Resul Yaman. I thought it might be helpful to some to give a full overview of what to expect and also as objective a review as possible of the experience. If you want to cut to the chase then scroll down where there will be some key points and photos.
I had 4,100 grafts in total over a single day. This comprised:
Single - 627
Double - 2,491
Multiple - 982
So my calculation is that I received between 8,500 and 9,000 individual hairs to deal with diffuse balding, approximate Norwood 5A.
I’m 32 years old and currently around Forward 5A. I had noticed thinning at 24 although looking at photos it was actually going a little before then. It’s been a painful and slow journey, working my way through the various preventative products, combovers, thickening fibres and more recently a skinhead too. I’d been on the fence about this for a while, knowing deep down it was the only way to have a proper head of hair, but just didn’t want to be one of *those* guys. I mean, surely I am not so precious about my looks that I’d actually get surgery!? What next, a nose job? Veneers? Penis reduction? (Sometimes I get it caught between my knees). Thankfully I discovered this forum so realised that hair transplants aren’t solely for preening, prima donnas and that normal people can get it done too. PHEW!
In mid 2018 decided enough was enough and started my research. I did a lot, checked out clinics in the UK, Spain, Belgium and turkey. Read a lot of forums, watched videos. Did consultations online, in person and had some phonecalls too. Got lots of information thrown at me, much of it conflicting. Got quoted everything between £1,500 and €12,000. Some people thought 3,000 grafts would cover the full head of hair. Some people thought 2,500 would cover just the front and I could come back in a year for the back. Someone said the only way to cover my full head would be FUT.
A brief synopsis of the countries is that Belgium is world class, but pricey. The UK costs as much as Belgium but there are still some shady doctors about so choose wisely. Spain is cheaper than those two and has some decent doctors but there isn’t a lot of information on it. Turkey came out top being very affordable, with lots of information available about it and has some amazing doctors, but also a lot of very questionable practices.
I decided upon Dr Resul Yaman in the end based on a number of factors. The communication was good, there was enough honest feedback (including some that isn’t exactly gleaming) online as well as proof of complications being resolved, lots of videos and testimonials and the package seemed fair. The offer was €4,000 for 4,000 grafts plus PRP, aftercare, hotel and transfers. There was also a guarantee that if 10% or more of it failed that I could get a top up done at no extra cost. I might have got a better job with a €12,000 Belgian effort (I’ll never know) but I simply couldn’t justify the extra cost - If that was my only option, I’d just have to deal with being bald. So Yaman it was, I was confident that this would get me the result I wanted at a justifiable price.
I arrived into the airport on Thursday night after a smooth flight and was picked up and taken to a nice 5 star hotel (Divan G Suites). One tip would be to check where the clinic is as Dr Yaman’s hospital and the hotel are both close to Ataturk, and I flow in to Sabiha Gökçen - an hour away. D'oh! However, not a major issue as there’s a lot to look at on the drive people carrier thing was pretty pimp.
The room was nice, a good 3 course meal with drink would come in at under £20 (and I presume this would be similar most places in Istanbul) and the included breakfast was fairly standard. It wasn’t particularly busy although this was due to the time of year and the staff were friendly. There were a few other guys with bandages on their heads too, which made me feel less worried about what was to come. I live in London and so never carry cash, however I did feel like a complete cheapskate when I didn’t tip (they couldn’t take this by card) so it wouldn’t hurt to get some Lira for that purpose. Also, if you learn to say ‘hello’ and ‘thanks’ in Turkish then they really appreciate it, even when your pronunciation is as bad as mine (tu-say-coor-ler). There’s a spa and a pool which is free to use although I didn’t have time and the WiFi is about as good as you get in any hotel - enough to watch Netflix although it will need to buffer every now and then.
The next morning after breakfast I was picked up at 11am and driven to the hospital. It’s a nice clean building with Yaman’s name outside. It looks like there’s a number of clinics in there offering different services but Dr. Yaman specialises exclusively in hair transplant which was important to me. There was a chap waiting for a wash, and one other guy in that day for surgery and the rest was his staff. What was also important to me was that Dr. Yaman wasn’t doing tonnes of procedures on the day and that whilst technicians/surgeons/nurses are involved, he takes personal involvement and oversees the procedure.
I met with Fikret who had been my contact in the run up to the procedure. He’d been very patient via email and explained everything, answered all of my questions without forcing a hard sell and ultimately played a large part in me going with Dr Yaman. He was just as good in person, quite witty and conversational - I’m not really sure what I had expected to be honest, but it was nice that he was someone I could actually chat to. Throughout the day he checked in every hour or so, acted as a translator, got me water, oversaw transport, picked me up extra vitamins (not included with the post-care pack) and more. I’m sure that’s generally expected wherever you go, but he was really good and helped make what could be quite a stressful experience pretty chilled.
To begin with I got my blood taken. This was pretty straightforward having done so before. The main purpose of this was for the PRP, although they possibly checked the iron levels etc…. The hospital seemed busy, but this was very quick there was no wait for me.
In the consultation with Dr. Yaman. He used a special camera to look at follicles, and took a number of measurements. He quickly drew a rough guide to what my hairline would be like and answered some of my questions about the procedure. His measurement showed that I actually needed 4,100 grafts and that there would be no extra charge for the additional 100. He told me that I had very good density on the donor area; lots of double, triple and even quadruple grafts; that the individual hairs were quite thick and that my recipient area would be covered completely in one sitting. He joked that if he’d had donor area as thick as mine he’d have another surgery (or at least I think that’s what he said). This might have been complete fluff, but in any case it put me at ease which was exactly what I needed.
I then got washed and shaved, put on a medical gown and a pair of Crocs (the absolute worst thing about the whole procedure) and headed into the room to begin. Fikret took a couple of photos and told me that these would be for my reference, and wouldn’t be used for their marketing which was reassuring.
Dr. Yaman re-drew the hairline, this time using a number of different tools to get it symmetrical. I’m lucky that my hair hasn’t receded as such, just gotten extremely thin and so I still have a thin semblance of a hairline left, and he was able to follow this - although I’ve seen plenty of videos where he’s constructed them from scratch so I can’t see that being a problem if your hair loss differs to mine.
We were then ready to properly get started which began by Yaman administering some local anaesthetic. This was the only part of it that actually hurt. It’s incredibly quick and as soon as the needle is out the pain stops, but to suggest it is pain free would be misleading. That shouldn’t put anyone off though, if you’ve ever got a tattoo, got stitches, got waxed (or had a needle shoved into your scalp) then the pain level is comparable to that. No biggie. Certainly not comparable to the years of torment I suffered looking in the mirror, seeing John Travolta in Grease gradually turn into John Travolta in From Paris With Love. Anyway…
He then opened the channels up, doing so at different angles to ensure the hair would sit naturally once implanted. This was pretty quick and I couldn’t feel a thing, although I could hear it which was a little unsettling at first. It was kind of a crunching sound, a little odd. Then he put the PRP in. I’m not sure whether this was an injection into the scalp, or if he just squirted the liquid onto the open wounds because I couldn’t feel it and didn’t think to ask so if anyone wants to advise then feel free. My guess is that the opening of channels took 45 minutes, maybe a little longer.
We were then onto the extraction part. Dr. Yaman handed over to a technician, who had a special pair of microscopic goggles which made me feel confident that he’d be specifically targeting the hair follicles, as opposed to just plunging the extraction tool into my skull. This was the part I was most concerned about because if they mess that up and over harvest or leave big messy scars then you’re in a real trouble - however I know there are risks with any procedure and the answers I was given to questions was enough to put me at ease and suggest this wouldn’t happen here. (Spoiler - donor area healing nicely)
There was a second round of injections which hurt again, and then we began. Again, the procedure was painless - although I did get the anaesthetic topped up a few times when I was worried it was wearing. You are lying facedown for a large part of it which isn’t comfortable, and it’s probably worth learning breathing techniques or meditation if you get a bit anxious about this kind of thing, but that aside it wasn’t too bad. Some people do it manually which is very precise, but very slow. At Yaman’s they used a little motorised device which speeds the process up without creating any additional damage. The machine sounded a little bit like a very quiet hairdryer as opposed to the dentists drill, and the actual process sounded a bit like taking a pair of clippers to your head. Once he got halfway through it we were joined by a nurse and she plucked the hairs from my scalp and placed them in Petri dishes. This was a pretty long process and aside the indignity of wearing crocs, was the worst part of the day but mostly because of the way I was lying. I was told that if you work out a lot then you’re more likely to bleed. This won’t affect the end result but does slow it down a bit as they need to clean up. I go to the gym most days and bled quite a lot, so stopping a week before might be as good idea. Dr Yaman checked in on this a few times to have a look, always giving positive feedback. At the end he said it all looked very neat and would heal not problem - again, might have been BS but it calmed me. I’d guess this part took around 2.5 hours.
We were then past the half way mark and it was time for lunch. I’m not really sure what it was to be honest but I wolfed it down because by this point I was starving. It was a salad, rice, some sauce and something that tasted a bit like a kofta but didn’t look like it. Fikret checked to see if I needed any more and then brought me a cup of tea. (I wanted coffee but apparently that would make it hurt more so settled on tea). I had half an hour or so to just chill, had a bit of a chance to chat with the other chap who’d been in - he’d come from Dubai. I know you can get them cheap in India and Iran which must be equidistant, so again, reassuring to see he’d chose to come to Istanbul.
The final part was placing grafts. Fikret said I could put my headphones in for the last bit and just chill out but I had stupidly left them at the hotel. I would definitely recommend bringing some in-ears and topping up on podcasts and stuff to get through the last stretch. A third and final round of anaesthetic and then we began starting with single grafts at front and worked backwards. Anesthetic wore off towards end and I could feel it pinching so I got it topped up. This was long, but I got regular updates on how long was left from Fikret and the opportunity to stop for a drink etc. Half an hour before it ended I got an IV which had some antibiotics in it and a few other things. By this point I was starting to feel pretty drained so the IV perked me up. At the end Dr Yaman came in and had a final inspection before I was bandaged. There was a bit of a language barrier so I’m not sure if I picked it up correctly, but I think what he said was that my grafts were a good size and that as a result it would heal quickly. I was wrapped up, given my aftercare pack and we arranged times for my wash and airport transfers the next day and I was done. I think this was the longest part at around 4 hours. I was sat in a semi-comfortable position and was able to watch some TV so whilst it was quite long, it wasn’t too bad but I was very relieved to have it finished.
Back to the hotel, I couldn’t stop looking at the top of my head. It looked incredibly neat and clean, and really dense towards the front. I couldn’t quite believe I’d actually gone through with it having worried about my hair loss for almost a decade. I had a nice dinner in my room and watched Bird Box on Netflix (spoiler - it’s not that good) and then tried to sleep. My head wasn’t sore and the special pillow made sure I didn’t put pressure on the recipient area - but lets be frank, you’re not going to have the best sleep of your life and it’ll be a bit awkward for a few days.
The next day I went back for the wash which was pretty straight forward and was given special instructions for the next 10 days. Fikret arranged for someone to pick up special multivitamins for me (Capiloz, not available in the UK), I said my thanks and got sent on my way with my snazzy new headband too. Chilled at the hotel for a few hours and then got picked up to go to the airport to go home.
I was quite worried about this part. I hadn’t told many people what I was doing and so the prospect of being in public in this state wasn’t one I had looked forward to but I needn’t have worried. The airport was full of other people all ages and races going to all different corners of the world with headbands, bandages, swelling, scabs and the various associated after effects. No one looked at me funny, nor did I have to remove the headband at the passport/security check which was a big relief. There were a few other people on my flight who’d had a procedure done and so I got chatting to two of them. They had paid £1,500 each for as many grafts as they needed and decided on a whim to go and get it done. There were 6 people in that same clinic getting done on that day and it sounded like it was done entirely by the nurses and technicians. They seemed to think I’d gotten mugged off paying as much as I did and if I’m honest, theirs looked pretty neat and clean too, although they still had the bandages on so I couldn’t see the donor area. In any case, I was still happy that I’d done my research and chosen Dr. Yaman. A big worry for me was getting a hatchet job, and thankfully it looks like these guys avoided that but better safe than sorry for me.
Once I got back to Stansted I was through security quick, jumped on a coach back to London and then a taxi and then I was home. I’d done it. A quick trip to Turkey in secret, returning with a full head of hair. The perfect crime. No one will suspect a thing.
…Unless they look at my head and wonder where the hair has come from of course, but I’ll not have to deal with that for a few months.
My key tips:
-Do your research. A huge part of this for me was nerves, made much easier by knowing I’d chosen someone who I really thought would do a good job
-Take some Lira and learn some basic Turkish
-Book baggage allowance. You’ll need this for the aftercare pack which won’t get on as hand luggage
-Take your headphones with you to the hospital and stock up on podcasts
-Book your airport depending on the location of your surgery. This is basic stuff, I failed at it
-If you’ve got a baldy mate to take with you then do so, because the flights and hanging around the hotel on your own is a bit boring
-You’ll be wearing shirts for a week so make sure to bring plenty
-Don’t expect to see Istanbul. I’m pretty drained so there was no way I could have made a holiday out of it. However, I do definitely want to go back because it looks beautiful.
-Watch your head! I didn’t realise how clumsy I was until I had to be careful about banging it.
I had it done 8 days ago now and so far so good. There was some swelling which worked its way down my face, I had puffy eyes for a bit and they’re still a little yellow/purple but nothing hideous. The donor area has healed up nicely and once it’s evened out with a set of clippers in a few weeks should be undetectable. The top didn’t scab particularly, although there was a lot of crusting which has mostly worked it’s way out - taking some of the hair with it although thankfully not the bulb. I can see a light pink hue to the recipient area which may become more apparent as it sheds and I can tell the difference between the new hair and the hair that was there beforehand but otherwise I just look like I’ve had a buzzcut. The donor area is still a little pink and under certain lights looks a little patchy (but not to the extent that I'm bothered) but I'm hopeful that as it continues to heal and regrow it'll be unnoticeable
The photos are below, the ones of the healing HT are under a very bright light and so will make the hair on the recipient and donor area look thinner - under normal light it looks much less noticeable.
I won’t make any grand promises about weekly check-ins; seen way too many dead threads with endless ‘any update?’ posts; but I’ll try to pop back periodically as it heals to update you all and answer any questions.
Thanks for reading.