Don’t be surprised if you come across people with their scalps tied with white bands of gauze while walking down the streets and market lanes of Istanbul. At the first sight, it may give you an impression of a traditional head cover or cap, but the story lying beneath the cover is way different from your guess. This is nothing but an effort to restore the lost crowning glory with a fresh crop of transplanted hair follicles through a cosmetic procedure known as hair transplant treatment.
Hair transplant treatment in Turkey today is $1 billion business that has immensely contributed to the rebounding of country’s medical tourism market after the recessive span extending for several years. When the Turkish tourism market saw a deep slump post a failed military coup in 2016, the hair transplant market helped the candle of medical tourism glow amidst the gloom.
As per the statement from the head of development council of health tourism Turkey, among an estimated 750,000 medical tourist visits last year, about 60,000 sought hair transplant operation. It is also estimated that about 150-200 hair transplant surgeries are conducted every week. But as per the version of the country’s health ministry, it could be more than 200 hair transplants per day, a number quite astounding!
Source countries of medical tourists:
Most of the clients are from Middle East countries, Egypt and Libya primarily due to the geographical convenience. But the number of European clients (from London, Italy, France, Spain) is also increasing since the last couple of years.
Why is Hair Transplantation so demanded?
Premature hair loss giving rise to untimely baldness beats the self confidence of a person. With image consciousness gripping the world, many people are willing to invest a good amount to restore their self image. Thanks to the great breakthroughs in cosmetic surgery that have enabled millions with deep pockets opt for appearance enhancing treatments.
The operation is based on Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) in which tiny hair follicles are taken out one by one from the hairy area of the head and are planted on the bald patch. The procedure is conducted under local anesthesia and takes about 8-10 hours. The transplanted area becomes dotted with hundreds of bloody spots. After resting for a day, the client can fly back home. After 6-8 months of patient wait, the client would feel the fresh crop.
Any medical operation cannot be guaranteed 100% success but in hair transplant, the success is almost ensured provided it is done in a decent clinic by expert hands.
Considering the ease of the procedure, it is natural for people avail this treatment, but Turkey has more advantages in store.
Firstly, it is the cost advantage that matters most. While a hair transplant operation in the US or Europe would cost around $25,000, in Turkey the cost would range between $600-$2000 enabling people with not-so-deeper pockets as well to avail this treatment.
Secondly, the treatment comes in a package deal. The clinic arranges everything starting from airport pick up and drop, booking decent accommodation, providing the required transportation on the day of operation and even arranging for site seeing in some cases. This ensures a smooth sequence of well planned events with least chances of disruption. This is highly satisfying for any customer attempting a medical procedure in an alien land.
Lastly, the Syrian refugees working in these clinics are excellent in Arabic and can well maintain the communication channel between the Turkish doctors and the clients from the Middle East and Gulf. They help in maintaining a well coordinated system that often drives in more customers.
The other side of the coin:
All the above factors have generated a cumulative effect in building the country’s reputation in providing top class cosmetic surgery procedures. But on the flipside, there are other factors too that need serious consideration. The situation is always not rosy as painted through marketing efforts and promotional gimmicks as there are many horror stories that remain covered.
Taking advantage of the growing demand for hair transplant procedure, clinics are mushrooming all around Turkey with many adopting extreme measures while offering cheap packages that often do not comply with the regulations.
In the cost-cutting spree, most clinics are hiring under qualified persons to perform the procedure while it is a regulated mandate in Turkey that this treatment should be conducted by qualified doctors. Sometimes nurses or other technicians perform this operation after a preliminary consultation between the doctor and the client is over. The swelling crowd is another factor that has forced many clinics to conduct the operation by undertrained persons.
After working for several years under the supervision of qualified specialists, these nurses and technicians develop the required skill, and employing them for the procedure has almost become a ubiquitous practice. It is even tough to find out that which clinics are maintaining the standard norms of operation unless there are certain methods of appraisal or verification.
To make matters worse, inspectors from health ministry are often bribed heavily to prevent any sort of legal warning that may dampen the illegal business procedure. It is the price advantage that is a big draw for the abroad tourists. Appalling stories from clients suffering from post operative infections or blotched operations done by inefficient hands often flood the online forums but that has hardly affected this robust business.
Opting for the crown makeover at a reasonably low cost is not a bad idea but it is wise to check the credentials of the clinic and specialists before finalizing a deal to prevent any irreversible damage.