Choosing a Hair Transplant Surgeon

This piece is an addendum to our article, A Sensible Man’s Complete Guide to Losing His Hair.” During our interview with Dr. Alan J. Bauman, a certified member of the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery and a pioneering hair loss researcher, Bauman gave an extensive and invaluable response on how to pick a hair transplant surgeon. While outside the scope of the original article, we provide it here unedited.

By Dr. Alan J. Bauman, as told to Jack Busch.

Because there are only approximately 100 board-certified Hair Restoration Physicians worldwide, a prospective hair loss patient should be prepared to travel and or consult long-distance. In fact, some states have few, if any, true Hair Loss Specialists. And remember that many of the advanced surgical techniques and new instruments in the forefront of the field are simply not utilized by large, national clinics or part-time hair transplant surgeons.

It is important to realize that at Bauman Medical Group 50% of our patients travel in from ‘out-of-town’ for their hair transplant procedures. We are often asked by primary care physicians, dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons and other providers to provide advice and expert opinion on hair loss patients from many thousands of miles away.

When it comes to hair loss, many people confide in their primary doctor, hairstylist or close friends, but don’t know where to look to find a physician with experience and expertise in helping patients manage their hair loss medically and surgically.

Your local Dermatologist may not be fully equipped to diagnose and track your hair loss process. New tools like genetic testing, scalp microscopes, HairCheck Trichometers and standardized photography studios are not routinely found in the garden-variety Derm office.

And when it comes to hair transplantation, a symphony of detail, technical skill and artistry is required for the best results. Seek out full-time hair doctors with track records of experience, avoiding those who perhaps just recently added “hair transplant” to their extensive menu of other cosmetic services after attending weekend course. Look for extensive before and after photos that show up-close views of the restored hairlines. Small, boutique-style clinics offer the individualized and personalized attention that patients deserve.

ABHRS – American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery is the only certification examination in the field of hair transplant surgery. It is a rigorous process in itself just to qualify to take the challenging written and oral examination. ABHRS has certified approximately 100 doctors.

ISHRS – International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery is the primary educational organization for hair doctors. ISHRS has approximately 800 members.

IAHRS – International Alliance of Hair Restoration Surgery is a consumer organization that ‘accepts’ a small number of doctors worldwide who meets their qualifications regarding performing safe and aesthetically-sound surgery. IAHRS recommends approximately 50 doctors.

AHLA – The American Hair Loss Association is the only national, non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to educating the public, healthcare professionals, mainstream media and legislators about the emotionally devastating disease of hair loss (alopecia) and its treatment.

  • How many years has the physician practiced hair transplant surgery?
  • Does the doctor perform hair transplant surgery every day?
  • How many surgeries does the doctor perform each month?
  • What kind of technique does the doctor perform regularly (e.g. strip vs. FUE)?
  • How many scientific conferences dedicated to hair transplant surgery does the doctor attend annually?
  • Does the doctor perform his own consultations with the patient or does he use a non-medical consultant?
  • Does the doctor have hair transplant patients you can speak to or meet with?
  • Does the doctor have high-resolution, high-quality “before and after” photos or video of patients’ results that are similar to what you are looking to achieve?

In the modern age of online forums and internet ‘reviews,’ keep in mind that in any competitive industry (including restaurants, cosmetic surgery, etc.) you’ll always find a mix of reviews for any given product, business or provider. A smart consumer knows that reviews can be highly biased or downright false. Do not base your decision just on one review or one forum, try to get a well-rounded view of the doctor or practice by doing a variety of research. There is no “one-size-fits-all” doctor or clinic, so trust your judgement and get a variety of opinions. It’s OK to consult with more than one doctor–each interaction will give you greater perspective, helping you learn about your condition, appropriate expectations as well as the professional on the other end of the phone.

Be wary of Free Consultations, discounted procedures and special offers–these are ‘sales-tactics’ used to lure patients who are not savvy or sophisticated. Free advice is usually worth what you paid. Be a sophisticated consumer by knowing what questions to ask. A true expert’s time is valuable, so be willing to pay for expert advice. Don’t make any highly emotional or rash decisions and RUN away from clinics that pressure you to make a decision.

How much time does your doctor spend on explaining non-invasive, hair-protective treatments?

Repairing a poorly-planned or poorly executed hair transplant can be costly and the results will never be as good as if the procedure was performed correctly in the first place. Unfortunately, some poorly-performed hair transplant procedures cannot be repaired at all!

Know the costs involved and be prepared with a budget. Investigate flexible payment options and financing. Many patients use cosmetic surgery financing to pay for their procedures over time, instead of getting hit with a huge payment at once.

Read our complete article about men's hairloss here, “A Sensible Man’s Complete Guide to Losing His Hair.”