It’s every man’s nightmare to wake up with clumps of hair falling out, a nightmare that was getting all too real for 34 year old me. The first hints of male pattern balding started when my hairstylist commented that my hair was thinning – perhaps not so much a subtle hint as a ringing alert.
Baldness had been slowly creeping up along with my advancement in age, and I dabbled in hair tonics, hair supplements, and other recommended ‘get-hair-quick’ schemes. Alas, these solutions nary did a thing to save my crowning glory. Until Terra Medical Clinic came into the picture.
I was introduced to Terra Medical by an old friend and was enlightened on the science behind hair loss. There’s a variety of factors, while the biggest reasons are most likely caused by genetics and age, hence not much you can do about that.
Consulting with Dr. Joshua Chong (MBBS), I was informed that commercial hair serums and supplements will barely slow down hair loss—the only scientific regrowth medication that works is Minoxidil, which can be applied topically or taken orally.
However, even Minoxidil can’t grow back a receded hairline or a completely bald spot. More drastic measures like a hair transplant will need to be pursued to truly get back what you’ve lost. So here’s what I was recommended to undertake: an FUE hair transplant.
Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) is a minimally invasive procedure and more superior to Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT) which is also known as strip surgery. In both FUE and FUT, healthy hair grafts are placed into tiny incisions in the targeted scalp area. Although surgery is required, the hair transplant is permanent.
The main difference between FUT and FUE hair transplants is that in FUT the surgeon removes a strip of donor skin from which to extract individual follicular units to be transferred to the areas of hair loss, whereas in FUE individual follicular hairs are extracted directly from the scalp. The FUT procedure causes a linear scar while FUE does not, although individual conditions apply on which procedure a patient is suitable for.
Let me take you through my FUE hair transplant journey over a few months.
After a session with Dr. Joshua, it was clear that my receding hairline especially at the edges of my temple was the focus of restoration. My overall hair density and crown needed some work as well, to which I was prescribed a daily dose of Finasteride and Minoxidil (combined into 1 capsule).
Sadly these medications are to be taken lifelong for maintenance in thinning areas with the effects seen in 3-6 months. Once you stop, your hair density starts regressing.
We discussed how my hairline and crown was to be revitalized with FUE transplant, and where the hair donor was going to come from; the back of my head where hair density was in abundance. The M-shaped receding hairline at the temple was the most noticeable area that needed attention.
Terra Medical is located conveniently at Scotts Medical Plaza in Orchard road, so getting a consultation was the easy part.
The FUE hair transplant was a full day affair. Before surgery, patients are highly advised not to smoke or consume alcohol three days prior to surgery as it hinders blood flow and the effectiveness of anaesthetic.
The first half of the day consisted of getting shaved at the donor area at the back of my head, and then getting the required amount of hair follicles excised. Local anaesthetic is injected prior to extraction to ensure you won’t feel a thing during the procedure–the initial injections, however, do cause some discomfort.
In my case, I needed about 1800+ follicular units to be harvested from the back of my head and I was pretty much lying face down for a couple hours while Doctor Joshua and his team went to work. Extraction has to be carried out evenly so that the abundant donor area will still look untouched.
This was the boring part as there were only so many threads I could count from the pillow sheet.
Each extracted hair follicle is then checked for quality, sorted and counted according to whether it was a single, double or even triple follicular unit. There’s a certain strategy involved in planting the appropriate type of hair follicles to produce the most natural gradient look.
After harvesting, we break for a quick lunch, then proceed to the transplant phase.
Transplanting began at my temple area along the guided lines of where my new hairline would be. This was another couple hours of nothingness, but I think I managed to doze off intermittently due to the painkillers.
When work began on my crown, I was propped up and had access to Netflix in the room, which made time pass that much quicker—a luxury much appreciated at Terra Medical. The entire process including lunch break was about eight hours, during which the team conducted the transplant with utmost care to ensure the highest rate of survival for my newly positioned hair.
I’ve to say that discomfort was minimal due to the meticulous anaesthetic.
Thereafter, I was cleaned and bandaged around the temple like a Japanese sushi chef to prevent any excess blood trickling down. I was then sent home with a slew of anti-biotics and painkillers to finish. The next couple days were a tedious and critical moment to keep my newly placed buddies alive.
The first crucial day after surgery consisted of spraying a stem cell/saline solution every 15 minutes to reduce blood clot and chances of the grafts falling off. I had to set a timer for this, but fret not, frequency of sprays will reduce after the first day.
You’ll also be given a disposable pillow sheet to sleep on as blood will still flow for the first couple days from the donor area; staining your pillow is an all-too-real possibility you want to prevent. Of course, follow up visits with the doctor will be required to inspect your recovery. Also, baby shampoo will be given so you can carefully wash your hair.
After about two days, redness and swelling were significantly lessened and you’re pretty much free to go about your usual routine (short of exercising and swimming). Downtime is extremely short although I recommend taking two to three days off work in order to heal and maintain your new-found hair unless you don’t mind weird stares at your awkward hairstyle (I had a patch shaved off at the back of my head, remember?). Oh, and the constant intervals of hair spraying for the first few days does require some discipline and free time.
On hindsight, it might have been prudent to shave off all my hair prior to surgery, so post-surgery you’d still look pretty ordinary. You can get a haircut around a week after surgery once you get an all-clear from the good doctor.
This is me after 1 week of surgery. There’s still that gaping hairline at the corners, but the little babies are rooted and developing. You can barely tell any kind of surgery was done and I look like my pre-surgery state.
Scabs falling off become a normal occurrence for the next couple weeks, but don’t mistake them for the grafts, the implants are pretty sturdy unless something goes terribly wrong. Also, a temporary increase in hair shedding will occur due to your body recovering from the ‘shock’ of receiving new follicle neighbours.
One of the temporary common side effects I felt was actually feeling numbness on my scalp more than a month after surgery due to the anaesthetic, however sensation gradually returned by the second month; symptoms are unique to individuals. I’ve been assured this is normal and medication can also be prescribed to accelerate healing if needed.
Over the next few months along with regular check-ups with Terra Medical and some additional growth and stem cell treatment, the hair transplants will adapt and grow out naturally, while full results will take about 12 months and beyond.
After just three months, the effects were already pretty obvious to me with little strands filling in organically at my hairline.
With a combination of Finasteride medication and the FUE hair transplant, my hairline and crown were becoming as robust as the kopi-o gao I drink daily. Again, transplant results are permanent, however if your hair fall becomes more severe as you age, baldness can still occur. The good news is, most people probably have enough donor hair to go for another round of implants in say, 20 years time.
After seven months of hair transplant surgery, my hairline filled in beautifully with more room to grow.
Needless to say, results have been extremely satisfactory for me, which brings us to the next question: how much does a hair transplant cost?
FUE hair transplant costs
Depending on how many follicle grafts needed, FUE hair transplant costs can range from S$7000 – S$14000. Each graft will cost roughly SS$7, so the final price really depends on your current locks (or lack of them).
Sure, there are cheaper clinics out there that also perform a smorgasbord of aesthetic procedures. But if you’re looking for a hair restoration practice that will absolutely take care of your mane, Terra Medical Hair and Aesthetic clinic is the place to go.
Put it this way, would you rather eat cheap sushi from an international buffet, or spend more on a niche Japanese restaurant that serves premium Omakase? With all the accumulated hair transplant experience that Dr Joshua Chong and his team have done, hands down Terra Medical is the best-in-class in Singapore if you are looking for someone to restore your crowning glory. To hair!
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