Let your head shine no longer! Istanbul is on its way to becoming the world capital of hair and beard transplants.
By Bernd Brunner
Baldness can be sexy, but let’s be frank, only in certain cases. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Kingsley, or fashion model Tyson Beckford are positive examples. Perceptions may vary, of course, but for the most part a bald head makes a man less attractive, especially if he’s overweight or stocky. And men know it. They experience baldness as a loss of more than just their hair and are aware of it with every look in the mirror.
Before coming to Istanbul I never really thought about the fact that somebody could want to invest time and a couple of thousand euros in new hair. I knew that the “combover” — to cover otherwise obvious baldness — was no longer the latest in hair fashion and a toupee was completely out of the question, but hair transplants never really crossed my mind. Hair loss is not a marginal phenomenon: Two thirds of all men lose some hair as they get older, and one third of these become completely bald.
In the downtown area on the European side of Istanbul, all around Taksim square (just a few steps from Gezi Park where nationwide protests began this summer) it is almost impossible not to see men wearing black bandages after a hair transplant operation. They are a constant. If you look closely, you can see the rosy shine on the treated areas at the front of their scalps, and if you look even closer, you can see the actual stitches from the operation. These men, often still in their late twenties or early thirties, sometimes show up in groups, and sometimes they are followed by their wives and children. The women are often completely veiled, suggesting that they are not from Istanbul (where a veiled woman is a rather rare sight). In fact, most of these “medical tourists” come from wealthy Arab countries. Here, in the foreign Turkish environment, they can transition from being bald to having some hair in relative privacy: Hardly anybody recognizes them as they stroll the luxury shopping centers or enjoy some amazing Turkish food. We don’t know how they are going to explain what happened to their heads when they return home — if anyone even asks them. In any case, they have to wait another half a year or so until the full result can be seen. Reputable clinics offer a warranty. According to some estimates, 100 such operations are performed every day at Istanbul’s clinics and practices, which offer packages covering patients’ travel, operation, and hotel stay. The fierce competition among them help make Istanbul one of the most attractive destinations for all those who need a hair-related change and don’t want to pay the higher prices at home.