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Hair Transplant Red Flags!

If you encounter these, I suggest you go elsewhere!


  1. RED FLAG #1: The doctor or clinic does NOT specialize in hair transplants, or worse, is advertised as a medical spa. They just offer a wide range of cosmetic surgeries and perhaps promote hair transplants using Neograft to get a piece of the hair loss market.
  2. RED FLAG #2: The doctor or clinic charges a fee (usually 113$) for a consultation.
  3. RED FLAG #3: The doctor or clinic is not talked about on any website, or worse, has received negative feedback from multiple persons.
  4. RED FLAG #4: You get the sense that you know more about hair loss and hair transplants than the surgeon you are interviewing.
  5. RED FLAG #5: The doctor or clinic has no BEFORE/AFTER pics to show you during the consultation.

If you encounter these, you may have found a great surgeon!


  1. GREEN LIGHT #1: The doctor or clinic specializes ONLY in hair loss restoration procedures.
  2. GREEN LIGHT #2: The doctor or clinic has a waiting list of a few weeks or months.

Things to Consider

Besides having some sort of plan for financing your hair transplant, there are a few things to consider before booking an appointment for surgery. Personally, I was desperate to get this procedure completed ASAP so I didn’t allow anything to damper my enthusiasm or make me reconsider my decision to proceed at this time. My motto was “Hair first, and the Universe will take care of the rest.”  But for those who are not inclined to adopt such an attitude, here are a few things to consider:

Pets.  Do you have a cat or dog at home? You will most likely need to sleep elsewhere and either visit your pet every day or so, or hire a pet sitter for 2 weeks. Reason for this is mainly because you want to keep your head free from contaminants, especially until the sutures are out. My cat likes to sleep on a ledge close to my pillow so the last thing I want is for her to start licking my head while I sleep. For extra precaution, I stayed at my girlfriend’s for an entire month and chose to visit my cat every couple of days.

Self-care. Do you have a great spouse, friend, or family member that can wash your hair every day for the next 2 weeks? Keep in mind this person will probably need to do a lot more! Unless you have eyes in the back of your head or are extremely agile in front of a mirror, you will need someone to apply Polysporin twice daily on the sutures in the back of your head for the first two weeks. The only thing you’ll be able to do by yourself is apply the saline solution (spray) and MAYBE tie the surgical hat behind your head. Besides caring for your scalp, you’ll also be prohibited from lifting anything for 2 weeks. That means you may have to ask this kind soul to also help you do your laundry and carry your groceries.  In my case, I was blessed enough to have a partner do this all for me, and let me tell you, it’s a very humbling experience!

Work/Finances. You WILL need to take time off work for sure. And after that, you’ll probably have to wear some sort of hat if you don’t want everyone to know you just had a hair transplant. I thought I’d be ready to go back to my regular work after a month but I simply could not, as it was still way too obvious I just had surgery. Sure, the doctors will tell you that physically you’ll feel fine within a day or two, but BEWARE! You WILL most likely experience extreme swelling during that first week. In my case, I was stubborn and because I hadn’t planned my finances as well as I should have, I still accepted a gig just two days after my surgery. Although I looked fine the day immediately following surgery, I woke up looking absolutely HORRIBLE on the day I had to work!  My face was so swollen I could hardly recognize myself in the mirror! I braved it to honor my commitment and because I desperately needed the money, but I felt very embarrassed the entire day. Not only did I look like a freak, but I also heard lots of bad jokes and unwanted questions (eg. ‘Who kicked the shit out of Santa?”, “Why is Santa Claus so beat up?”, “Is that makeup or is that for real?”). So take my advice: unless you work from home, plan your finances ahead so that you can afford a good amount of time off. Looking back, I ended up having to “limit” my work opportunities for at least 4 months (meaning I could not dabble into everything I usually do)..but in a way that became a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to gain some clarity on my career. Would I still get the procedure done? Yes, for sure. Just have a plan.

Time @ Home. Needless to say, you will have lots of time on your hands for a number of weeks. I suggest making the most of this time, especially if you can’t work. Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read?  An online course you’ve been wanting to take? A DVD you’ve been meaning to watch? Some kind of project you’ve been wanting to finish?  Perhaps there is a hobby you haven’t made the time to enjoy for some time… or a musical instrument you haven’t played in a while? Perhaps you need to organize the files on your computer or the pictures on your camera? You’ve got some inevitable “down time” coming your way, and these are just some of the ways you can make the most of it. You can still be productive even if you can’t do your usual work.

I hope these ideas will help you prepare realistically for this very special time in your life. With amazing results, you will never look back!

2 Weeks Post-Op

The Big Day is Here at Last!

Wow, I’m finally starting to feel like myself again!

I’d been looking forward to this day for lots of reasons.

  1. To get the damn sutures out of my head.
  2. To massage some areas of my head that were “off-limits” for the last 2 weeks.
  3. To finally experience once more what it feels like to take a shower.
  4. To start putting “magic Minoxidil” to work so that I may grow lots and lots of strong healthy hair.

Let’s Go Sit Under the Appletree!

Not being able to have Dr. Rahal’s team remove the sutures, I was a bit nervous about finding the right clinic in my city to do the job. So I ended up going to an Appletree Medical Group clinic. I called in advance to make sure that I wouldn’t have to pay for this service. Dr. Perry was the professional who took out my sutures. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, with a stethoscope around his neck. He had a very pleasant disposition and I felt at ease right away…until he looked at the line that ran across the back of my head and said “Now I know why they sent you elsewhere to do the job!”.

Doc, Have you Done this Before?

I started feeling a bit nervous as he started removing the first 2 sutures on my right side while I sat on the patient table. It wasn’t comfortable and I was feeling little sharp pokes. I glanced at my girlfriend who was in the room, and gave her a worried look. He then put down the tools from the “Suture Removal Kit” and asked his assistant to get him sharper forceps, smaller and sharper scissors, as well as an extra light. After leaving the room and coming back wearing some magnifying eyewear, he had me lie down on my stomach. From that point on, we were in business.

My girlfriend offered to hold my hair out of the way while he removed the sutures, which he and I greatly appreciated. It made the doctor’s job much easier and feeling my girlfriend’s fingers in my hair was very calming. Dr. Perry continuously reassured me by telling me “You’re doing great buddy” and letting me know that we were making great progress. He was a bit surprised that black thread had been used because it made it more challenging to see but I explained to him that it was probably done on purpose so that it wouldn’t be obvious that I had surgery in the back of my head.

Once we were finished, he took the time to go thru the line again just to make sure he had gotten all of the sutures out. He then thanked me and said, “It was an honor”. And I, in return, thanked him for releasing me from these sutures that have prevented me from sleeping for the last 2 weeks!


Ready for a New Beginning!

After getting home, my girlfriend washed my hair and gently rubbed off all the loose scabs. By the time we were finished, my scalp was alot cleaner and when I looked in the mirror, I finally saw a glimpse of my new look. Without the scabs, all that remained were the little hairs and a bit of redness on the scalp. This was definite progress!

I also got a follow up email from Chad today. The Patient Care team is very good at following up on everything. Chad, Holly and Jessica have all been great at making themselves available to answer all my questions.

I was told that I could start wearing “over the collar” shirts again, and that I could now wash my hair in the shower using Baby Shampoo (until the end of the month). I was also reminded to start using Minoxidil twice a day and to continue applying Polysporin in the back for another 5 days.

First Full Shower in Weeks!

To celebrate this milestone in my recovery, I rewarded myself with a nice warm shower. Oo lala, a shower never felt so good!

My Story

1-Week Post-Op…Looking back

It seems it was only a few weeks ago that my girlfriend, aware of my growing concern with my hair loss, was saying “just go and research it, find out how much it is…”. And here I am today, one week post-op, excited about my new hairline, but still feeling aggravated by the discomfort associated with the surgery. Needless to say, “No pain no gain” is what my girlfriend (who is also my nurse) keeps telling me to help me get me thru this temporary phase. At this point, not only am I looking forward to seeing the new sprouts grow abundantly on my head to create the hairline I always wanted and which Dr.Rahal so elegantly designed, but I’m also dying to be able to feel the back of my head again, and to having a good night’s sleep in my own bed, in a normal position.

Truth is… it DID happen that fast. My hair loss. My research. My appointments. My decision. Although I’d lost an alarming amount of hair in the last 2 years (something I attribute to extreme life stressors that probably activated my genetic predisposition to alopecia), I NEVER would have thought I’d be getting a hair transplant before the age of 40. After all, I had managed to stabilize my hair loss by using Proscar for over a decade (since my early 20s), and even after having stopped the medication, I still had not seen anything truly alarming… until last year (2011).

The Big

One day, I was glancing at my “wall of fame” – a place at home where I like to hang photos that depict professional milestones in my career as a performing artist. It was then that I first really noticed how dramatic my hair loss had been in the last year or so.

“Was that really me?  How could it have happened so fast? Seems I just shot that commercial! Seems I just did that musical! Oh my god, I’m starting not to look like my headshots anymore! What am I going to do?”. The guy on these pictures had a lot more hair than the man I was now seeing in the mirror.

At this point, I began to panic for my career and for my personal life.

Work Life

Professionally speaking, I knew that losing my hair at this stage would negatively impact my work opportunities. I was currently being marketed as a young man with shaggy hair and a perfect smile – and the jobs I was being submitted for were characters I wanted to portray. I certainly didn’t want to be forced into a new category of roles, such as older balding men, when my career was just taking off.  “There’ll be plenty of time for that in my later years!”, I thought. Furthermore, all my headshots reflected this youthful edgy appearance and I certainly didn’t want to invest in a new photo shoot. I was faced with an urgent dilemma because as a performing artist, your headshot is your calling card and you are expected to look like your picture when you show up for an audition. If I wasn’t willing to get new photos and accept a “new look”, then I would have to find a way to quickly reverse, slow down, or discreetly mask the situation.

Personal Life

But facing work-related doom wasn’t the only area where I felt anxiety: my personal life was also at risk of taking a hit. For one, I was still single… and having always been complimented on my hair by the opposite sex, I felt that women might not be as attracted or interested in me anymore. Secondly, one of the simple pleasures that come from having a girlfriend is being able to experience her fingers running thru your hair – that’s a perk I most definitely did not want to give up! Finally, I’d always been a “hair”guy, a metrosexual man who likes to do his hair in the morning and make regular visits to salons and spas. I’d always been proud of my hair styles and colors. Since my teenage years, I’d had it straight, permed, textured, colored. I’d worn it long, short, and everything in between. Just like fashion, hair was fun for me because it allowed me to express myself in so many ways. I didn’t want to lose that!

Needless to say, on that dreadful day when I realized how much hair was gone (possibly forever), my self-confidence began to crumble. I didn’t like my self-image anymore. I began to feel embarrassed, ashamed, and depressed. My self-esteem began to wither away, and ultimately, my self-love too.

Adopting the “Go Getter” Mindset

Doing the research

I wasn’t about to give up. I had always told people “When I get old, I’d rather look like Richard Gere than Dr.Phil” and I meant that with every hair on my body. So, I decided to use my hair loss anxiety to fuel my research into finding a solution for myself. I hadn’t kept up with developments in the hair restoration industry over the last decade so I began googling optimistically. Every day over the Christmas Holidays of 2011, I obsessively read every post I could find in online forums related to hair loss.

The first thing I discovered was how unregulated this industry is and how many scams are out there, promising a miracle solution to those willing to sacrifice their hard-earned money. The more I educated myself by reading reviews and testimonials from real people, the more I thought “thank God I did my research and didn’t buy into that”! The next thing I realized was how many women are affected by hair loss. Gosh, I had no idea. Finally, I discovered the promising advancements made using low level laser therapy (LLLT). This intrigued me so I investigated further. I found out about laser clinics in my area that would charge me thousands of dollars per year to go in for 20 minute treatments, three times a week.  I also discovered the hidden truth that you need to keep doing this every week for the rest of your life in order to maintain the hair you “might” grow back using LLLT. That’s a lot of money.

My research then led me to discover the existence of portable laser devices such as the laser comb, which I almost made the mistake of purchasing. While LLLT can give good results (there are many positive testimonials out there), certain specs must be considered when evaluating a portable device’s effectiveness in treating hair loss.  Unfortunately, most people don’t know what puts a portable laser device on par with the industrial machines used in laser clinics. It also seems that LLLT yields its best results when combined with other elements of hair loss regimen, such as monoxidil, but lots of people are unaware of this and expect to yield miraculous results from using LLLT only. I hate to say it but in hindsight, I was one of them.

Trying out Plan A

Once my research was complete, I had a plan. First, I got rid of all my commercial shampoos and opted for more natural, sulfate-free shampoos and a few ones designed specifically to battle hair loss. The only commercial shampoo I kept in my regimen was Nizoral. Second, I bought Polysorbate 80 to put on nightly. Third, I started taking supplements designed to fight hair loss. Fourth, I purchased my own custom-made laser helmet containing an impressive 350 laser diodes (same ones as used in the clinics) in order to bring home the same LLLT used by the clinics, but without the ridiculous price tag. Finally, in order to mask the hair loss and maintain the normalcy of my work opportunities, I ordered DermMatch, which I began to wear religiously whenever I went to work in front of a camera.

It was now Summer 2012, and after 6 months of sticking to my regimen, I did notice some vellous hair (as did my hairstylist) but not enough to convince me that I’d ever have a head full of hair again. During this time, I chose to visit one of the laser hair restoration clinics in my area in order to get a professional assessment of my hair loss. Besides finding out that I was already a Norwood Class 5 (how depressing!), the microscopic digital images revealed a number of very shiny areas which, I was told, represented spots where hair would never grow back, not even with laser.

Time for Plan B – Bring on the Transplant

Now I was really depressed… and for the first time ever, I began to consider a hair transplant, an option I had intentionally overlooked when doing my research a few months earlier. All I knew about transplants (besides the fact that my father had one during his 50s) was that they left questionable results along with a big scar, and probably cost much more than I could presently afford. But here I was, 6 months into my regimen, lacking the results I was hoping for, finding myself covering up my head every day with DermMatch or a hat, obsessing over my appearance first thing in the morning and last thing at night. My hair loss was consuming me so much that everything else in my life became secondary.

I was comfortable sharing my hair loss anxiety with my girlfriend (she could tell this was really bothering me) so when I told her that I thought a hair transplant was the only solution, she encouraged me to take action. At this point, I had no idea how much it would cost or how I would pay for it, and no idea when or where I would get it done. I honestly figured I’d just start saving up for my hair transplant and accept that I’d be living with this problem for years before I could afford the procedure, but she insisted I begin my research anyway. And whenever I felt sad about my deteriorating condition, she would smile and say with her thick Asian accent: “Don’t worry baby, you will soon have a hair.” A hair. Yes, hopefully a lot more than just one! And hopefully very very soon, or else that’s all that will be left standing on my head!

When I look back, I see how following her advice in August 2012 was the turning point. The moment I started to investigate all my options thoroughly (reading testimonials, booking consultations, looking at results, etc), is when everything picked up momentum and all the pieces began to fall in place very quickly.

It is now October 2012 and I’m one week post-op. Within 3 months of starting my research on hair transplants, I got answers to all my questions, found the best option for me (Rahal), and went thru with it.

Operation Day

Early Start

There’s nothing like a home-cooked breakfast to begin a life-changing day. Yep, I was lucky enough to be staying at my parents while in Ottawa, so my mother fed me well before my “big procedure”!

Final Preparations

Upon my arrival at the Rahal Hair Institute, I was greeted by a friendly staff member named “Mike”. (For anyone who hasn’t yet had a procedure with Dr.Rahal, Mike is kinda like your “best friend” for a day, looking after you when Dr. Rahal isn’t around, and frequently asking if you’re doing okay…)

By 7am, I had completed the necessary paperwork (legal stuff and lunch selections). It was then that Dr. Rahal came out to greet us. My girlfriend and I followed him into his office to discuss the final design.  I reminded him of what I liked, showed him a few pictures, and sat still as he began to draw on my head like an artist on a canvas. Just as I was about to grab the handheld mirror to take a peek at what he had drawn, he quickly said “Wait! Not yet!”. I thought that was funny, because it shows how passionate he is about his artistry –  no artist likes to show his designs until they are finished! While he was drawing I noticed a Ferrero Rocher by his desk and thought to myself “Hmm, I wonder if that’s how he rewards himself after a surgery well done?”.  Little did I know that a few hours later I’d be the one eating a Ferrero Rocher in order to regulate my pulse!

Once I had approved his designs on my scalp and gotten an agreeable second opinion from my girlfriend, he said “OK, ready to rock?”, to which I answered affirmatively, eager to get it over with. We proceeded to take some final pre-op photos (which unfortunately I never got to see because, I was told, they were inexplicably deleted… otherwise I would have posted them). After taking the pictures, I was instructed to get changed into a pastel blue gown. Once ready, Mike accompanied me to the operating room, where I was greeted by a remarkably friendly team of nurses and technicians. It was comforting, and I felt in very good hands. Furthermore, because I was the only patient scheduled that day, I couldn’t help but realize that everyone had come in to work just for me. I felt so much gratitude for everyone that later in the day I blurted out loud to the technicians quietly working at their microscopes: “I love you everyone and thanks for handling with care my precious hair!”

First Impressions

Once in the chair, it didn’t take long before the top of my head was shaved and gauze was taped all around it. My vital signs were being monitored and, I admit, my heart was racing a little at the thought of having my head cut open, no matter how superficially that would be. I’d never had a hair transplant before so I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of pain or discomfort.

But on that note I must say that Dr.Rahal’s team was brilliant at doing “everything” outside my line of vision. I never once saw a needle or scalpel despite my keen sense of observation. In fact, the only thing I ever saw was a piece of my strip floating in a little stainless steel container – but that’s because I asked the technician to show me what a piece of my donor area looked like. And even before showing me, the technician was professional and caring enough to ask: “Are you sure you’re okay to see this?”. Normally I might not have been, but that was later and by then, I’d consumed a cocktail of drugs so I felt relaxed.

Before phase 1 of the surgery began (extraction of the strip in the donor area), I was given a couple of pills and some Gatorade. Then I waited. There was a lot of action going on around me but it didn’t stress me out. To the contrary, I felt impressed by the efficient system Dr. Rahal had in place. I thought to myself, “No wonder this guy can do mega sessions of over 4000 grafts!” It was like watching ants at work. But something did bother me, and made me slightly more anxious: the music being played in the operating room. Don’t get me wrong – a bright, up-tempo, latin jazz instrumental is very enjoyable when going out for a glass of wine on a Friday night, but for head surgery with only local anesthesia, I would have really preferred some relaxing spa music. And for that reason, I would like to suggest the following as an improvement to the experience: Please have a selection of music for us to choose from (just as you have a selection of movies to pick from)…or allow us to bring and connect our portable device to your sound system, or have WiFi in the operating room so that the patient can stream music of their choice on an app like TuneIn Radio from their mobile device.

I asked for more calming music and Dr. Rahal jokingly said: “You don’t want us falling asleep during your procedure do you?” He then asked around and tried to get some spa or classical music, which I really appreciated.

Phase 1

After Dr. Rahal froze the back of my head (which didn’t hurt that much), he began cutting a strip from my donor area. It didn’t hurt… however, I could hear the “crunch” inside my skull as the pressure of the scalpel pushed against my head. I was also afraid he might cut a spot where I wasn’t numb yet but Dr. Rahal continuously asked me if I felt “anything”, and the moment I said I could feel some pain or discomfort, he added more anesthetic. During the first part of this process, they had me lie down completely flat on two occasions because I was getting pale and queezy. After the second time, Dr. Rahal had Mike bring me a Ferrero Rocher. He asked if I liked chocolate… Do I ever! And after eating the Ferrero Rocher, I did feel alot better. Dr. Rahal said he’d recently started giving his patients chocolate when they don’t feel well and found that it really helps.

After the Ferrero Rocher, I was mainly okay for the rest of the extraction. However, I didn’t like it when he cauterized the wound, because it felt like someone was using a taser on my head. I could definitely hear the electricity, and I even felt a jolt thru my skull more than once. But it was brief, so I didn’t complain.

I’m not sure if I had lunch after Phase 1 or Phase 2 but I remember how fresh my salad was. Very crispy with slices of cheese on it, and a generous amount of deli turkey slices rolled up on the side. There were no options for the salad dressing so I just poured some from the large bottle of Italian dressing they brought on my tray. Halfway thru my lunch, I noticed the dressing had expired 4 months ago. I wasn’t impressed by my observation but I ate it anyway, and it seemed to taste okay.  (Incidentally, I did vomit later in the evening… but whether or not this had anything to do with the expired salad dressing remains unknown.)

Phase 2

During Phase 2 of the FUT procedure, Dr. Rahal is again the star of the show. This is when he has you lie down completely so that he can perform all the artistic incisions needed to create a natural hairline. It starts with the freezing, and I have to admit this time I found it to be quite painful… as the forehead is a very sensitive area. Once I was numb and he was ready to start the incisions, he asked if I wanted to chat or sleep. I found this very respectful on his part. So we chatted like buddies for a while, and then I snoozed for a bit.

Phase 3

Before starting Phase 3, which consists of placing the hairs into the recipient incisions, I was given a binder of movie selections and asked to pick something. At first I was going to choose “Superman Returns” to get a dose of  courage but then thought my mind would be better distracted from surgery if I picked something I’d never seen. So I chose to watch “It’s Complicated”.

It should be noted that Dr.Rahal doesn’t actually perform this part of the procedure (as it would most likely take too long), but he does supervise a team of well-trained nurses and technicians that are very quiet throughout the entire procedure. For instance, I was really impressed during Phase 1 when I observed a bunch of technicians sitting side by side at their microscopes in almost complete silence. One might have expected them to be chatting each other up about what they did last night but for the most part, everyone was focusing silently and without distractions on the task at hand: harvesting the grafts from my strip of donor hair. Bless them.

Phase 3 took a long time because we were going for 4500 grafts. I think I slept thru most of it. When it was finally over, my head was wrapped in a surgical blue hat with lots of gauze around and I was accompanied to the changing room, where I got out of my hospital gown and looked in the mirror only to realize I looked like a smurf. I was given some post-op instructions in a purple folio, took a picture with Dr. Rahal for my own souvenirs, and came out excitedly to see my girlfriend in the waiting room. The staff had shown courtesy by calling her on my behalf, to let her know approximately when I’d be ready.

Final Thoughts

Overall, what I observed on the day of my surgery was that Dr.Rahal has a very well-oiled machine, a very efficient system. It’s easy to see how the Rahal Hair Institute, unlike other clinics, are able to do mega sessions of over 4000 grafts so easily and comfortably. I was impressed not only by the ant colony-ish efficiency of Dr. Rahal’s team but also by the precision of his work and the friendliness of everyone encountered. I’m glad this day is over but I’m also very relieved to have chosen the Rahal Hair Institute, now that I know what such a procedure entails. I just can’t imagine having gone anywhere else!