When you’re taking a walk through the Taksim Square, you’ll probably notice something a bit strange. You’ll notice a lot of people with bandages on top of their head. The hair transplant industry is one of Turkey’s quickest thriving industries. This comes at a time when Turkey is facing a sharp decline in tourism due to negative media attention abroad from terrorism and attacks that have scared a lot of people from visiting the country.
So why have so many people started travelling to Turkey to receive a hair transplant operation? It was reported by a Turkish newspaper named Hurriyet that an estimated 750,000 medical tourists had visited Turkey in the last year alone. Of that 750,000, almost 10,000 of them or 60,000 came there for a hair transplant. It’s estimated that there’s anywhere from 150 to 500 hair transplants done in the country every single week.
How Does a Hair Transplant Work?
These operations are not cheap and they’re not quick. They take months for the effect to kick in and there’s often more than one appointment. Doctors will extract some hair follicles from the back of the head and then insert those hair follicles into the front of the head where they have made hundreds to thousands of incisions, depending on how much hair the patient needs.
People get these procedures done because most other baldness combat methods are usually ineffective and don’t work. There’s temporary solutions on the market to make it appear like you have hair on a balding spot but one of the only real solutions at the moment is to get a hair transplant. This procedure however doesn’t come without risks. When doctors mess up or botch the operation, this can result in scars visible on the front of the head and the hair may end up growing in odd directions.
It was revealed by the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council that Turkey made $5.8 billion in 2015 alone. According to the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council, that’s an estimated $10,000 per visitor. That’s how expensive these hair transplants are and they don’t always go as planned.
Illegal Hair Transplant Clinics
Another core problem with the hair transplant is that while there are a lot of legit doctors out there who perform the operation, there’s a lot of illegal hair transplant clinics as well or better known as the black market. It’s said that in travel agencies and around airports where tourists land, there are middlemen who advertise these services to people. Some people even pay some of these tourist agencies to give them a list of names for people who are looking to get a hair transplant.
Some agencies will recommend a hopeful patient to a faulty clinic and once that patient pays the clinic, they’ll in turn pay the agency a portion of the profits. This industry is so profitable that some of these clinics will even offer luxury rides in cars and have their hotel stay paid for until the treatment is finished. The health tourism interest in Turkey has been booming for some time and this is partly because of the investments made into health facilities over the past decade.
It’s not just hair implants either, a lot of people come to Turkey for eyebrow implants and even facial hair implants.
One such customer is Sayeed, who’s 32 from Saudi Arabia. When he left the clinic after his transplant, he was walking around town with a blood covered bandage. Sayeed admits he didn’t put enough proper research into the clinic and the operation was botched. When he arrived in Istanbul, he wanted to receive an operation for a transplant but he didn’t know about the unlicensed and illegal clinics all around Turkey. He later did return to Istanbul to get the damage that the clinic had done repaired.
However, Aziz Khellout, who’s 28 years old from Algeria had a more successful story. He traveled to Turkey because he had lost all confidence in himself when his hair started falling out. He arrived in 2017 and arrived at his clinic in February 23rd. He said that he had found the clinic on a Facebook page but none the less, he had a successful operation and likes to brag about the before and after pictures for his hair.
If you want to get a hair transplant in the United States or Europe, you can expect to pay up to $25,000 for a single operation. However, in Istanbul, that price is drastically reduced down to anywhere from $600 to $2,000. There are a lot of clinics in the city and they’re so competitive that some of them have dropped their prices down to $600 and some go even lower. The competitive market for hair transplants are getting even worse though because more and more are popping up each day.
One expert terrifyingly admitted that doctors aren’t even the ones doing a lot of the operations. A hair transplant by law should be done by a doctor. However, it’s usually just a nurse or a technician that’s doing the majority of these transplants and some of them aren’t qualified to do so. He admits that doctors usually only step in when there’s any major complications. So how do these clinics get away with breaking the law?
Well health inspectors who make sure clinics are operating up to code are usually bribed the clinics and they can do this because of the amount of money they make. One clinic owner said that almost 90% of his patients come from the Middle East.
The bottom line is, there’s a line of clinics out there that are designed to scam people out of their money and most of them are the cheapest option available. It should be no surprise that a $600 hair transplant probably won’t go well, but some people are so desperate that they take the deal anyways. The market is plagued by corruption, fake clinics and gullible customers looking for a bargain and the market is only expanding.