I Got a Cheap Hair Transplant In Turkey, the Recovery Was Agony, and I’d Do It Again In a Heartbeat

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By month seven, there was no more ambiguity; the hair looked better than it had in decades. I looked younger. I felt younger. When I visited my barber he whistled in appreciation, like a proud grandfather. After the cut he said, “I’m sorry, but I have to do something.” Then he rubbed his hands all through my hair, back and forth, a big smile on his face. “It just feels so good.”

On a first date, a woman told me that I didn’t look anywhere close to 46. (This is clearly the white lie everyone says, but still.) Then she elaborated: “You’ve still got your hair.”

“Lucky, I guess. Good genes.”

Around month nine, studying my hairline with satisfaction, I noticed something less pleasant: I had gained weight. My face looked puffy and my cheeks looked fat. I stepped on the scale and, indeed, I had gained around 10 pounds since the operation. I can’t blame the transplant, but now the balding anxiety had been replaced by body anxiety. 

Both of these anxieties, of course, are foolish. (Cue the speech from an after-school special: “It’s what’s inside that counts!”) But I realized that perhaps I had a baseline level of insecurity about my appearance—maybe many of us do—and no matter what I did to upgrade or optimize, the symptoms might be treated but the root psychological issues would remain. That’s how it works with money. Research on happiness suggests that when we buy new stuff we’ll feel a jolt of pleasure, but this will wane and we’ll soon revert back to our baseline. Then we’ll crave more stuff, rinse and repeat.  

Of course, asking a hair transplant to tame my inner-demons is too high a bar; the goal was to fix my hair, not serve as therapy, and by that standard it was a roaring success. The bald crown I had on top was mostly filled in, the front of the hair looked dense, and I no longer needed to use pomade to “hide” the empty corners of my widow’s peak—the widow’s peak was completely gone. It was just all natural, thick hair. 

On a backpacking trip in South America, I met a group of 20 and 30-somethings who were astonished to learn that I was 46. I assumed this was mere politeness until he approached the others in the group, unsolicited, and said with excitement, “You’ll never guess how old Alex is!”

This was new. I never got that kind of reaction, pre-Istanbul. So I fully credit the transplant. And after a while it no longer felt like a hair transplant and just felt like my hair, period, something I no longer had to worry about. And now, in month 10, I even forgot to check in with Hair of Istanbul – that’s how chill I feel. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely. (That’s not to say you should: Do your research, understand the risks, and know what you’re getting into.) I’ve done many dumb things in my life. This was not one of them. I’ll go even further: I predict that hair transplants will become far more mainstream in the near future, especially if the costs continue to fall. The results are just too good to ignore. 

At a recent party I saw a friend that knew about Instanbul, but who I hadn’t seen since the Ugly Duckling phase. “Hair looks great!” She said in a whisper, not wanting to blow my cover. 

I thanked her, told her I was happy with it, that maybe I do indeed look a bit younger.

She took in my new appearance. Gave me a thorough look. Then she nodded and said, “You know, you could get some Botox.”

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