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Why is India an emerging hair transplant hot spot?

From the quality of surgeons to pristine hygiene standards, India’s hair transplant industry is gaining international recognition

The most common reason why people go for hair transplant is a genetic predisposition to hair loss called Androgenetic Alopecia,
The most common reason why people go for hair transplant is a genetic predisposition to hair loss called Androgenetic Alopecia, (Unsplash/Towfiqu Barbhuiya)

When it came to getting a hair transplant done for himself, Harjit Singh Lodwal, 40, an NRI based in Chicago, US chose India after a lot of meticulous research. Lodwal says he selected a cutting-edge clinic in Jaipur for two reasons: the expertise of its surgeons and equally importantly, the high standards of hygiene implemented there. “I did a lot of research about hair transplant treatment options available in the US and Europe. Hygiene was a key factor for me. What I found was not only were the procedures too expensive, the hygiene levels in clinics offering them were too low in these countries,” says Lodwal.

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While Turkey continues to be the ‘hair transplant capital of the world’, India is emerging as a preferred option, of late, with it even being ranked among the top 10 countries in the world for the same. Dr Nitin Soni, head counsellor at Medispa hair transplant centre, Delhi and Jaipur, lists out a few reasons for it. “Hair transplantation is both medical and artistic work. It is an aesthetic procedure where drawing the hairline and giving a natural look to the client is the primary goal. And in India today, we have more professional and skilled surgeons who are capable of rendering that compared to other countries.” Also, while it may not be a major surgery, Soni says that clinics in India take care of every tiny detail.

“We make sure that the operating room has every medical equipment in place including a defibrillator for any emergency. There’s no room for carelessness,” he says. Surgical instruments from scalpels to forceps undergo stringent sterilisation to eliminate potential pathogens. Additionally, the implementation of disposable materials, such as single-use gowns, drapes, and covers for equipment, further contribute to maintaining aseptic conditions. “This dual commitment to instrument sterilisation and disposability not only minimises the risk of cross-contamination during the procedure, it also aligns with the highest standards of surgical hygiene, ensuring optimal outcomes for patients undergoing hair transplant surgeries,” Soni observes. 

World over, hair loss is on the rise due to factors like stress, pollution, family history, hard water, lifestyle changes and so on. Needless to say, the pervasiveness of the problem has led to the emergence of numerous hair growth products and processes. Dr Santpal Sangwan, hair transplant surgeon at Hairfree & Hairgrow Clinic, Gurgaon, says, “You have a gamut of products available today to aid hair growth, but, unfortunately, none of them are effective in the long term. Therefore, people irrespective of their age are opting for a hair transplant. Sangwan further notes that while earlier, the age of hair transplant clients ranged between 20 to 30 years, today, there are older people signing up for the treatment too. 

“I recently performed a hair transplant for a 62-year-old. That just shows you how awareness and accessibility to the procedure has transformed the mindset of people.” Sangwan attributes this behaviour to the normalisation of cosmetic interventions. “The prevailing narrative has shifted from viewing such interventions as mere vanity to recognising them as valid tools for boosting self-confidence and well-being,” he explains. 

Whether you are an NRI like Lodwal or a 60-year-old who wants to look good, the other factor that makes India a viable option is how wallet-friendly the treatment is. Dr Divyasree, dermatologist, trichologist and co-founder of Dermiq skin clinic in Hyderabad, highlights that in India the cost of hair transplant is comparatively affordable than in the US.

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She elaborates, “The cost of each graft in India is about Rs. 20-30 while in the USA, it’s $5-10 (which is approximately Rs. 400-800 considering the conversion rate).” Thus, the average cost for a hair transplant surgery in India ranges from Rs. 90,000 to Rs.1.5 lakh, while in the US, it falls within the range of Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 12 lakh for a similar number of grafts. “The cost differential serves as a significant factor for people to travel to India for the procedure,” she says. 

Inventive Marketing 
The Indian hair transplant market, valued at approximately $180 million in 2021, is poised for substantial growth and is expected to reach around $560 million by 2030. This projected expansion reflects a robust CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of approximately 12% spanning the years 2022 to 2030. The substantial growth of the industry is largely attributed to impactful marketing strategies implemented by clinics and leading experts in the field. The campaigns, by highlighting technological advancements in the procedures, have succeeded in instilling confidence in potential clients in India and abroad.

Dr Aarushi Mittal from Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, Bhangagarh, concurs that over the years ‘the acknowledgement of the idea that hair transplant is a healthy option’ has made a huge difference. She says, “Marketing has played a crucial role in the growth of the hair transplant industry by creating awareness about the procedure, highlighting its benefits and reducing stigma.” Ads, online campaigns and testimonials, Mittal says, have made it more accessible to a wider audience.

Methods of hair transplant
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that involves moving hair follicles from one part of the body (usually the back or sides of the scalp, known as the donor area) to a bald or thinning area (recipient area). The primary purpose of a hair transplant is to address androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness. There are two main methods of hair transplant: 

  1. Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT), which involves removing a strip of scalp and extracting hair follicles. 
  2. Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), where individual follicles are harvested directly from the donor area. Both methods aim to transplant healthy hair follicles to areas with hair loss.

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Reasons for a Hair Transplant
Dr Anand Vaggu, dermatologist at KIMS Hospital, Hyderabad, lists out the main reasons why people opt for the treatment:

1. Androgenetic alopecia: The most common reason for hair transplant is a genetic predisposition to hair loss. This condition causes hair follicles to become sensitive to the dihydrotestosterone (DHT) hormone, leading to the shrinking of hair follicles and eventual hair loss. A hair transplant helps in relocating DHT-resistant follicles to areas affected by baldness.

2. A permanent solution: The transplanted hair is typically resistant to the effects of DHT and tends to grow naturally for a lifetime, thereby offering a more permanent solution compared to non-surgical options like medications or topical treatments.

3. Improved appearance: A successful hair transplant can restore a natural-looking and fuller head of hair, enhancing the individual’s overall appearance and confidence. 

4. Natural results: Skilled surgeons carefully design the hairline and strategically transplant individual follicles, ensuring a natural-looking outcome that matches the patient’s original hair pattern.

5. Non-responsiveness to medications: In cases where hair loss is not effectively controlled by medications like minoxidil or finasteride, a hair transplant may be a viable option. 

6. Repairing scars or bald spots: Hair transplant can be used to fill in scars from previous surgeries or injuries, as well as to address specific areas of baldness or thinning.

7. Stabilising hair loss: Hair transplant can help stabilise the progression of hair loss, especially when combined with other treatments, providing a long-term solution.

“It’s crucial to emphasise that not everyone qualifies as a suitable candidate for a hair transplant. The decision to undergo such a procedure should be made after thorough consultation with a qualified surgeon. Furthermore, it’s essential to maintain realistic expectations, as individual results may vary,” advises Vaggu.

Tanisha Saxena is a Delhi-based independent journalist. She writes stories that are on the intersection of art, culture and lifestyle.

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