This is one of the more common questions one will find on the internet when doing hair transplant research. It is also one of the most logical questions to ask since you can't have a hair transplant until you know how much does a hair transplant cost.
There are a lot of factors that go into finding out how much does a hair transplant cost. This post will examine many of these factors and explain how they affect the cost of a hair transplant.
How Much Does A Hair Transplant Cost ?
The number one consideration when trying to figure out how much does a hair transplant cost is how much hair will be transplanted. Most clinics will charge by the graft while some will charge for the session as a whole. This can also be broken down into small sessions, medium sessions or large sessions. Lastly, there are clinics that charge by the hair. There are pros and cons to each of these approaches.
The advantages of having a cost per graft model is as follows.
- You pay for exactly the number of grafts that are prepared and transplanted. This means that no patient pays the same as any other patient and is considered to be the more fair of the two existing price models.
- Specific plans can be formulated to address specific areas of loss based on numbers.
- Measurements are accurate because when each follicular unit is calculated in a given area, usually in a square centimeter, the same calculations can be applied to the intended recipient area or areas to get an idea of expected densities for the final result of the hair transplant procedure. Some doctors will literally draw a grid on a patient's donor zone and extrapolate how much hair is in each square centimeter then determine how many grafts can be removed from each square centimeter based on a standard ratio.
- As long as the patient is informed they will know they are getting what they pay for. For instance, some patients are allowed to have access to graft counts as they progress and some will be able to count incisions being made so they know how many holes are being filled. A hand "clicker" device is given to the patient so they can click once for every incision or every ten or one hundred incisions.
There is only one real disadvantage to the cost per graft model and it has to do with greed. When the patient pays per graft there is more incentive for the clinic to artificially inflate the graft numbers as this increases the cost of the procedure. This can be done one of two ways.
- The clinic can simply lie and say that 2500 grafts were transplanted when only 2000 grafts were transplanted. It is impossible to look at a hair transplant recipient zone after surgery and know for sure how many grafts were placed.
- The clinic can place the exact number of grafts that the patient pays for but they can inflate the number of grafts by "sub-dividing" the grafts into smaller grafts. For example, if a patient has a naturally occurring three hair graft the graft can be divided into three single hair grafts and placed into three separate incisions. If the cost per graft is five dollars per graft you just paid fifteen dollars for what should have cost the patient five dollars. There is an argument to be made that this practice actually helps the result with increased refinement but ultimately the clinic still makes 150% more on one graft than had they left it intact as it was harvested to begin with. You can usually spot this practice when one clinic has a consistently higher percentage of single and double hair grafts than the closest competition.
There are no real advantages to the "per session" model that are clear. When a clinic charges by the session, be it "small medium or large", you can't be sure exactly what you're getting. A small procedure for one patient might be a medium session for another and while it is fair to say that both may find value in what they received for their money I'm certain that if two similar patients received the same "package" but different results the questions about graft numbers would be very valid.
A friend of mine argued that by taking away the cost per graft mentality and simply charging for the session that the patient is paying for the work of the surgeon whereas the per graft model is paying for the hair, meaning, that the reputation of the doctor performing the procedure is what is the tangible item for sale based on what the final result should be based and not on how much does a hair transplant cost. This makes sense but it makes the assumption that the doctor doing the work is being fair in his assessments and how he addresses each case. I argue that this is not always how hair transplant doctors behave. There is one major drawback to the per session model. Here is an example. Two patients have similar loss but one has slightly more loss than the other. Thus, the patient with slightly more loss is quoted a "medium session" whereas the other patient is quoted a "small session". The price difference can be substantial, in the multiple thousands of dollars but what happens when there is only a minor difference between the two? Will the patient quoted for the medium session, and thus the higher fee, feel he received a fair deal when the other patient with similar loss and a similar result but much lower price? This is but one example of how this model is inefficient and can greatly benefit the clinic rather than the patient.
The third method for charging for surgical hair restoration is the cost per hair model. This approach literally charges the patient per hair. This is how it works. The extraction method is not important as both FUSS and FUE will result in follicular unit grafts being prepared, examined and counted. The per hair model however will involve the separation of the follicular units, or in some cases the mini-micro grafts, based on the number of hairs in each graft. The grafts will then be placed just as they would any other procedure but at the end of the procedure the patient is handed a bill that can appear extremely encouraging. Imagine the difference to a patient if they were handed a bill for 3000 grafts or a bill for 7000 hairs, and the cost is the same. That is one of two benefits to the per hair pricing model.
- The patient sees a larger number with regards to how much hair is moved. When compared to the per graft model, it appears to be "more". In the per graft model the patient is given a separate sheet that has a breakdown for the number of hairs that were transplanted but it is not the focus of the surgical reference.
- The patient knows exactly what they get. There is no issue with questionable hair or graft counts as long as the patient was given a method to verify this number.
There is one potential disadvantage with the per hair pricing model and that is one of sub-dividing grafts. How would a patient feel if he went in for 4000 hairs not realizing that this is the equivalent to roughly 1500 follicular units with a standard clinic? The price difference would most likely be immense but the patient would go for the better deal not realizing that the assessments are vastly different. Once that 4000 hairs comes to the final result it won't be as impressive as a 4000 GRAFT procedure so there is a danger that the initial impression of the estimate of 4000 hairs can confuse a patient into thinking he's getting a great deal when in fact he's getting a ticket to more necessary surgery to get the result desired from 4000 grafts, not hairs.
Worldwide Hair Transplant Cost
Another factor that needs to be considered is location. There are thousands of hair transplant clinics worldwide and in the past several years there has been an increase in the number of clinics popping up in countries not normally associated with high quality hair restoration, much less general health care. These countries include, but are not limited to, India, Thailand, Phillipines,Hungary, Romania, Turkey and most recently, Mexico. The idea in the past is that these countries could not possibly offer the care, safety and quality of clinics and hospitals in Western Europe or North America. Nothing could be further from the truth as all of these countries, and others like them, happen to have very high standards of care. The problem is that the enforcement of these standards is not the same as it is in western countries.
Currently, Turkey leads the world with annual revenues generated from surgical hair restoration topping out at one billion dollars. That is roughly one quarter of all revenue generated from surgical hair restoration annually worldwide. The biggest factor driving the industry in Turkey, and other countries, is the perceived high value of care for shockingly low fees. What would normally cost approximately 20,000 dollars in North America can potentially cost as little as 4,000 dollars (euros) in Turkey. The lower prices being charged, along with the somewhat looser enforcement of regulations, has led to an explosion of growth in hair restoration clinics. I know from personal experience that finding a hair transplant clinic in Istanbul is not much more difficult than finding a Starbucks in Seattle, Washington. The problem with Turkey and a few other countries is that the majority of clinics are presenting themselves to be in certified hospitals and that your procedure will be carried out just as if you were in your home country. The target market for these clinics is Western Europe and North America so the focus is on creating the appearance of safety, competence, cutting edge advancements and incredible value. Once a patient arrives to their clinic of choice they find out that the operating room in "their hospital" is a broom closet cleaned and rented out for the day and the patient is lucky to have a doctor even draw a hairline. The procedure itself will be performed almost exclusively by a team of technicians and the patient will wind up being one of up to twenty patients being worked on in the same day. It may seem shocking but it is normal business in Turkey. There are few doctors in Turkey that actually perform the entire procedure from beginning to end.
In any country, how much does a hair transplant cost is determined mainly by competition but ultimately there has to be a starting point for how a procedure is priced and that starting point has to do with the regional cost of living as a baseline. For instance, in the United States it is much more expensive to have a normal middle-class lifestyle than it is in Mexico or Thailand so logically the price per procedure will also be more expensive. This means that if one is looking for the most affordable procedure possible they should look outside of North America and Western Europe for their hair restoration needs. However, this means that the patient is usually casting themselves out of their comfort level. When many people may find it difficult to board a plane to go see family across their own country, many more will find it much more difficult to travel to a foreign country to receive an elective surgical procedure. What is the general safety? What are the customs? Can I trust what I'm being told? What happens if I'm in danger? How do I receive satisfaction if the procedure fails? All of these are common, and legitimate questions that should be considered when traveling to any country outside of your own seeking any surgical procedure, elective or not.
Finally, one of the factors that determines how much does a hair transplant cost is how the clinics that you are considering operate and what their experience is. One clinic may recommend 4000 grafts while another clinic may recommend 2500 grafts and this will be for the same area of hair loss. Why is this?
- The clinic with the lesser recommendation may not be experienced performing larger procedures.
- The clinic with the greater assessment may be attempting to satisfy the needs of a larger area that they deem in need of surgery.
- The clinic with the greater assessment may simply be trying to create more revenue.
- The clinic with the lesser recommendation might simply be more conservative or cautious. It can be argued that doing smaller procedures is safer than doing larger procedures due to the donor zone being a finite resource.
There are multiple potential reasons for varying sized recommendations and these touch on but a few of these reasons but it is clear that one must do a lot of research when comparing clinics. The motivations for assessments can vary widely.
So How Do I Figure Out What is Best?
This is up to you. Ultimately, I think the cost should be secondary. Find the clinic that does the best work based on criteria that apply to you. you. This should include:
- The type of hair you have. Do you see a lot of great hair transplant results based on your hair type? Curly? Straight? Coarse? Fine? A combination of these characteristics?
- What is their reputation online? Do you see actual patients sharing their experience with the clinic or is it based only on clinic provided photos?
- Do you have a clear idea of who the doctor is? Are there videos of your doctor describing his approach Youtube or Vimeo? Is there a way to get a sense about your doctor?
- Are you able to speak to any of their patients?
You'll undoubtedly find multiple clinics that seemingly match your needs. This is the time to start looking at what does a hair transplant cost with the clinics you've chosen. Reach out to them and discuss your financial situation if the price seems out of your reach. Many clinics will work with patients on price to help gain a new patient, more revenue and a steady work load. They may ask for concessions on your end to make the discount worthwhile for them. These concessions may include use of your photos and/or videos to document your results. This way they can add your case to their portfolio and you get the hair transplant you want for a better price.
You can also use one clinic's price against another to see if they will price match. This is sometimes frowned upon because it stands to reason that a clinic with a strong reputation should not need to "haggle" on price as it cheapens the value of their service. There is merit to this position but in the end, there is nothing wrong with at least asking for negotiated pricing and all they can do is say "no".
Ultimately, if your choice comes down to a few clinics but one is more expensive than the other, there is one way to truly know which clinic you should choose, assuming you can afford both. Ask yourself this question; if both clinics were the same price, which would you choose? If there is a clear choice then that is your BEST choice regardless of price. Knowing how much does a hair transplant cost will be irrelevant at this part of your decision. This is because hair transplant surgery is a procedure that is not only elective, meaning you don't have to have a hair transplant, it is also forever. This means that once you have the procedure and you get your final result you can't turn back time and go with the option that you would have gone with if price was not an issue. If you can't afford the clinic you want there is a strong argument for waiting and saving till you can afford the clinic you want or just don't have surgery at all. Ultimately, this is the safest solution, not to mention the cheapest.