Like so many things in life, hair is one of those things you don’t fully appreciate until it’s gone.
I’ve always had a naturally high hairline and quite thin hair, and that’s always prevented me from having certain hairstyles. Recently, though, things have been getting worse. My already high hairline has been creeping back and my already thin hair has begun to wane further.
It has bothered me. Models, actors, cover star footballers – none of these men have receding hairlines. I know it’s visual suicide to compare myself to David Beckham, but if his ‘barnet’ is what society has decided as the benchmark for perfect hair, where does my high hairline fit in?
For some men, having hair doesn’t really matter, they’re happy to go bald, embrace a fresh look or just not worry about what the future holds. But for others, losing hair can lead to insecurity and a loss in confidence.
It turns out I haven’t been suffering alone. Wayne Rooney was the first to bring his hair insecurities into the mainstream media. He certainly wasn’t the first to have a hair transplant within football but he was by far the biggest name to hold his hand up and go public.
But Rooney is no longer the only example, huge names in football have addressed the issue of hair loss – Antonio Conte, Jurgen Klopp, Dimitar Berbatov and more recently Wales star Joe Ledley.
Having cosmetic surgery is no longer a taboo subject among men, especially now footballers are having it done.
After pondering the treatment for some time it was almost fate that an email from Farjo Hair Institute should drop into my work inbox.
The hair restoration clinic were keen to show off their superb work on former Liverpool footballer Jason McAteer. The ex-Reds star had a transplant after feeling conscious his hairline was slowly moving back.
Seeing the brilliant work Dr Bessam Farjo did on the Irishman, I took it upon myself to bite the bullet and contact them.
The Hair Transplant
Providing I wasn’t after an aggressive hairline – something which would not suit the layout of my current hair and head – Dr Farjo was happy to proceed free of charge as I bid to discover what the likes of Rooney went through.
I could feel my confidence growing, just the thought of having a ‘normal’ hairline gave me a kick.
It also meant I could go behind the scenes and finally see what some star footballers get up to on their off season. If I feel insecure about my hairline on a night out, how do they feel in front of thousands of fans and TV cameras each week?
Four months later and my procedure date was upon me. Farjo Hair Institute’s main clinic is in Manchester, but travelling from London was a minor issue considering what I would be getting in return.
From the moment I walked in at 8am I was treated like a king. I was greeted by three separate members of staff who immediately made my feel at home.
Dr Farjo, who would be leading my procedure, met me shortly after arrival and took me into the consultation room. We had a brief chat and he again explained the surgery I would be having, allaying any concerns that I had (as a matter of fact I didn’t have any – one look at his collection of awards was all it took to earn my trust).
I was going be having a FUE transplant – Follicular Unit Extraction. The process is simple to speak, hair grafts are carefully removed from the back of a person’s head (the thickest area) and moved to the area in need.
In my case, it was just the front hairline. Others may need the middle of their head and/or crown doing.
There is also strip FUT, where skin is lifted from the back of the head and the hairs are then extracted from there. But given my age and the thickness of hair, Dr Farjo explained FUE was the right treatment for me. It would also leave minimal scarring.
The hairline design came next. Naturally I fought for the best hairline possible, but it also needs to be one that suits the rest of my head and hair. Say I continue to recede in five years, a straight, squared off hairline would look ridiculous.
In order to create the new hairline Dr Farjo explained that 1300 hair grafts would need to be extracted.
Some quick ‘before’ snaps were taken and then it was time to head upstairs and start the treatment.
I was immediately presented with a small cocktail of tablets, mostly anti-swelling pills and a dose of Valium. Regardless of how brave you are, there will always be some nerves heading into a procedure such as this and nurses don’t want to be working with a shaky patient.
In order to extract the grafts, the back of my head needed to be treated with local anaesthetic. This, along with when Dr Farjo anaesthetised the front of my head, was the only painful part of the day. Being jabbed with a needle is never fun, but a numb head is also a pain free one.
The next stage was the hair extraction. Entering a room with a lab workbench and a robot, I sat on what can only be described as a scooter seat. My head was then placed forward into an open pillow (like the one you get on a massage table).
For the next two hours the robot proceeded to drill into the back of my head and pluck out 1300 grafts of hair. Sam was in charge of the robot while Michelle, Julie and Allison helped pluck the grafts, store and count them.
I must confess, I fell asleep twice during the procedure – I can thank the Valium for that.
Despite the process looking painful and gory, I couldn’t feel a thing and Dr Farjo and his members of staff were brilliant at making sure I was okay, providing me with food and drink.
It was then time to create room for the grafts at the front of my head. Back into the surgery room, Dr Farjo applied a healthy dose of local anaesthetic across the front of my head. Using a small tool, he then created 1300 holes for the grafts to go. Dr Farjo counted every single placement, making sure the angle was right for each graft. Nothing was left to chance.
A quick break for lunch and we were back at it. The nurses explained that it’s best not to leave the grafts out for too long, the quicker they’re back in the better they attach.
For the next two hours I sat back in a reclined chair completely relaxed, watching a film while Michelle and Julie carefully implanted each graft.
In all honesty, the process couldn’t have been any easier or relaxed on my part. The nurses were again superb and regularly checked to make sure I was okay.
Once the grafts were transplanted, Dr Farjo came in to make sure he was happy with the work and tweaked anything that may have been ever so slightly out of place.
The award-winning surgeon then washed my hair/head and sent me for a debrief with one of the nurses.
I was informed the next seven days were vital for the grafts to heal and secure. I would need to spray a saline solution every one to two hours over the grafted area. When showering, I would need to use a flannel over my head so there was no direct contact from the falling water. And, arguably the toughest request of all, no physical activity for the next seven days.
The scabs at the front of my head would disappear after a week and the new hair would then grow through at an average rate of one centimetre per month.
A cup of tea, ‘after’ snaps and a quick chat with Dr Farjo later and I was out the door.
I was in and out in a day and my life had changed. The Farjo Hair Institute were incredible, from start to finish their professionalism, security and safety were second to none.
And it’s easy to see why footballers have this procedure done when the turnaround is so quick.
For now the rest was up to me, I wouldn’t need to see Dr Farjo for another eight months when the hair has fully developed, thickened and grown out.
And that’s when this story will pick up. But judging by the numerous amount of footballers who have this treatment done each year, I have nothing to worry about.
FUE procedures start at a minimum fee of £2500 upto 500 grafts.