Going back to my roots

Publication: Sunday Independent – Life Magazine
Date: July 3, 2011
Src: Sunday Independent

Losing his thick locks in his 20s was tough for recruitment consultant and actor Gary Mullan, says Joy Orpen, but a life-changing operation has restored his hair and boosted his self-confidence.

Donald Trump, or The Donald as his first wife Ivana nicknamed him, may be a billionaire — but, in spite of all that dosh, every day for him is a bad hair day. Maybe his minders should tell him about Hair Restoration Blackrock (HRBR) — a clinic in Co Dublin that does amazing things with men’s — and women’s — thinning pates.

Someone who definitely knows what The Donald apparently does not is Gary Mullan, 43 — an actor and digital-media entrepreneur who has a lovely head of hair, thanks to HRBR.

Gary, who lives in Dublin with his Spanish wife Lali, says he had a wonderful crop of hair when he was young. “It was thick and floppy, almost like Hugh Grant’s,” he recalls.

Having attended Blackrock and St Michael’s colleges, Gary went on to spend a year at the Ballyfermot Rock School. There, he managed to inveigle visiting celebrity Charles Haughey into bankrolling Gary’s first foray into the music business. “He put up the money for me to make a record,” says Gary, clearly amused by the memory. Soon after, his enterprising mother, mindful of the sluggishness of the economy in Ireland in the early Nineties, went to the US, weighed down by two suitcases full of application forms for the visa lottery. Not only did she succeed in gaining a visa for her son, she got visas for his friends too. And so Gary ended up spending eight years in America and, along the way, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA.

But it was San Francisco that captured his heart. “As a city it was much more supportive of the arts than LA. It was more laid-back — more Jack Kerouac. And that is where — sadly — I began to lose my hair,” he says. “It was tough. I remember going to the hairdresser and he said, ‘Just accept it.’ But I found that very difficult.” Gary then tried to model himself on people who had little hair, but it just didn’t work for him, not totally. “Though people were very kind about it, at the back of my mind, at some level, I was very self-conscious about it.”

Then, about 13 years ago, Gary returned to Ireland and, shortly after, he met and fell in love with Lali — they now have two adorable children: Alex, six, and Andrea, eight. “My wife wouldn’t care even if I didn’t have a hair on my head,” says Gary. “She loves me anyway. But, for me, the hair loss was a problem.” Nonetheless Gary soldiered on — appearing in Fair City, acting in the odd movie or advertisement and setting up Prosperity, his successful recruitment consultancy.

He had almost let go of his hang-ups when he watched Dr Maurice Collins on TV, talking about his state-of-the-art clinic in Blackrock. Two men with previously thinning crowns, whom Dr Collins had treated, appeared on the show with him — both now sporting fine heads of hair. “I saw the work he had done and thought it was just phenomenal,” says Gary. “His approach to transplanting hair was so methodical.”

Gary wondered if it would work for him, and that question made him realise his resistance to being bald was still alive and kicking. “I talked to my wife and then I made the decision to go see Maurice,” he says. Dr Collins had a long and prestigious career as a surgeon at the Blackrock Clinic. Some years ago, he decided to put his skills and experience into helping people who were losing, or who had lost, their hair to get it back. So, having formulated an intense and very detailed procedure for transplanting hair, he set up HRBR, his ultra-modern clinic, and has achieved consistently outstanding results — as Gary can testify.

However, a note of caution here: not everyone with hair-loss problems is suitable for this particular form of treatment, so an in-depth consultation is the first step to determining a person’s suitability for transplantation. If that individual is suitable, they are then given a full medical to ensure they are physically sound. Prior to the operation, they are very carefully informed about every stage of the procedure so that on D-Day there are no surprises. They are given a mild sedative to take at home to help them sleep the night before the procedure.

Maurice’s large team of medical technicians, nurses and surgeons begin by very carefully removing a strip of skin from the back of the head — this area is immune to hair loss. The technicians then dissect that skin into tiny slivers. Having removed the hair follicles, they then ready them for transplantation. The bald or thinning area is then prepared before the follicles are rooted into the scalp — as many as 4,000 are meticulously implanted in a single day in ones and twos, depending on the thickness of the hair, and imitating nature: fine hair at the edges, strong hair further in. The entire team is rostered to devote themselves to an individual patient for up to 10 hours in one day, so that the procedure can be completed.

Gary said he felt no pain whatsoever during his transplant and spent the day dozing or watching videos. He says he was absolutely bowled over when he looked in the mirror. His previously almost totally bald crown was now, unbelievably, sprouting real hair. He was warned that his hair would fall out over time, and indeed it did. But the follicles under the scalp had successfully rooted, and after about 10 weeks, new, strong growth began to show. Today, Gary has an impressive mane.

He says the hair transplant was not cheap but, considering the benefits, it was worth every penny.“Sure you could buy a nice car and that would be grand. But this was a personal investment for me,” Gary says. “It’s definitely the best thing I ever did for myself. It has increased my self-confidence and I have certainly had more auditions since I had it done.” When we met Gary had just finished acting in 1 Missed Call, a movie made in Sligo.

“If someone doesn’t care about losing their hair, then they do not need to do this,” he says. “But I did, and I am very glad I went to Maurice. The hair I have now will last me for the rest of my life. I think it’s fantastic.”

Mr. Trump: Stop counting your billions – sit up and pay attention.