Baldness and hair transplants are no longer taboo

The Belfast Telegraph – P. 22, 23
September 18th, 2012
Jamie McDowell

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Dr Maurice Collins has treated celebrities like Jimmy Nesbitt and Louis Walsh at his clinic in Dublin. By Jamie McDowell

Dr Maurice Collins prefers to liken his hair transplant surgery technique to horticulture. “I like to think of what I do as removing the roses from the back garden and planting them in the front garden,” he smiles.

The 65-year-old Dublin-based surgeon first became interested in hair transplant surgery 17 years ago, and after starting his work at the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin he now has his own clinic next door, which is still affiliated with Blackrock.

Dr Collins features in tonight’s BBC One programme, Gerry Anderson’s Losing It, in which the radio and television presenter embarks on a quest to discover the treatments to defeat baldness.

“When I started to carry out this work, tackling the subject of baldness was virtually taboo,” explains Dr Collins.

“Nobody would talk about it in public. People would slink in and out of the clinic for fear of being seen.

“I think the break-through moment came recently when footballer Wayne Rooney went public with his hair transplant and now the whole operation is as accepted as people getting laser eye surgery.”

Among his many clients, Dr Collins can count actor James Nesbitt and X Factor judge Louis Walsh, but his list of happy customers come from all walks of life.

Dr Collins says: “Recently I had an ambassador come to the clinic. His security team had to go through and search the building before the operation.

“The day after that I had a road sweeper.

“Once my patients come in and sit in a chair beside me they’re all the same though. It’s great leveller.”

So how does Dr. Collins perform a hair transplant?

“I find the whole thing fascinating. The sides and back of the head are immune to hair loss. Hair loss is actually in the genetic makeup of the hair itself, so we take healthy hair follicles from the back and sides of the head and transplant them onto the top of the scalp.

“The process is pretty lengthy. The other day we transplanted 9,000 hairs for someone. It took 10 hours and a team of 18 nurses and surgeons.”

He adds: “Each hair follicles is a living organ, and the process is essentially an organ transplant, so it’s quite a delicate operation. In the two weeks after the transplant, the patient needs to be very careful not to traumatise the hair follicles, but after that they’ll just have normal hair, which will take about three months to grow fully.”

It is a very expensive operation, with charges starting at around £8 per graft, and with many hundreds of grafts can be transplanted during the procedure, that soon adds up to a considerable sum.

But Dr. Collins puts it in perspective. He laughs: “If people prioritise the transplant they will find the money. It’s an investment for life, and it never devalues. In fact it grows in value…”

With so many celebrities on the books, it’s no wonder that Dr Collins attracts people from various far-flung corners of the world to his clinic, renowned as one of the best there is.
His philosophy is simple. Dr Collins believes a man’s insecurities rise not out of vanity, but of the trauma associated with hair loss.

“Hair loss causes a vulnerability among men. Some patients I treat may have spent up to four years mulling over the decision of coming to get a hair transplant.

“I think when a man looks in the mirror he wants to see the image that he has of himself in his mind. When he matches that image and he’s looking good, it means he’s feeling good.
“Recently I had Louis Walsh back in for a post-transplant check up. He told me how much it had changed his life – that he had so much more self-esteem. I could tell by watching him on the X Factor that his whole demeanour had changed, and this is a guy that already had tons of confidence in the first place.”

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