How Do I Find the Right Surgeon?

Hair replacement surgery can improve your appearance and boost your self-confidence, but the results won't necessarily measure up to your ideal. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon. It's important to understand that all hair replacement techniques use your existing hair. The goal of surgery is to find the most efficient uses for that hair. (As we mentioned earlier, if you have alopecia areata, you're not a candidate for hair transplantation.)

In general, hair replacement candidates must have healthy hair growth at the back and sides of the head to serve as donor areas. Donor areas are the places on the head from which grafts and flaps are taken. Other factors such as hair color, texture and waviness or curliness may also affect the outcome. There are several techniques used in hair replacement surgery. Sometimes, surgeons use two or more of these to achieve the best results.

The first thing to do if you're concerned about hair loss or baldness is to see a qualified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon or plastic surgeon to determine the cause of your hair loss. This will eliminate certain replacement strategies. Then, you'll need the help of an experienced surgeon to decide which procedure will work best for you.

Ask your family doctor, city, county or state medical agencies, your hair stylist or the local Better Business Bureau for names of qualified surgeons. (You can also check with some of the major hair replacement and hair loss organizations listed at right.) It's best if your surgeon lives and works in your community, since several sessions are generally required and in case of complications following surgery. (This can also be beneficial because you can talk to your chosen surgeon's previous patients.)

It's also a good idea to inquire whether a surgeon holds membership in any of the well-known professional organizations, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery or the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.

In addition to your surgeon's credibility, you should be able to trust him or her. There are always people who will do surgery that you request even if your chances of good results are slim. That's why some experts say the number of transplant candidates a surgeon has turned away (because they were inappropriate candidates) says more about the surgeon than the number of procedures he or she has done.