For one Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon, hair restoration (of the head and eyebrows) makes up 50% of his business.
By Tonya Johnson
Doctors have been performing hair transplants for decades. Now, courtesy of social media such as YouTube and Instagram, more and more consumers are educating themselves about hair loss solutions than ever before.
With an Instagram following of more than 52,000 fans, Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon Jason P. Champagne, MD, enjoys helping his patients improve their self-esteem and achieve their aesthetic goals—especially when it comes to hair restoration, which makes up 50% of his business.
“When I post something on Instagram, people share that information with family and friends, who may have been talking about a similar treatment but didn’t know who to go see,” Champagne explains. He’s done about 2,000 hair transplantations over the past nine years, and, though he offers a full range of services, it’s the head (and neck) anatomy features that fascinate him the most.
“There’s an art to creating a natural looking hairline,” he explains. “For me, it’s more than just the mechanical or technical aspect of the procedure.”
HAIR LOSS LOCATIONS
Genetically speaking, some male patients are likelier than others to experience hair loss at a greater rate. In Champagne’s experience, the hair on the top of the head tends to fall out faster than the rest. So most men will have a “horseshoe curve” in the back of their head—which then allows for a place to borrow the hair from for the transplant. At his California-based private practice, Champagne offers both the follicular unit transfer (FUT), also known as “strip” surgery, and the follicular unit extraction (FUE) hair transplant methods. When hair is transplanted from the back of a patient’s head, he says, it’s going be a permanent solution, with a thicker hairline and improved density on the top of the head and it should never fall out.
A hair transplant treatment plan for someone with a receding hairline along with hair loss on the crown is going to be designed differently from someone who is not receding in the temple area and only losing hair on the crown. “With certain patients I have to leave their hairline higher because it only matches when it meets the temple hair at a certain spot,” he says. For other patients—typically those in their 50s or 60s—he can create a lower hairline because they’ve only lost a little bit of hair over time (so he has more hair with which to work).
THE HAIR RESTORATION PROCESS: FUT VS. FUE
The FUT technique requires an incision in the back of the head to remove a small “strip” of hair that gets divided, under microscopic visualization, into individual hair follicles to be transplanted.
The FUE technique involves hair follicles being punched out individually from the back of the head, then transferred to the hairline or crown.
For both of these techniques, scarring during the healing process (along with the related side effects of bleeding, pain, or infection) can be of concern to patients. Depending on which procedure is chosen, a patient will have a “less than pleasing” permanent pencil thin line (FUT) or tiny dots (FUE) across the back of the head, Champagne says, but advises that the FUT scar on the back of the head will not be visible if the hair length is kept a quarter to a half of an inch.
During his early years of training, the use of microscopes for hair restoration treatments had not yet evolved, Champagne says. Now, to allow further visualization and dissection, after punching out the hair follicles his hair technicians will trim them even finer and more delicately under the microscope to make sure the patient receives the best results possible.
Champagne has also worked on improving his personal technique and approach to the FUT treatment. “The hair grows at a certain angle, exiting the head and the skin of the scalp,” he explains. “I pay close attention to that angle of exit and the incision will follow right along, so that when I remove that strip, I’m not damaging any surrounding hairs when it closes, the line is extra thin. I’m not dividing across the hair follicles and causing them to not grow back.”
The amount of hair growth is another factor he considers, which is why he applies platelet-rich plasma injections into the scalp on the day of surgery, to encourage hair health and reduce inflammation. He also provides his patients with stem cell therapy.
“Patients are extremely happy with their results, especially the men. Most of them are just really happy to have more hair!” he laughs. “That’s always a positive, as long as we have a lengthy conversation to determine if their expectations are realistic. I educate each of them to provide a better idea of what can be achieved. Then it’s up to them to decide if that would be acceptable, or if they just want to forego the hair transplantation altogether and maybe even just shave their head.”
To avoid balding or thinning over the long-term, Champagne strongly suggest that younger patients (male and female alike) take preventative measures at the onset of hair loss via a topical formula like Rogaine (minoxidil) or an oral medication like Propecia (finasteride). If a patient is not a good candidate for a hair transplant, then Champagne works to assist each patient in identifying the best treatment plan.
To combat the early stages of thinning hair, Champagne additionally stresses the importance of laser hair growth therapy, which may increase the diameter of the hair shafts to add fullness.
EYEBROW HAIR RESTORATION
Over the past five years, Champagne says, a significant number of female patients have requested eyebrow hair restoration. While some women simply want a fuller thicker brow to keep up with the current trend, others tweezed out their brows in the ’90s and they never grew back. Like American actress Meagan Good, one of Champagne’s celebrity clients, patients want to bring shapelier brows back to better frame their face.
If a client is considering hair transplantation of the eyebrow, Champagne says it’s best not to do microblading because the more scar tissue a patient has in the eyebrow, the harder it is for the transplant to take.
“If we could take one biopsy of one hair follicle and clone it, that would be a game changer! One hair follicle could turn into thousands, then we’d never have to worry about how much hair we have, or don’t have, to borrow from the back of a patient’s head,” he says. “We could take as much as we wanted to transplant and offer a full head of hair.”
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Champagne and his medical team are taking significant steps to ensure the health and safety of all staff and patients, based on the CDC and OSHA guidelines, as well as California state official regulations.
Tonya Johnson is associate editor of Plastic Surgery Practice.