Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Hair therapy boosts receding tourism in Istanbul


Two men in headbands walk in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey on May 2 after hair transplant surgery.

Photo: AFP

On his to-do list for his trip to Istanbul, Palestinian tourist Jameel wants to visit the Blue Mosque and take a tour on the Bosphorus, like any other tourist.

However, he has one more, less conventional purpose — to have 1,500 strands of hair implanted one by one, in an increasingly popular anti-hair-loss treatment in the Turkish metropolis.

With more than 300 clinics specialized in hair transplant alone, Istanbul is becoming a growing hub in the industry, attracting people from all over the world, but mainly from the Middle East and the Gulf.

Experienced surgeons, advanced technology and relatively low prices are a plus for many tourists, while the industry’s growth in the past couple of years has come as a boon for a city where foreign tourism has fallen drastically since a spate of terror attacks last year.

“I came to Turkey for the hair transplant and a bit of tourism. Turkey has an excellent reputation when it comes to hair implants,” 27-year-old Jameel said, speaking to reporters after the surgery at an Istanbul hospital, on condition of not using his full name.

Faisal Abu Ahmad, from Saudi Arabia, said his uncle underwent the treatment in Turkey and so he followed suit.

“Rapid hair loss pushed me to undergo the operation. I started getting bald spots,” he said.

At the tourist hubs of Istanbul such as Taksim Square, it is hard to miss the men wandering around with shaved heads and bandages after their operations, proudly sporting the headbands of their clinics.

They have become so ubiquitous that residents of Istanbul joke that a man with a bandaged head could be the city’s new symbol.

“Prices are very, very attractive. However, the second-most critical element is the quality of this treatment,” said Talip Tastemel, the general manager of Clinic Expert.

“Turkey is very advanced in cosmetic surgeries and hair transplantation, so the patients are buying a very high-quality treatment at a quarter of the normal cost” in some other countries, Tastemel said.

About 1,200 euros (US$1,312) would get a patient three days in Istanbul and top-quality medical treatment, whereas the same surgery could cost up to 6,000 euros in Europe, or only slightly less in the Middle East.

The operation is carried out with Follicular Unit Extraction, where tiny hairs are taken out one by one from areas where the patient still has hair, like the nape of the neck.

After the harvesting, they are implanted in the areas where the patient has lost hair. The procedure takes about eight to 10 hours, while the tiny transplanted hairs can take weeks or months to take root and grow.

A pharmacist himself, Jameel said he tried many medicines to stop hair loss, but they did not work.

“At this age, losing your hair has a big impact on your looks,” he said. “That’s why when you lose it, you start looking for solutions to fix this hair problem.”

Tastemel said men need to be proud of their hair.

“To be honest, men don’t have many accessories to present themselves with. It is mainly our cars, our watches and our hair at the end of the day,” he said. “We are not able to use make-up.”

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