Union Hospital offers proven way to cap baldness

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 September, 2009, 12:00am

Going bald must rank as one of the world's most irrational fears. It has no material effect on health, but balding men spend millions each year on a variety of drugs, treatments and prosthetics all for the ability to run a comb through their hair.

Much of this money has been wasted on ineffective cures and snake oil treatments, but now medical science has a range of therapies that have proved effective at treating a bald pate.

Leading this charge in Hong Kong is Union Hospital and its plastic surgery clinic, which offers a comprehensive range of proven hair restoration treatments to clients.

'The best way to treat balding is to start as early as possible,' said Dr Peter Pang Chi-wang, a specialist in plastic surgery and director of Union Hospital's Plastic and Aesthetic Centre.

'If you notice that your hair is starting to thin early there are a number of topical solutions and medicines that can help a good percentage of men.'

The first of these hair-restoring medicines is Minoxidil which, like Viagra, was discovered by accident while researchers were testing a blood pressure drug. Similarly, Finasteride is a hormone treatment for prostate cancer that has the happy side effect of restoring thinning hair.

However, neither of these drugs can restore what has already been lost and for that Union Hospital uses Direct Hair Implants. The process works by harvesting individual hairs from the back of the head and implanting them one-by-one into the treatment area.

This is a complicated and time-consuming procedure, which can take up to eight hours to harvest and replant about 900 hairs. Each one is placed to match the client's chosen hair style, parting and ethnicity.

'This is not a hair plug, our method is special,' said Pang. 'We do not cut a skin flap, but harvest each hair individually, and there is no scar afterwards.'

And while the treatment is effective, it isn't cheap. Each hair costs about HK$75 to transplant and the price of a significant replacement (2,000 hairs) is about HK$150,000.

At these prices many might consider this treatment as the ultimate vanity, but Pang said that plastic surgery was often less about what was on the outside but what the person felt on the inside.

'It is about psychology - balding can have a significant impact on how people view themselves and how they think other people perceive them,' said Pang, noting that bald people in Asia were often on the receiving end of negative stereotypes.

'Having a better hairline, or a full head of hair, really does affect people's esteem. I've seen the change in my clients. When they first come in to see me they look down, but as the process continues they relax, and by the end look at themselves confidently in the mirror.'