Are beards hipster? A coveted symbol of male virility? Might explain the “growing” trend of beard transplants. And if that pun doesn’t make you bristle, the name of the medical group that tracks transplants surely will.
The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) reports that the number of facial hair transplants increased globally by 9.5% from 2010 to 2012.
Men around the world are turning to transplants to join ranks with the fashionably furry. More of a whisker “enhancement”, beard transplants have become the third most popular hair transplantation worldwide, behind scalp and eyebrow work, according to the ISHRS.
Middle East beard transplants increased 263% between 2010 and 2012, according to the ISHRS’s most recent census. Their data showed that the procedure was most common in Asia, with the U.S. and Middle East closely trailing.
“There’s no question that it’s a sign of masculinity,” said Dr. Jamil Asaria, a plastic surgeon in Toronto specializing in this procedure,”I’ll get patients coming in from the Middle East who already have a full beard but just want more beard.”
“I felt uncomfortable growing out a beard because I had patches that didn’t grow in the same way. Now I’m much more confident,” said Canadian Rudy Ionides after his recent transplant. He told CBC news that he has absolutely no regrets. “I’d always wanted to have a beard, and when I heard about the procedure through my social network and the news I started thinking about making it happen,” said Ionides. He jokingly told a reporter that he was “always hot,” but now he gets to be “hot with a beard”.
Asaria described the upswing in demand. “It’s something that we would see patients for maybe once or twice a year a few years ago, and now we’re doing it on a weekly basis,” he said. As one of a handful of specialty surgeons who perform this in Toronto, he notes 50% of his patients are out-of-towners, some traveling internationally for treatment.
Beard transplants can take up to a full day depending on the extent of the restoration, as each hair follicle is individually harvested from other parts of the body and transplanted onto the face. Costs range between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on the number of hairs transplanted, which in turn can range from 500 to 2,000.
(If those figures put you off, consider knitting your own beard – link here – it’s cheap, less painful, and comes with a hat!)
The procedure is usually performed under local anesthetic, with minimal side-effects that can include infection, swelling and in-grown hairs. Follicle rejection can be up to 10%, less than seen with scalp hair transplants.
Patients are usually able to shave a few weeks after the procedure, but after all that investment, why cut it off?
Transplants are being done across every demographic and age group for a variety of reasons, said Asaria, “If we look at Hollywood as a reflection of society, this year at the Oscars we saw men like Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jared Leto, all these celebrities who are known for their clean-cut appearance all sporting full beards.”
He notes that for some, skimpy facial hair is more important than a receding hairline. And as to critics who view this as ‘beard cheating’ Asaria says “it’s no different from a nose-job or laser hair removal. And unlike other trends where the change is permanent, you can always shave it off.”
Picture of bearded man from Shutterstock