Black Market Hair Transplants

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Black market hair transplants are on the rise, with many people looking for cheaper solutions for their hair loss concerns. But is cheaper really the best option for your hair and health? The tragic consequences of having a black market hair transplant can last a lifetime. In this article, we explore the growing trend of black market hair transplants and why it’s essential to choose a licensed and experienced hair transplant doctor instead. 

What is a Black Market Hair Transplant?

Just like the name describes, a black market hair transplant is an illegal hair transplant done by an unlicensed individual who is not a doctor, typically an unlicensed technician. They lack the necessary training, qualifications, and high-tech equipment required to safely and effectively perform a hair transplant procedure. When hair transplants are performed by a licensed and trained medical doctor, they offer a safe and effective solution to hair loss. However, when they are performed under the hands of non-doctors with little to no training, they can have irreparable consequences. 

So why would anyone even get a black market hair transplant? There’s really only one reason, and it’s the fact that black market hair transplant procedures are cheaper than going to a licensed physician at an accredited clinic. While patients are only trying to bargain shop for the best deal, they’re unaware of the hidden costs that can come along with black market hair transplants. Patients should be aware that hair transplants done by unlicensed technicians are unsafe and puts their health at serious risk. 

Side Effects of Black Market Hair Transplants

The consequences of a black market hair transplant range from minor to severe, with some side effects lasting a lifetime. Some of the unfortunate consequences of black market hair transplants include:

  • Infections
  • Visible scars
  • Irreversible overharvesting
  • Hair loss and thinning in donor area 
  • Poor hair growth
  • Unnatural-looking results
  • Hair grafted in the wrong direction
  • Recovery complications
  • Not protected by medical malpractice law
  • Death

The Growing Trend of Black Market Hair Transplants Around The World

In Turkey, Iran, and countries throughout Europe, there are reports of dishonest clinics luring patients from throughout the world to travel there for hair restoration procedures. For example, the city of Istanbul has more than 1,000 clinics, but only 20 to 30 hair surgeons. This means that the majority of the 1,000+ patients receiving a hair transplant daily are actually having their procedure performed by someone that isn’t the doctor, like a technician without a medical license. 

In the United States and Canada, these black market hair transplant clinics operate in a more subtle way using a “turn-key” approach. This involves a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, or other type of physician that purchases a commercially-marketable device that can help perform one step of the hair transplant procedure, then hires technicians by the day to perform most of the procedure for their patients. This means that the technician is handling aspects of the procedure that should only be done by a licensed doctor, including removing hair grafts from the donor area, designing the new hairline, and making incisions in the scalp where grafts will be placed. The patient is either unknowingly told the doctor will be performing the procedure or is assured by the doctor that the technicians are “experts and as good as any doctor in performing hair transplants”.

What Aspects of Hair Transplant Surgery Require a Licensed Doctor?

The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) has led the way in educating physicians, encouraging and supporting research, and serving as an expert source for accurate information on restoring hair loss. Recently, the ISHRS started the public awareness campaign “Fight the FIGHT” to address the alarming problem of non-physicians performing hair restoration surgery. Fight the FIGHT stands for fighting the Fraudulent Illicit + Global Hair Transplants. They aim to educate users about the growing risk of unlicensed technicians performing hair restoration surgery worldwide. 

The ISHRS states that the following aspects of hair transplant surgery should only be performed by a licensed doctor:

  1. Initial consultation and diagnostic evaluation
  2. Surgery planning
  3. Managing medical issues & possible adverse reactions
  4. Harvesting donor hair grafts
  5. Designing the new hairline
  6. Recipient site creation
  7. Follow-ups & post-operative care

You can learn more about the hair transplant process here.

How to Identify Black Market Hair Transplant Clinics

Black market hair transplant clinics try to operate under the radar to make it easier to trick or mislead consumers. There are some warning signs that patients should be aware of when researching a hair transplant clinic: 

1. Non-doctors perform the surgery

Black market hair transplants can use unlicensed individuals to perform the surgery. When researching the clinic, ensure the doctor performing the surgery is legally licensed to operate in that region. Check their accreditations, education, and training to ensure they are who they claim to be. Remember, medical licensing and regulation is different in every country. Check for equivalent credentials to that of the U.S. and Canada.

2. Beware of “token doctors”

A token doctor is a licensed doctor who delegates the hair transplant surgery to a technician instead of performing it himself. Token doctors are usually inexperienced in hair restoration surgery, but can sometimes be well credentialed. It’s important to ask the doctor:

  • “Who will be performing the surgery?”
  • “Who will be assisting them in the surgery?”
  • “What aspects of the surgery will the technician/assistant be performing?”
  • “Who will be designing my hairline?”
  • “Who will be supervising graft placement?”
  • “Who will be determining anesthetic requirements?”
  • “How many surgeries will be performed at the same time as my surgery under the doctor’s supervision?” (Your doctor can’t be in two places at once)

3. The clinic uses stock before and after photos

Black market hair transplant clinics use stock photos on their website and marketing materials. They fail to inform patients that these photos are taken from the device manufacturer, and are not images of their own work. Make sure to ask the doctor that will be performing the surgery for before and after pictures of their work, and confirm this with them again within the consultation. 

For more information on black market hair transplants, see

Contact an Experienced Hair Transplant Surgeon

You deserve better than a black market hair transplant. Black market hair transplants are dangerous and can end up costing your more in the long run. A certified doctor will not only deliver the most natural-looking results, but they will also ensure your health is protected. Always go to a certified and experienced doctor for hair transplant surgery.

Dr. Michael Markou, DO, FACOFP, FISHRS is a board-certified doctor in Florida who specializes in hair transplant surgery. He has been a member of the International Society of Hair Restoration (ISHRS) since 1994. He currently serves as chairman for the Ambassadors for Patient Safety Subcommittee for the ISHRS and is dedicated to educating patients about their hair restoration options. He offers free virtual consultations to inform men and women about what hair loss treatment is right for them.

Have questions?
Call (727) 446-0608 now to speak with a hair restoration expert about your treatment.
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