Approximately a week ago, we were alerted by a client of ours who had flown over to Turkey for a hair transplant that he was approached by a young man who attempted to entice him to have his hair transplant done somewhere else, for a much cheaper price. This young man was very well-spoken and well-dressed, and he was offering to do our client’s hair transplant procedure for approximately US$800, including medication.   For those that have seen our guide on Hair transplant prices, they will realize this is much lower than the national average regardless if you doing FUE or FUT.

Our client informed us that whilst he did toy with the idea for a little while, he decided against it for two reasons. Firstly, whilst it was cheaper, he found it unsettling that the gentleman was rather pushy and a little reluctant to part with information about the clinic and the details of the procedure when asked. Secondly, when did he look up the clinic later, he found that the clinic was unlicensed and he was not able to verify the surgeon’s qualifications due to the lack of information available about the clinic and the hair transplant surgeon.

We have known for a little while now that these types of local black market transactions were occurring, and whilst we are all for freedom of choice, because let’s face it, that is the reason for our existence, we also advise all of our clients, and potential clients to always be cautious and prudent. Make sure you go with a trustworthy provider. Make sure you do your research and are 110% sure of your decision. You don’t want to be hundreds, or thousands of miles away from home, and be treated or operated on by an unlicensed provider or an unqualified surgeon.

The medical tourism industry in Turkey

We also decided to do some research on our own on these local black market operators. We uncovered that this expanding network of clinics profits from an ever-growing number of visitors from abroad. Most of these visitors come from Arab countries, most of whom do not realise that they are being treated by illegal and often dangerous operators. Data published by the Turkish Healthcare Travel Council (THTC) in 2015, shows that Turkey earned US$5.8 billion from legal medical tourism. 746,000 overseas visitors flew into Turkey, mostly into Istanbul, for medical treatments. As many as 100,000 foreign visitors arrived for hair transplant surgeries, and nearly two-thirds of them were from the United Arab Emirates. According to the THTC, medical treatments in Turkey can cost as little as half the price in countries such as Germany and the United States, and for hair transplants, the cost is about 10-20% the cost of a hair transplant in the United States and Australia!

Turkey’s booming health tourism industry has been driven by increased investment in health facilities and treatment technology over the past decade. Cosmetic surgery options such as hair implants, as well as eyebrow and facial hair implants, have led this boom. More than 200 hair transplants are carried out in Turkey per day, the country’s health minister says.

Beware of unlicensed and illegal hair restoration clinics and operators

Ersin Murtezaoglu, the General Manager at the licensed National Hair Turkey Clinic, tells The National that some of the unlicensed clinics even “offer a 100% guarantee that the patient will look like his dreams, which of course, ends in frustration.” After years of hard work, many Turkish surgeons and dermatologists have built a good reputation for their hair transplant surgeries in Turkey. However, with illegal clinics mushrooming, they threaten to undermine Turkey’s reputation and standing in the medical tourism industry.

Istanbul used to have only a handful of hair transplant clinics, all with a valid health ministry licenses, a decade ago, today as many as six out of every 10 clinics operate illegally. According to The National, observers say that the local authorities have long turned a blind eye to this problem and a lack of monitoring and auditing have contributed to the growth of such places to a great extent. Most of the licensed and accredited clinics are concerned that their unlicensed rivals are unnecessarily putting the patients’ lives at risk, and so are we. This is why we vet the providers we work with thoroughly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our clients.

The Turkish Society of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons and the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery have both issued warnings for patients to be aware of potential health risks due to illegal clinics in Turkey.

Legally, hair transplant surgeries can only be performed in a hospital or a registered medical center by a doctor, dermatologist or a plastic surgeon. The hospital or registered medical center must clearly state the procedure of their hair restoration surgery in its records, it must be equipped with an emergency unit and at least one surgery room as defined by the Turkish health ministry. It also has to be properly registered with the national healthcare system according to Turkish laws.

However, illegal clinics are mostly operating in residential premises or offices. Gülten Ünveren, the General Manager of the licensed Istanbul-based hair implant centre Mega HairTrans says that in all unlicensed clinics, surgeons leave the work to the technicians, inexperienced medical students and sometimes even to their drivers or cleaners! Apart from post-surgery infections or disappointing results, the patients’ lives are at stake, Ms Ünveren says, adding that a hair transplant procedure is not a simple surgery as promoted by clinics on the black market. In some cases, if the patient has a heart disease for instance, there is a very real danger of serious injury or even death, she adds.

So, always make sure that you do your research. Be comfortable with your decision, and be aware of the risks involved. We have also created a medical travel checklist for you to help you with the process! If you want to explore and compare various FUE hair transplant providers in around the world, click here. We also have a dedicated page for you to explore and compare various FUT hair transplant providers around the globe (click here).  If you want to compare prices around the world click here. Stay safe!