As the Medical Director of the Institute of Trichologists and a hair transplant surgeon, I strongly welcome the new code of practice from the Royal College of Surgeons, which will finally help to bring about regulation to the cosmetic surgery industry.
Whilst the industry is all about aesthetics, it is still a science and needs to be treated as such. It's about time we cut out the use of non-definitive terms, such as telling a patient they will look 'better' or 'nicer'. We should consider the mental - as well as physical - health of our patients.
This is an excellent leap in the right direction and turns the spotlight on the industry as it should, however this is the first step of many more that are needed.
One of the recommendations from the Royal College of Surgeons is that time-limited discounts on cosmetic surgery should be banned to prevent people from impulsively buying procedures. In the hair loss industry, there are several UK clinics offering discounted surgery through websites such as Groupon and KGB deals. 'Deals' such as these can mislead patients, taking advantage of the increased popularity of the surgery and the current economic climate. However, it's not just time-limited promotions that mislead.
It's time we turned the lights on fully and put an end to unethical promotion and sales tactics across the board. You'd never expect to see a sales promotion for heart bypass surgery, for example - even from private health clinics. So, why is it any different for cosmetic surgery?
We've noticed a 20 per cent increase in the number of men seeking hair transplants since 2011, fuelled by the current trend of celebrities openly opting for treatment. The number of men having cosmetic surgery has been steadily increasing for quite some time; the 'Rooney effect' has definitely had a significant influence.
While it's encouraging that more men are doing something about their hair loss, we do need to reign in on certain companies taking advantage of the trend, with many men being ill-advised as a result. It's important that the percentage of men who are taken advantage of, doesn't increase with the figure above.
Hair transplant surgery, like many operations, is not a 'one size fits all' procedure. The results a patient can expect from the surgery depend on the amount of donor hair available, the size of the area the donor hair is meant to cover and, of course, the skill, artistry and experience of the surgeon.
Promotions come at a cost. By discounting heavily, clinics are forced to reduce the time taken to perform the procedure, making it impossible to pay proper care and attention to the meticulous nature of the operation, needed to achieve a natural-looking result.
More men than ever before are undergoing cosmetic surgery. It's imperative that ethical guidelines are put in place so that both women and men are fully protected when it comes to hair transplant, or any other type of cosmetic surgery. And at the same time, protect and maintain a respectable reputation for the field.