November 6, 2019

Hair transplant is like a box of chocolates.

"Hair transplant is like a box of chocolates." - Dr Harold Ma.

(Kids, don't try this at home)

​Dr Harold Ma preparing for harvesting of grafts.

I have a special interest in hair restoration, specifically hair transplant surgery. For more than 10 years, I have devoted my passion, energy, resources and time into trying to perfect this wonderful art. Hair transplant is a very satisfying procedure, when done well. However, there are many pitfalls to this procedure that has left many who attempt it defeated, deflated and dismayed. I often tell my team that “hair transplant is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get” (to borrow a phrase from Forrest Gump).

Why do I say that? Hair grafts are very diverse. There are straight, wavy, curly hairs, thick, thin calibre hairs, soft, firm scalps, long or short follicles. The variation and permutations to hair types and qualities are seemingly endless. As such, while a physical examination may give a clue as to the type of hair we are dealing with, it is only when we perform the surgery that we know exactly how the grafts are like.

This is what makes a hair transplant sound deceptively simple, but to the experienced surgeon, one knows better than to commit to how easy or straightforward it is. Not only can hair quality be a big factor in the outcome of the procedure, there are other factors involved, such as patient factors: some scalps are much more “oozy”, meaning they tend to bleed more, making the surgical site very difficult to work on, resulting often in a “red-out” scenario. Or the patient himself might be more fidgety than expected, and this can impact on the speed of harvest and even graft quality. We have encountered patients who are claustrophobic and cannot tolerate lying face down on the cushion, no matter how comfortable it is. These are just a few examples of all the different possibilities that a hair transplant surgeon may encounter on any given day.

What then is the solution to this challenge?

The key is in having the right training for it, so that regardless of whatever surprises might emerge, the surgeon is always prepared to handle it. I have often heard of colleagues abandoning the procedure when it got too difficult. Thankfully I have not had to abandon procedures as long as I can remember. This is where experience counts, so that we are equipped to deal with the countless scenarios that we might face. In fact, this is the bitter-sweet sensation that I almost relish, that gets me excited every morning when I get out of bed, and step into the procedure room. I wonder to myself, “what will my day be like today, what kind of challenge will today’s hair transplant present”. It is said that any doctor who says hair transplant surgery is simple, has not done enough procedures or doesn’t know what he is talking about.

I am also blessed with a superb world-class team of assistants who have had the requisite training, experience and mindset to deal with the most complicated cases. We select only the most worthy and able staff for our team. Hence, whether it is a straightforward case, or repairing a botched job done elsewhere, we coolly and calmly deal with it the way we were trained, because our patients deserve our best.

​Think Hair, Think Dr. Harold

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