Over the years, we discovered that many of our patients had been grossly misinformed and even mistreated by other surgeons and people posing as experts in the field of hair replacement. It became obvious that many consumers simply didn’t know what to expect or how to determine if a provider was forthright and ethical. It is one of our primary objectives to clearly explain your rights as a consumer, and to give you an idea of what to expect from a hair provider. To this end, we created the following Bill of Rights. Some of these rights apply to surgical hair replacement, others to nonsurgical options, and some to both.
As a prospective client, you have a right to:
To further ensure that your rights are protected, be prepared for your consultations. Prior to each meeting, compile a list of questions that you would like addressed. Reviewing the information on this website will help you formulate some of your queries. Always ask the provider if the replacement method you are interested in will work with your particular type of hair loss; if you’re unsure of your type, first see a doctor who specializes in hair loss for a proper diagnosis.
Arrange to bring a friend or family member with you during the meeting. This second pair of ears will help you remember information and verify what the provider has said. Furthermore, being detached from the situation, he or she is likely to be objective in helping you evaluate that information. If you are unable to bring someone with you (or prefer not to), it might be a good idea to bring a tape recorder. Be sure the provider knows that you will be recording the conversation. He or she shouldn’t have any objections.
Finally, try to avoid “shopping” for a hair replacement when you are feeling particularly upset or emotional over your hair loss. It may prompt you to make a hasty decision—one that you may regret later on. If you are considering hair restoration surgery, be aware that, unlike other forms of surgery, there is never a medical advantage for performing hair-restoration procedures sooner rather than later. This means there’s no reason to rush such a major decision, so remind yourself that you have plenty of time. Heed the following rule: A good decision today will be a good decision tomorrow.
Your first meeting with a physician or hair-addition provider should not be rushed—on average, it should take at least thirty minutes. During that time, you should be given a complete explanation of the surgical procedure or plan for a cosmetic hair addition in clear, nontechnical, easy-to-understand language. If necessary, anything you are told verbally should be further clarified with written material and/or diagrams.
In addition to presenting all of the benefits of a procedure, good surgeons will also discuss the potential risks and dangers, even if they are unlikely. If you are opting for surgery, never have procedure done on the same day as the consultation. Furthermore, never trust a doctor who suggests that you should! It doesn’t matter if you have already consulted with a number of doctors and have done extensive research on the treatment; a consultation is still an information-only process. Be suspicious of any doctor who pressures you or even suggests that you sign up for surgery on the same day as the consultation. Run (don’t walk) out the door.
If you are seeing a doctor to get a prescription for Propecia, it is reasonable to begin the treatment the same day as the consultation. As long as the doctor has told you of the medication’s potential side effects and has made you aware of when you can begin experiencing results, starting Propecia the same day is fine. During the consultation, many doctors will also offer printed materials regarding the up-to-date usage and safety precautions regarding this medication.
It is acceptable, although not recommended, to consult with a hair-addition specialist and start the fitting process on the same day. This can be done as long as you feel that all of the information has been covered, your questions have been answered satisfactorily, and you are fully aware of the terms and conditions of the contract. Most people, however, need more time to think things over. Many also prefer speaking to a number of specialists, not just one. Our point here is that you should never feel embarrassed by taking as much time as you need to make a confident decision. And be sure that if shaving a part of your head for a fitting is recommended, that you clearly understand the implications of this act before doing it. It is hard to change your mind once this is done.
After the consultation, go home and calmly assess the information. Have all your questions been answered so far? Do those answers lead you to other questions that still need to be addressed? In addition to all of the information, there’s another aspect of the consultation that should be assessed—the personality of the provider. If you are like most people, you will want the provider to be compassionate and caring, ethical, and willing to answer your questions, no matter how trivial. You don’t want to be dealing with someone who seems to be rushed, on the defensive, and a fast talker. After the initial consultation, you’ll probably come away with an initial feeling about the person. To further help in your assessment, ask yourself the following questions. Does the provider:
In addition to compassion and caring, professional integrity is also a quality that you should expect from a surgeon or hair-addition provider. They must be willing to stand behind their work and do whatever is necessary (if possible) to satisfy you as the client. Such integrity comes from experience and commitment to service. People who have had surgery in the past often return to a surgeon for refinement or for additional surgery involving a new technique that allows for more coverage or better appearance. Think about it during your assessment. Is this a company or a doctor who will be around ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now?
Don’t be surprised if other questions pop up after the consultation. Write them down, and then make another appointment or ask the questions over the phone. Continue this process until all of your questions have been answered satisfactorily. The consultation process is not over until you are ready.
From The Hair Replacement Revolution by Dr. James Harris and Dr. Emanuel Merritt (Square One Publishers). Reprinted by permission.