DHI Hair transplant Turkey: My step-by-step experience (graphic)

How, why and what happens during a DHI hair transplant in Instanbul, Turkey? Here's my step-by-step experience (with video and pics).

I’m laying down with my head facing the ground when all of a sudden a short sharp shooting pain drives into the back of my skull.

“What the f*ck was that!?” I yelp, in shock of how much it hurt.

I clench the side of the bed as it happens again and again and again… until my entire head is numb.

“Now the surgery can begin” says Dr Caglar.

Before and after hair transplant at Cosmeticium, Turkey
Before and after hair transplant at Cosmeticium, Turkey

Chapter #1: The Decision to get surgery

I’ve always wanted a better hairline – you know, like Zac Efron or David Beckham – but with an extreme fear of needles and a lack of funds, surgery was never really an option, so I had to make do with things like Alpecin Shampoo, volume boosting hair powders, Regaine foam and even the libido diminishing, Finasteride.

Now for a while some of these may have helped prevent my hair from getting any worse, but there were no signs of my hair growing back – which is ultimately what I wanted.

But the real turning point for me happened after seeing my photos following an American road trip.

Lee Walpole's hairline
Notice how the bridge between my forehead and hairline rivals that of the Golden Gate?


Spot the crater (Lee’s bald patch or the grand canyon)!?
Spot the crater (My bald patch or the grand canyon)!?

So I decided I had two options.

  1. Age with dignity, shave my hair off and embrace it like a man (Dwayne Johnson, Jason Startham etc..)
  2. Get a hair transplant.

Note: Vanity got the better of me and I went for Option #2.

Chapter #2: The Surgery

My choice of clinic was Cosmeticium, in Istanbul, Turkey and here’s my step by step DHI hair-transplant journey.

Step #1. Research
First thing I did was research a bunch of things from the surgeries to the types of hair transplants available… Turns out there’s a few:

  1. Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) –
  2. Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE)
  3. Direct Hair Implantation (DHI)

FUT: Involves extracting a strip of skin from the back of the scalp and dividing it into individual grafts to be transplanted into the balding area. This leaves scars.

FUE: Individual hair follicles are extracted one by one instead and manually inserted.

DHI: Similar to FUE, only it’s a newer and a much quicker process thanks to a cool insertion pen called the Choi Implanter Pen.

Both FUE and DHI have 95% success rate. Here’s a site which goes into more detail about the different types of hair transplants.

DHI seemed the obvious choice for me.

DHI Hair Transplant Turkey
DHI Hair Transplant

Step #2. Consultation
Shortly after uploading a couple of photos of my receding hairline to Cosmeticium.com, I was messaged on WhatsApp and asked if I wanted to have a chat on the phone.

Within 20 minutes of confidently answering my questions, I’d decided to confirm my slot for the week ahead. (No need to deposit anything until you arrive at the clinic).

Cosmeticium DHI Hair Transplant
Cosmeticium DHI Hair Transplant

Step #3. Book Flights
Flights aren’t covered by the clinic, so I just the grabbed the cheapest return flight to Istanbul.

Step #4. Airport Transfers
As soon as the plane landed I was greeted by one of the Cosmetcium reps, who escorted me back to the hotel in a pimped out hummer-style vehicle.

Note: I had the option to have a little tour of Istanbul, but I was shattered so politely declined and made the most of the DoubleTree Hilton hotel.

DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Istanbul Turkey
DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Istanbul Turkey

Step #5. Hospital  Transfer
After a mega breakie (free btw) – I was picked up in the hummer style thing again and taken to the clinic at about 10am.

Step #6. Surgery Prep
I was introduced to the surgeon, measured up, dressed in a patients gown and had lines drew across my head, which highlighted both the ‘donor’ area and where the new hair is to be added.

After a good chat with Dr Caglar, I’d decided NOT to go for a Zac Efron look, as I didn’t want the hair to look abnormally perfect. So we essentially lowered the hairline as much as we could in a way that looked natural.

Step #7. Head Shave
I was urged (not forced) to shave my hair off – as it makes for a cleaner and easier surgery apparently.
So, three attractive nurses took me into a small room, and give me a skinhead.

Step #8. Anaesthesia (Round 1)
I was asked to lay on front and bury my head in a little hole, kind of like how you would when getting a massage.

The doctor then rested a little device to the back of my head and warned that I may feel a sharp sensation.

To me, the word sensation is intended to be good. Not this.

F*CK!! I yelped. What the f*ck was that?!

It felt like a BB gun had just been shot point blank into the back of my cold, bald skull.

10 minutes later, 30 or more painful shots of anaesthesia and a handful of needles to the back of my head and I can no longer feel anything.

Step #9. Graft Collecting
The first part of the operation, the surgeon hole punches the donor area at the back of my head over 3000 times with a small device.

With each painless punch, a chunk of my head flesh (aka graft) containing a few of my healthy hairs was removed and placed into a tray for later.

3000 grafts of whole punched skin looks like
Here’s what 3000 grafts of hole-punched head flesh looks like

Step #10. Anaesthesia (Round 2)
The second part of the operation, I would be laying on my back and had the option to watch Netflix.  Of course, they needed to numb the front of my head again so out come that painful anaesthesia pistol and the needles.

Thought I’d film it just for you 😉

Step #11. Insertion
The final part of the operation, the surgeon has to staple all 3000 grafts into my receding areas using a device called the Choi Implanter Pen.

The majority of this procedure was painless and lasted another 4 hours.

Towards the end my head started to get a little sore though, but nothing unbearable (and I’m a pussy when it comes to pain).

Step #12. Finishing up
Once the surgery was complete, my head was carefully treated with soft wrapping before I was sent home and told the following rules:

  1. Do not shower
  2. Do not touch or knock the head (I couldn’t even remove my shirt).
  3. Sleep on your back (they give you a headrest pillow thing).

Stupidly, I broke Rule #3 and slept on my front – as a consequence, this happened…


WTF happened? There’s a ton of liquid still left in your head from the operation, which slowly excretes over a couple of days.
If you sleep on the front, it leaks into your face and after a couple of days you’ll look like this:

Why you should sleep on your back for the first few days after a hair transplant
Why you should sleep on your back for the first few days after a hair transplant

Step #13. The next day
After some glorious breakie and a LOT of people looking at me weirdly, it was time to get my hair washed by one of those lovely nurses.

Cosmeticium nurse washed my hair post hair transplant op.
Cosmeticium nurse washed my hair post hair transplant op.

Step #14. Explore a little Istanbul
Didn’t go too far, but a a little tour of the markets and shopping centre was enough before heading back to the hotel and watching a couple of shows on Netflix before an early night.

Step #15. Final Checkup
One last check-up the next day, Doctor said I was all good to go, and I was sent on my way.

Chapter #3: The Progress

Here’s a little grid of how the hair progressed over the 12 months… Notice how in the middle it appeared to go back to how it used to be pre op.

Hair Transplant from start to finish
Hair Transplant from start to finish

Chapter #3: The Verdict

DHI hair transplant treatments have a 95% success rate and I’m happy to fit into that majority.

Despite the pain at the start of the surgery, and a few weeks looking like an ogre (which was entirely my fault) – overall the experience went really well and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Here’s my most recent photo taken during some Cool Therapy treatment at Apex in Phuket exactly 8 months after my hair transplant. More about freezing my man boobs off another time.

Cool Therapy treatment at Apex in Phuket
Cool Therapy treatment at Apex in Phuket

I’m going create a little FAQs section below, but if you have any more questions, feel free to ask lee@ladsholidayguide.com or drop the lads at Cosmeticium a message and they’ll be more than happy to help answer anything you want.

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