When it comes to concerns around hair loss and its possible remedies, the world is a very democratic place. It is a world Dr Maurice Collins has observed from the front lines, and made his life’s work.
“Our patients come from all walks of life. Taxi drivers, plumbers, teachers, CEOs and movie stars all come through our doors with similar concerns. I believe hair loss is a great leveller in this regard,” he explains.
“Many patients spend years worrying about their hair loss before seeking advice. Often it is a comment from a colleague or friend about their hair loss that is the final instigator for them to call. Most will say to me that their only regret is not calling sooner.”
While the majority of clients are male, Hair Restoration Blackrock (www.hrbr.ie) also deals with a growing percentage of women annually, and for whom surgery is not always the first treatment option.
“We treat all age groups from children who have been scarred as a result of injury or accident, and where hair transplantation can be very successful in camouflaging scars, to patients well into their 80s. Hair loss affects people throughout their life, so it is not surprising that this is reflected in our patient demographic,” he adds.
Having initially begun the practice within the Blackrock Clinic, Hair Restoration Blackrock has since moved nearby to a dedicated facility at Samson House on Sweetman’s Avenue in Blackrock.
“The demand for our services were such that we needed a much larger facility in order to provide the level of service we wanted to give our patients.” The team has expanded to include consultant plastic surgeons, a general surgeon, a dermatologist and a general practitioner.
“Together with our team of technicians, nurses and support staff, we provide care to over 3,000 patients annually.” In 2018, HRBR was accredited with Joint Commission International (JCI) and became the first hair transplant clinic in the world to receive this distinction. Earlier this year HRBR began working with the Charles Institute of Dermatology in UCD to assist further in their research into hair loss.
“We hope that in the future this research leads to a better understanding of the causes of hair loss and as a result could provide further scientifically proven treatments for our patients,” says Dr Collins.
Hair Restoration Blackrock has worked with many famous people over the years, some of whom are happy to publicly credit Dr Collins for their transformations.
Having high profile men talk about their hair loss is hugely important. I started treating hair loss almost 20 years ago and back then no man spoke openly about it. Nowadays many men speak openly about how their hair loss affects them, with young men referring each other into the clinic. This is in part down to these high profile patients starting the conversation.
Well known people include music impresario Louis Walsh, actor James Nesbitt and television personality Marty Whelan.
“Despite men speaking more openly about their concerns, there remains many taboo subjects for men with regards to their physical and mental health. I have seen the detrimental affects that hair loss can cause, with it affecting many men’s lives to a point that it stops them going to job interviews, affects their relationships and can even stop them leaving the house.”
Hair loss is an issue that should be taken seriously and to dismiss it as vanity is wrong, he believes. “From my experience, vanity has little to do with it. Most men report the effects of their transplant as being better self-esteem and self-confidence. Our greatest complement is when someone tells us they no longer think about their hair loss.”
Up to 20% of HRBR’s patients come from overseas. “We have had patients travel from all parts of the globe, with a large number coming from the UK. It is a great compliment to us that people would take the time and effort to travel to us and we believe it is a great testament to the quality of service we provide,” he adds.
While stories regularly crop up around ‘miracle hair loss cures’, Dr Collins and his team constantly review the latest treatments and associated scientific literature. “Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for hair loss and managing patients’ expectations is very important.
"The next big step in hair transplantation will be hair cloning and scientists in the United States are doing some very interesting research on this. However, we are years away from this technology being tested in humans and ready for general consumption. That said, patients who have had procedures with us and are using the medical treatments have had super results.”
Dr Collins particularly cautions on people seeking ‘instant cures’ in overseas locations which are so often unregulated or not professionally managed: “Many people are travelling overseas now for ‘cheap’ hair transplants which are not carried out by medical professionals.”
The team at HRBR are seeing an increase in consultations with individuals seeking to undo botched procedures: “Happily, in most cases we are able to successfully help these patients.”
Having originally qualified at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin & London in the areas of Ear, Nose & Throat surgery, and subsequently Head & Neck Surgery, Dr Collins extols the significant career gratification from helping clients regain their crowning glory.
“It is amazing the satisfaction I get from working at HRBR and treating our patients. I first looked into hair transplantation many years ago while still keeping my practice as an Ear Nose and Throat surgeon at the Blackrock Clinic. I was somewhat naive when I first started researching the area.”
He admits hair restoration looked easy to an experienced surgeon, as he was at the time. “But how wrong I was. Anyone who considers this to be medically or surgically simple has not understood the fundamentals of a hair transplant.
"The process is not only a surgical procedure but in fact marries an artistic element. The enhanced sense of wellbeing that a successful transplant gives to patients is tremendously gratifying, both professionally and personally.”
While every case is different, the hair transplant surgery success rate is significant: “It is an important question given that this procedure can be a significant emotional and financial investment. At HRBR, our studies have shown that 98% of all the grafts we place will eventually grow normal hair.”