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The Doctor Becomes the Patient: Dr. Slack’s Experience with Neograft Hair Restoration

I started thinking about it about three or four years ago. I began to notice that I could see the light shining through my hair when I was looking in the mirror. I didn’t really notice any specific bald spots, but certainly my hair was thining and my hairline was receding a little bit. Having two teenage boys with really thick full hair I thought, “Hey I could be that person again.”

This is how Dr. Slack’s own story of undergoing Neograft® Hair Restoration began. But things got serious after grabbing a snack at the hospital one day.

I was paying for a bag of chips at a self-service snack bar in our hospital when I noticed a man on the kiosk security screen. He was wearing my clothes and had a rather large bald spot on the back of his head. I turned around hoping to see someone dressed like me, but I was all alone… just me and my bald spot.

This is the moment that led Dr. Slack to research the latest technology in hair restoration. During his plastic surgery training in the 90s, the “strip method” was used. The surgeon removed a big strip of scalp off the back of the head. They sewed the wound up, but it often left a noticeable scar. Then they chopped up the strip and implanted it as “plugs.” These often had an unnatural look, and recovering from the procedure was painful. Dr. Slack knew he wasn’t interested in that approach – for himself or his patients. But his research revealed a major advancement in hair restoration in a method called Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). 

With FUE, individual hair follicles are harvested one by one, and implanted one by one. There is no noticeable scarring and the pain is much less than the other, older methods out there. In addition, the fact that follicles are placed individually allows for a far more natural look than could previously be expected with a hair transplant. Dr. Slack explains, “It’s truly an art form, and it’s totally different than the way I was taught to do it.”

Neograft® is a company that developed a medical device to individually harvest and collect hair follicles. So, even though it is called the Neograft® procedure, Neograft® is just a tool used to simplify the FUE method for harvesting hair follicles.

Dr. Slack eventually opted to include Neograft® in his practice (and to use it for his own hair restoration) because he felt they offered the best technology and expertise for success. One aspect that means a great deal to Dr. Slack and his patients is that Neograft® sends Hair Transplant Technicians with a minimum of five to ten years experience to help conduct each hair restoration procedure.

Before a patient undergoes a Neograft® procedure, Dr. Slack visits with them to make sure they’re good candidates. Some people aren’t. Maybe they are young people who are likely to lose a lot more hair, or perhaps they have lost so much hair that there is not enough donor hair left to transplant in order to achieve the kind of result they are looking for. “I’ve turned more people away than I’ve accepted because some are just not good candidates. I would rather them spend their money on something else instead of spending it on a hair transplant that won’t give them the look they are seeking.”

For himself, Dr. Slack prepared for the procedure about a month in advance.

The back of your head has to be shaved so they can see the individual follicles. This look kind of looks awful. Having normal length hair everywhere else and then just a straight  shave in the back  – it’s the classic chili bowl cut. I decided to have my barber kind of do a fade cut about 10 days before my procedure. She wouldn’t cut it as close as I needed it cut, but at least it blended in better after the procedure and didn’t look quite so ridiculous. It also allowed people I knew to get used to my shorter hair cut before I actually had the procedure. To be honest, I would have never walked in and asked for that kind of hair cut but I actually liked it.

Dr. Slack recommends that his patients do the same before hair restoration. Getting a haircut that will work well with the shaved part of your head will make things less obvious. 

Besides his hairstyle, Dr. Slack started thinking about pain control. As a plastic surgeon, his patients’ comfort is always on his mind, but things are a bit different when planning for your own pain control.

The only thing I was worried about was having to get the numbing shots in the back of the head. Local anesthetics (lidocaine or Marcaine) are injected into the back of the scalp wherever the grafts are going to be implanted. I didn’t really relish the idea of multiple needle sticks but they were surprisingly not that big of a deal. A little a vibrating device is used to “distract” the nerves during the injections, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Some people may want to take a small dose of valium or hydrocodone prior to the surgery, but I couldn’t really prescribe them for myself legally. I didn’t really need them anyway.

Once his head was numbed, Dr. Slack was ready for his procedure to begin. The entire thing, from harvesting to implanting the follicles took about eight hours. The first few hours, when the follicles were being removed from the back of his head, weren’t too bad.

I was face down on a massage table when they were harvesting from the back of my head, and I would lie on my side one way or the other when they were harvesting from the sides. When I was on my side I just slept. When I was on my stomach I was on my phone, since there is a hole cut out in the head rest you can look through. I surfed the internet, answered emails and watched Netflix. So that was no big deal.

 

The part that was a big deal was simply being in a chair for so long. Dr. Slack appreciated taking a break to check emails and stretch his legs and a longer break to get lunch after the follicles had been harvested.

I came back to my office – we ordered from Jason’s Deli. I had a nice corn beef sandwich and some soup. The technicians had a little lunch break, too. It felt good to get up and move around and not be in the chair.

However, Dr. Slack found the next step – implanting the follicles – to be the most difficult. They had to access his hairline in the front and the bald spot on the back, so he was propped upright by pillows. He admits he found this uncomfortable after a while.

When they’re putting the hairs in, you’re just sitting up in the chair and they’re putting them in wherever they need to put them in so you can watch TV. We’ve got an iPad stand that you can use so you can watch Netflix or something else during the implantation. That’s the only time for me it got tedious.  In that last hour, I was ready to be done and felt kind of uncomfortable sitting in basically one position for so long. 

Once the procedure was complete, Dr. Slack was able to drive himself home since he had not taken any Valium or Hydrocodone. He had a light bandage on his head, and sat up and watched the Mavericks game, using a little Tylenol for pain. The next morning he washed his hair according to the same instructions he gives his patients – pouring soapy water over his head and then pouring more water over it to rinse. No rubbing or scrubbing.

I’d say the biggest problem for me was finding a comfortable position to sleep in. If you put the grafts in the back of your head to cover a bald spot, you can’t lay on the back of your head or you’ll dislodge your grafts. So the recommendation is you sleep with your head a little propped up off your pillow. I used one of those airplane pillow that goes around your neck, and I just couldn’t get comfortable. It was really hard to sleep that first night but it got better the following nights.

Over the next few days, Dr. Slack was prepared for what to expect from his experience with is own patients.

 

I knew I could go back to work in a couple days if I wasn’t self conscious about having some bruising, eye swelling, and maybe some scabbing. I went back to work and saw patients two days after I had the procedure, and did surgery a couple days later. Remarkably, nobody ever really commented on how I looked unless I pointed it out to them.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Slack did experience swelling around his eyes at day three or four, but that wasn’t too bad for him, as there was minimal pain. He was able to manage the discomfort with Tylenol, and he says, “it was not a bad recovery at all.”

Dr. Slack likes to remind everyone that the follicles will grow hair a little at first, but not to get too excited – this hair will fall out and it will take about eight months for the follicles to come out of their dormant state and begin growing new hair for good. This was Dr. Slack’s own experience and it’s been the experience of his patients, too. Even so, it didn’t prevent him from enjoying himself.

It isn’t Amazon prime. It’s not going to be on your doorstep tomorrow morning. You really can’t judge the results for about a year or so. But by two weeks I went on a boys’ trip to Detroit to watch the Cowboys and the Michigan games. I didn’t feel self-conscious one bit, and it didn’t look like I had anything done. I was fine. 

Men don’t come in for a lot of procedures. They may come in for Botox, or maybe some liposuction, but clearly what bugs men the most is not having their hair.

 

It was the same for Dr. Slack, and he seems to have found a solution to offer his patients that worked for him, too.

 

Hey Men, Look and Feel Better in 2020

Man applying skin cream in mirror - skincare for men is a good new year resolution

You may be thinking about resolutions for the New Year right about now. For both men and women, these often include plans to lose weight, exercise regularly, manage money more responsibly, or maybe even learn a new skill. But when it comes to skincare for men and other issues with appearance… well these resolutions tend to be taken on by women more  often. But we think our male readers can benefit just as much from a conscious effort to care for themselves in this way.

Develop a skincare routine. The most obvious step men should consider adding to their morning routine is the use of sunscreen. The sun is an Equal Opportunity Ager, and while we have ways to address the damage it does, nothing beats protection. Daily use of sunscreen requires a tiny investment of time and money but offers big results.

And even though men don’t have to remove makeup at night, there is still a layer of sweat and air pollution collecting on the face throughout the day. Cleansing the face and following up with a quality moisturizer before bed will help brighten the complexion and keep skin healthier.

Finally, be sure that you use a clean, high quality razor when you shave, and switch the blades out regularly to reduce irritation.

Consider doing something about previous skin damage. The years take their toll on us all, often resulting in fine lines, dark spots, uneven texture, and sagginess that leave the skin looking less than its best. Skincare for men may not do yield the results you are looking for. Venus Versa® is a pulsed light treatment that reverses the signs of aging due to sun exposure. Venus Viva® delivers energy to the deeper layers of skin to rebuild collagen and fibroblasts – the very structure of the skin – to help repair damage and rebuild healthy skin.

Address those lines and creases. Our facial expressions give us personality and help us convey our feelings and emotions – the hearty laugh and the furrowed brow are physical evidence of the joys and sorrows of a full life. But over the years, the use of facial muscles to create these expressions can leave behind lines and creases. This can result in an older appearance, or even an “always angry” expression.

Botox® injectables can address these issues, leaving smoother skin and a fresher appearance. Dr. Slack will work with you to create a plan for using Botox that addresses your specific concerns.

There are also a number of dermal fillers that can improve the appearance of deep folds and wrinkles. These simple injectables restore volume to these areas and reduce their appearance.

Think about your hairline. Most men experience hair loss as they age and often wish to restore the hairline of their younger days. With new technology, this is not only possible, but it offers natural-looking results with minimal downtime. Neograft® hair restoration uses Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), a process where individual hair follicles are harvested from thicker regions of hair growth and implanted in areas where hair has stopped growing. Because individual hair follicles are used, the new hairline can be meticulously crafted to look as natural as possible. Dr. Slack himself recently underwent the procedure, so look for a special article in early January outlining his experience.

As you make plans for the new year (and new decade!), we encourage you to think about improving the way you care for your skin and appearance. Even small tweaks to your daily routine of skincare for men can make a big difference in the way you look, provide health benefits, and even improve your self-image. Who knows – this resolution may help you achieve your other resolutions.

Whether you are considering adding a new moisturizer, giving Botox® a try, or taking the plunge with hair restoration, Dr. Slack would like to talk with you. As a board-certified plastic surgeon, he is skilled at creating a plan that will help you achieve your resolutions for your appearance.

 

Dr. Slack’s Patient Discusses Neograft® Hair Restoration

“To be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t having a mid-life crisis, so I wasn’t really looking for this.” For David D., it wasn’t a mid-life crisis, but mid-night tv watching that triggered the decision to have a hair transplant via Neograft® hair restoration.

With a young son who is often up at night, David occasionally finds himself channel-surfing when infomercials rule the airwaves. And aside from a small George Foreman Grill problem and a few groggy mornings, this turned out pretty well for David, because it’s where he first learned about follicular unit extraction (FUE), the newest method of hair transplant.

David had never liked the look of other transplant methods, so it wasn’t something he had ever considered. But this method made sense to him, and it put the idea of a transplant on his radar. Shortly after the infomercials, David started seeing billboards with some of his favorite athletes advertising FUE. That really sparked his interest, particularly when he saw the transformation in Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears. After extensively researching the procedure himself, David decided to take the next step.

This is when he reached out to Dr. Slack, who uses the Neograft® hair restoration system for FUE. “Dr. Slack was able to answer all of my questions and really pretty much brought everything to light before I even had a chance to ask any questions.” Dr. Slack then put David in touch with a previous Neograft® patient to answer his questions about the experience.

At this point, David knew the procedure was what he wanted, and he was convinced that Dr. Slack was the surgeon to do it. “He pretty much was the reason why I did this. I’d probably still be thinking about it if it wasn’t for just how comfortable he made the whole thing for me from the very first time I stepped foot in his office and the way he conducts himself. There was no pressure or any of that stuff.”

On the day of his procedure, Dr. Slack prescribed David a single dose of valium to help him relax. Then he had injections to numb the areas of the scalp where the procedure would be performed. David explains, “If there was any part of the procedure that had any kind of pain level to it… when he was injecting back in that area in my head, it smarted a little bit. On a scale of one to 10, it was probably a five.”

Next they cropped David’s hair a little shorter in the donor area on the back of his head. Then they went to the room where the Neograft® machine was and David got comfortable face-down on a massage-style table with his favorite music playing on his earbuds. During the extraction of the follicles from the back of his head, David says there was no pain, just some occasional pressure.

At this point they bandaged the donor area and David turned around face-up. Dr. Slack used a marker to draw the new hairline and made sure that David liked the proposed look, and then began implanting the follicles according to that guide. This part was important to David who had done so much research ahead of time, “There’s an artistry to it. This is one of the things I talked to him [Dr. Slack] about when I did my research… I think this is where, if you don’t get the right people… if you don’t get the hairs put in properly and aligned the right way… there’s a lot to it. It’s just not pulling hair out and poking a hair back in your head.”

David’s procedure went a little more quickly than expected. It started first thing in the morning and wrapped up at about 2 pm, even though they anticipated it would take the full day. Then he was bandaged up and sent home.

The recovery went more smoothly than David expected. This can be credited to the fact that he carefully followed Dr. Slack’s instructions during the days and weeks following the hair transplant. These instructions include

  • keeping the bandage in place for 24 hours;
  • removing the bandage after 24 hours and applying antibiotic ointment to the donor site two or three times per day for a few days;
  • no rubbing, scratching, or lying on the grafted area to avoid dislodging the grafts during the first week;
  • washing only after 24 hours by pouring a mixture of shampoo and water over the scalp and rinsing in the same manner – no massaging of the shampoo into the new grafts!

By day ten, David returned to work. David explains that his results are so natural, no one outside of his family even realizes he had anything done.

David on Day 1 following Neograft® hair restoration

David on Day 1 following Neograft® hair restoration

David on Day 7 following Neograft® hair restoration

David on Day 7 following Neograft® hair restoration

Dr. Slack points out that taking off from work is more to maintain privacy about having a hair transplant. Most patients can go back to work in two or three days if they don’t feel self-conscious about coworkers noticing they had the procedure.

Dr. Slack emphasizes that one of the giveaways that a patient has had hair restoration is that the back of the head is shaved. For this reason, he recommends patients have a close crop hair cut (with a 0 or 1 guard) a week or two ahead of time. That way people will have had a chance to get used to the new short look, and it won’t draw so much attention after the procedure.

This process is not for those looking for immediate gratification, as it will be full year before the final results are evident. The following pictures aren’t of David, but they give a sense of the typical one-year progression following Neograft hair restoration:

Progression of Neograft® hair restoration

 

David is still early in the process, but now that four months have passed, he is pleased with the result. “Ask me again at the 12-month mark and I would hope to be that much more excited than I am now. My wife’s like, ‘Yeah, I can tell a big difference.’ So honestly I’m pretty excited about the results so far.”

“I would highly recommend Dr. Slack. He’s a great guy. I can just speak for myself obviously, but the whole experience was fantastic. The healing process was a lot faster than I thought it was going to be. The whole thing was just really good. I still feel great about it and I’m not even at the halfway mark.”

Are you researching your options for hair restoration? Dr. Slack would love to sit down with you and help you understand the Neograft® procedure and answer any questions you have. Just contact our office to schedule a consultation.