Black market hair transplant clinics — also known as unlicensed or underground clinics — attract some individuals due to their lower costs or to avoid waiting for a legitimate clinic. However, opting for such clinics is a risky decision.
At FUE Clinics, we have over 20 years of experience in hair transplants, so we understand the importance of choosing a licensed and reputable clinic. We’ll explain what a black market clinic is, the dangers of going to one for your hair transplant, and tips on choosing a safe clinic.
What is a black market hair transplant clinic?
A black market hair transplant clinic is an illegal or unauthorised establishment that offers hair transplants outside the regular medical system. These clinics often ignore regulations set by authorities, potentially putting patients at risk.
The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) — a nonprofit medical society committed to upholding the highest medical practice and ethics standards — found 51% of its members knew of black market hair transplant clinics in their cities in 2022. So you really need to be careful when picking a clinic for your surgery!
What are the risks of choosing black market hair transplants?
Black market clinics often employ unqualified or inexperienced individuals to perform hair transplant procedures, which significantly increases the risk of a hair transplant gone wrong. These practitioners may lack the necessary training and expertise to safely and effectively carry out the surgery. You could end up with poor results, unnatural-looking hair, or even irreversible damage to your scalp.
Plus, they may not administer anaesthesia correctly to numb the pain during surgery, resulting in an uncomfortable experience.
2.Lack of proper hygiene and sterilisation
With a reputable clinic like FUE Clinics, hair transplant procedures are very safe, thanks to extensive hygiene precautions that ensure the process is conducted in a clean environment.
However, black market clinics are not required to adhere to the mandatory sterilisation and hygiene protocols. This risks the reuse of unsterilised instruments, increasing the risk of infections. And this can cause all sorts of problems, from prolonged healing times to permanent scarring. So, it's really not worth taking that risk.
3.Substandard equipment and materials
Legitimate clinics use approved and quality-assured equipment and materials for hair transplant procedures. In contrast, black market clinics often cut corners using substandard or counterfeit supplies to save on costs. These materials may not be safe or suitable for medical use, increasing the likelihood of adverse reactions or complications.
4.Lack of follow-up care
Proper aftercare is a vital part of the hair transplant journey — not only does it speed up the recovery process, but regular check-ups can also detect any potential issues early on.
Black market clinics often neglect or provide insufficient post-operative care. While minor hair transplant side effects like swelling and itchiness are to be expected after surgery, the lack of guidance and support with a black market clinic can exacerbate these issues. That's why choosing a reputable clinic is crucial to ensure a smoother recovery and achieve the best results possible.
To find out more about what hair transplant aftercare involves with a licenced clinic, read our guide.
5.The emotional and psychological impact
A hair transplant can increase confidence and self-esteem by restoring your natural hairline and creating a more youthful appearance. However, going to a black market clinic increases the risk of unsatisfactory results, complications, or permanent damage. This can lead to emotional distress, and you may even be left feeling less confident than before surgery. You might end up having to go through the whole process all over again just to fix the problems caused by choosing a black market clinic.
In fact — ISHRS, in their 2022 census, found 5.4% of hair restoration patients in 2022 sought treatment to repair previous surgery from another physician or black market hair transplant, up from 4.2% in 2019.
Tips for choosing a safe hair transplant clinic
When looking for a safe hair transplant clinic, it's essential to look for proper certifications and affiliations with recognised medical organisations. This way, you'll know you're in safe hands during surgery with an experienced, licenced surgeon.
At FUE Clinics, all our surgeons are registered with reputable organisations, including:
- The General Medical Council (GMC) — The GMC is an independent regulator for doctors in the UK, ensuring they meet high standards of medical practice. It's illegal for clinics to operate without this registration in the UK, and you can check a doctor's status on the GMC website.
- The Care Quality Commission (CQC) — The CQC is a government body that regulates healthcare providers in the UK. Every healthcare company or organisation must be registered with them. If you go onto the CQC website, you can search for the name of specific clinics and registration numbers to see if they're regulated.
- The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons (ISHRS) — Surgeons registered with the ISHRS are recognised as experts in the field of hair restoration surgery.
Choosing a clinic with surgeons registered with these organisations gives you confidence in their qualifications and expertise. This will reduce the risk of a botched hair transplant or infections that often come with unlicensed black market clinics.
Ask for before and after photos
Request to see before and after photos of previous patients who have undergone hair transplant procedures at the clinic. This will give you a visual representation of the quality of their work and the results you can expect. And if they don't have any, take it as a red flag.
Ensure they offer a free consultation
The availability of a free initial consultation is a positive indication of a good clinic that cares about finding the most suitable treatment plan tailored to your hair loss. You'll be able to discuss your specific needs, concerns, expectations, and whether you're the right candidate for a transplant.
It also gives you the chance to get a feel for the clinic, the facilities, and staff, before committing to the procedure.
If you've been thinking about getting a hair transplant, you can book a free consultation with FUE Clinics.
Read customer reviews
Look for customer reviews and testimonials, whether it's on platforms like Trustpilot or Google reviews. These reviews provide valuable insights into the experiences of past patients, their satisfaction levels, and any potential concerns they may have had. You'll be able to gather more information and make an informed decision about the clinic.
To learn more, check out our guide on the top 10 tips for finding the right hair transplant clinic.
Get a safe hair transplant with FUE Clinics
It's clear that choosing a black market clinic is really not worth the risk and could leave you with a botched hair transplant or significant scarring. Your hair restoration journey should be smooth and successful, so it's important to pick a licensed clinic with a solid reputation.
At FUE Clinics, we ensure you're in safe hands through the entire hair transplant process, from the consultation to the surgery and the aftercare.
We offer both Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transfer (FUT) transplantation methods as a treatment for alopecia that produces natural and realistic results to restore your hair. Both involve moving healthy hairs from the donor site and planting them in problem areas.
Get in touch with our team of hair transplant specialists today, or take a free online consultation. Or, head over to our FAQs for more information.