As seen on tv, investigative journalist Elisabeth Leamy raises concerns about the hair restoration and hair transplant clinic she visited. Then, Dr. Matt Huebner, an expert in hair restoration and hair transplant surgery, reveals the questions you should ask before agreeing to a hair restoration or hair transplant treatment.
GUESTS: Elisabeth Leamy, Dr. Matt Huebner
HOST: Dr. Mehmet Oz “Dr. Oz”
SHOW: The Dr. Oz Show
Check your local listings for episodes of The Dr. Oz Show.
Audio Title: Hair Restoration - Scams Exposed by Dr. Oz
Dr. Oz: Hair Restoration Scams.
Clinic Counselor: We guarantee our work 100%.
Dr. Oz: Are some of them duping you and trying to steal your money?
Clinic Doctor: you’re going to be looking about 10 to 12 range.
Dr. Oz: We went undercover to find out.
Dr. Oz: We’ll save lives today. [Music] We are good and healthy!
Dr. Oz: All season long. We have been taking on scammers’ rigged systems and people out to get your money. The undercover investigation you’re about to see is going to make you angry. Because we’re exposing how some companies prey on women who feel shame and embarrassment about their hair loss. Investigative correspondent, Elisabeth Leamy is exposing hair restoration scams. And she’s asking the question, “How far would you go to reverse your hair thinning?”
Elisabeth Leamy: If you’re considering hair loss restoration, the first thing to keep in mind is “Buyer, Beware!” hair restoration is a booming business. Transplants are up 27% since 2012. And high-priced clinics offering foolproof results are popping up all over so are the horror stories. These are pictures of hair loss surgeries gone wrong, excessive bleeding, infection, scarring, and failure to actually restore hair. Any of these serious side effects are possible when unscrupulous or unskilled doctors and technicians attempt the procedure without sufficient training.
That lack of training is more common than you might think. Thanks to companies that peddle 3-day training seminars and even online courses to physicians eager to cash in on this lucrative procedure. I went undercover with Anne, who suffers from thinning hair visiting a hair restoration clinic with appalling online reviews.
Anne: This part– what I mean over here…
Clinic Counselor: Yeah.
Anne: …like my hairline…
Clinic Counselor: Mm-hmm.
Anne: …is not what it used to be.
Elisabeth Leamy: We wanted to know just what they’re promising hopeful patients.
Anne: You’re guaranteeing the success of my operation?
Clinic counselor: We guarantee our work 100%
Elisabeth Leamy: Then why are there so many unsatisfied patients complaining?
Dr. Oz: Elisabeth Leamy is joining us. So what surprised you the most? You give her applause because it’s a very difficult thing to go undercover and get these folks to talk openly. So what surprised you the most about this experience?
Elisabeth Leamy: You know I went in thinking that hair restoration was something rich people did. But that waiting room we visited was absolutely hopping, jammed with ordinary looking, hard-working Americans who are somehow going to come up with the money to pay for this. Hoping to restore their hair and maybe they’re self-esteem too.
Dr. Oz: And I– and I’ve seen it firsthand and I know how painful it is to think that your hair has been playing for the other team. So this is not shocking to me that it’s crowded but what is shocking is what you found. Now listen, everybody, there are medications that do work for hair loss. We’ll talk about them later in the show. But there’s also a hair transplant surgery which we’re going to focus on right now. And when it’s done right, results are oh, impeccable! They look so natural.
As a doctor, I’ve seen that desperation in women’s eyes. They’ll do anything, you’ll do anything frankly, so old men could get their hair back that they have when they were young. So joining us now is a top hair restoration surgeon, perhaps in the country, arguably. So, Dr. Matt Heubner.
Dr. Oz: Welcome to the show.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Oz: So, you got a thousand or more of these procedures that…
Dr. Matt Heubner: Right.
Dr. Oz: …takes between 5 and 12 hours a lot…
Dr. Matt Heubner: Right.
Dr. Oz: …of effort.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Absolutely.
Dr. Oz: When you see these physicians conning these women, we’ll about to show some footages could– actually riveting on this.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Yeah.
Dr. Oz: How does it affect you?
Dr. Matt Heubner: It makes me angry. I feel bad for the women who have to go through this. I mean it’s such an emotionally charged thing for a woman to lose her hair. And now you all of these places that are offering cheap hair transplants and preying on that and, you know, it’s very important to do your research correctly. You’re more likely to get a bad hair transplant than a good one nowadays. And unfortunately, if you don’t know how to do your research, you could be a prey to one of these scams.
Dr. Oz: So you get– if you’re– it’s 50/50 or worse to get a good procedure?
Dr, Matt Heubner: I don’t know the exact percentage is. This is from me having patients come in that are dissatisfied with prior results elsewhere. So, you know, looking around, I feel sorry for the consumer that has no idea and doesn’t know what to ask for.
Dr. Oz: So why do you call it the “Wild Wild West”? And most of the medicine is somehow regulated.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Correct. And I came from an emergency medicine background myself, so I understand that. But, hair transplant is not considered to be true surgery in the way that say, a breast augmentation would be or liposuction. And as such is not– it’s not regulated with the same rules and regulations. There is no board certification in hair transplant. It’s not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. And that’s the problem.
Dr. Oz: All right, so how big a deal is this? How dangerous could it be if it’s not done well?
Dr. Matt Heubner: Well, certainly there are a lot of people now going to other countries, Pakistan, Turkey, India to get cheaper hair transplants. Just last year, a 22-year old medical student died…
Dr. Oz: Oh.
Dr. Matt Heubner: …three days after a hair…
Dr. Oz: Oh.
Dr. Matt Heubner: …transplant from a huge infection.
Dr. Oz: Mmm.
Dr. Matt Heubner: This was a big center. This is a– they have 17 centers in India for this, OK? So, it’s very scary not only physically can it be dangerous, but what I see mostly in the US is the emotional scarring…
Dr. Oz: Right.
Dr. Matt Heubner: …that people, women…
Dr. Oz: Oh my God!
Dr. Matt Heubner: …especially are coming with.
Dr. Oz: So I’m looking at these pictures, I mean these are catastrophes.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Oz: I mean I don’t– whether those are puncture holes they get to over the hair is in the top left…
Dr. Matt Heubner: Right.
Dr. Oz: …bottom left.
Dr. Matt Heubner: There are some different ways of doing hair transplants. In these foreign countries, the big push is something called FUE where they take little extractions individually from the back of the head rather than a strip. So, there’s all kind of complications that can occur. And if someone’s not trained the right way, it could be a disaster. My doctors that I trained, it takes at least nine months for them to become comfortable and where I feel comfortable of them putting out good work in representing our practice.
Dr. Oz: And how good does it look when it’s done right?
Dr. Matt Heubner: Absolutely incredible! I have hundreds of patients that can attest to how it’s changed their lives, giving them more confidence. Women that who can never wear their hair back in a ponytail are now going out publicly.
Dr. Oz: Here’s an example. This woman in this is before and after.
Dr. Matt Heubner: That’s Tanya, yeah. So, this is one of our patients that is a huge advocate for us with African-American hair. And it’s important to know African-American hair types are much different than Caucasian. In the experience of the technicians, doctor, it’s very important. It changed her life and she’s– she’s happy to talk about it, she has her own YouTube channel and everything.
Dr. Oz: And there’s a gentleman who’s got a pretty good result. So I– I have a friend actually recently had what I could not tell if he– anyway looks like before. So I know what good can be which is why it’s so infuriating when I see bad. So…
Dr. Matt Heubner: Yes.
Dr. Oz: …we wanted to know what really is going on in this hair restoration scams. So Elisabeth Leamey bravely went undercover with one woman who is losing her hair to find out. What’s going to happen next will shock you. Stick around.
Dr. Oz: Next, what really goes on inside these hair restoration clinics. Protect yourself from being scammed.
Dr. Oz: Today, we’re revealing what’s really going on inside a popular hair restoration clinics. Are some of them duping you and trying to steal your money? Investigative correspondent, Elisabeth Leamy went undercover to find out.
Elisabeth Leamy: Anne who’s hair is thinning in the front has considered hair replacement. So she agreed to go undercover with us.
Anne: I would love to get my hair back the way it used to be, here, you know. But, I’m not sure if hair loss surgery is safe or effective.
Elisabeth Leamy: We did our homework reading online reviews about multiple hair restoration clinics. Then we got suited up with hidden camera gear and went for a visit to a well-known clinic. Right away, a surprise.
Clinic Counselor: Anne, the thing is I’m not a physician.
Elisabeth Leamy: The person who met with us initially was not a doctor. Even though hair restoration is a medical procedure. That made us wonder who would be doing the actual operation. In numerous reviews of multiple clinics, patients report crucial parts of hair restoration procedures being done by non-medical staffers instead of doctors.
And the doctors do the actual work?
Clinic Counselor: We have technicians that worked with the doctors. It’s like heart surgery…
Anne: The doctor–
Clinic Counselor: …they do–
Anne: They are…
Clinic Counselor: All they do day in and day out is under the microscope separating grafts.
Elisabeth Leamy: Wow.
Clinic Counselor: Maybe one of them– [Laughter] India.
Elisabeth Leamy: Huh!
But online, reviewers complained that some technicians are far less skilled than others leaving patients with erratic results.
Is there a chance of side effects or risks or injuries of some sort?
Clinic Counselor: Scar.
Elisabeth Leamy: From the–
Clinic Counselor: She will have a scar back here. But you’re never going to shave your head, are you?
Anne: I hope not.
Clinic Counselor: No.
Clinic Counselor: No, no, no, no.
Elisabeth Leamy: The representative we met with downplayed the risks.
Clinic Counselor: There’s no long-term side effects or risks.
Elisabeth Leamy: But some patients have said, “I left bloodied” and described “Incredible amounts of pain during and after the surgery.” Plus, “An extreme sensation of tightness and pulling of my scalp that doesn’t go away.”
Clinic Counselor: We’ll be guarantee– yeah.
Anne: You’re guaranteeing the success of my operation?
Clinic Counselor: We guarantee our work 100%
Clinic Counselor: The– any grafts that do not survive or grow normally will be replaced at no charge unless you don’t have sufficient donor hair then that would be a refund. And you be so
Anne: Oh, so you’re saying you’re not actually guaranteeing my result. But if they don’t…
Clinic Counselor: Oh, no, no.
Anne: If it doesn’t work–
Clinic Counselor: There are two to three patients a year that come back and aren’t happy.
Elisabeth Leamy: Many reviewers say after all they went through, there was virtually no improvement in their hair, with comments like, “I practiced patience but the results never came” and “One year later, I am bald to a point in need a wig.”
Clinic Counselor: here he is.
Elisabeth Leamy: Hello.
Clinic Doctor: Hi.
Clinic Doctor: Pleased to meet you. what’s your name?
Clinic Doctor: Anne.
Elisabeth Leamy: But when Anne finally met the doctor, he declared her an excellent candidate for hair restoration.
Clinic Doctor: She’s a very good candidate. Look at that curl– look what you have!
Clinic Counselor: Yeah
Elisabeth Leamy: And the estimated cost for the procedure?
Clinic Doctor: so you’re going to be looking about 10 to 12 range.
Elisabeth Leamy: That’s 10 to 12,000.00 dollars.
Anne: That’s a lot for some hair.
Elisabeth Leamy: At that price, you have to use your head if you’re thinking about restoring your hair.
Dr. Oz: Elisabeth Leamy and Anne are here.
Dr. Oz: Anne, if Elisabeth hasn't been with you, you think you would have paid 10 to 12,000.00 dollars to have this done?
Anne: If money was no object, I would have fallen for it, totally! Because the salesman, his pitch was flawless.
Dr. Oz: Mm-hmm.
Anne: And, it’s– he had done the operation himself. He had the procedure done himself. So he showed me his before and after pictures and I would– you know, I would have been convinced. He started out the pricing in like a lower level. But then like, once the doctor came in, he– the price practically doubled.
Dr. Oz: Why?
Elisabeth Leamy: He said she’s going to need two treatments.
Anne: Yeah, because I would need two.
Elisabeth Leamy: Suddenly the price was going up.
Dr. Oz: So, Elisabeth what brilliant depth to this investigation? When you actually saw the pitches and the proposals, what bothered you the most?
Elisabeth Leamy: It felt like a business instead of a doctor’s office. I mean the first person we met what he’s called the counselor. But come on, he was a salesman.
Elisabeth Leamy: And the educational brochures, those were marketing brochures. I know what a marketing brochure looks like. And he even offered Anne a line of credit. Basically a credit card…
Elisabeth Leamy: …to pay for the procedure. This was a business.
Dr. Oz: And like they’re selling you a car, basically.
Anne: Yeah, pretty much.
Dr. Oz: Doctor, you witnessed this?
Dr. Matt Heubner: Yeah.
Dr. Oz: As an expert in the field, what did you think about that? What would you have told Anne if you’re honest about this procedure?
Dr. Matt Heubner: Sure. So, couple things. One would be there was no– nobody brings up the idea about testing. So, just How to because you lost your hair doesn’t mean that everyone’s a candidate for a hair transplant. There are many medical diseases, things– thyroid condition, for example, hormone imbalances which can cause hair loss. There are also conditions which can have you lose your hair which don’t respond well to a hair transplant.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Inflammatory conditions that will require a biopsy before getting a transplant. And this has really lost a lot of the time. When people meet with the salesperson, that’s the last thing on their mind because that doesn’t allow them to sell you surgery.
Dr. Matt Heubner: The second thing I would tell you is technicians that the doctor works with are just as important as the doctor. They are the ones cutting your grafts up and they are the ones placing it. So there are very different types of technicians and based on experience. So you can have a technician. And by the way, there’s no school for technicians.
Dr. Matt Heubner: This is something that’s taught on the job.
Dr. Matt Heubner: So there’s [0:12:31.6] [Crosstalk]
Dr. Oz: Don’t be first.
Elisabeth Leamy: …on you.
Dr. Matt Heubner: It’s scary. Again, Wild Wild West, it’s true. So these are the important questions to ask. So, you know, I’ve seen patients come in from other places unsatisfied where one half of their head was great and the other half was completely different. It was almost like two different surgeries. And what’s happened is you have an experienced technician and inexperienced technician on different sides of the head. So that’s–
Dr. Oz: The big story here, it didn’t have to happen to you Anne. Thank goodness you had Elisabeth with you. But everybody at home, I want you to have the right tools that can take control of your health, so we’re laughing not crying. And you can control your wallet most effectively as well. So doctor, you– reveal some tools we can all use right now.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Sure. So, you know the first thing I would tell you is make sure you do your research, very, very important. Some people just go in and say, “Well, this a big company. I don’t need to do the research.”
Dr. Matt Heubner: Make sure you research your doctor. Ask how many doctors are in the practice. A real transplant takes a doctor anywhere from 5 to 12 hours to do a surgery.
Dr. Oz: Mmm.
Dr. Matt Heubner: So, ask how many patients do you do a day? If the answer is any more than two, run away as fast as you can. You cannot be in that room for that long. So a lot of doctors, unfortunately, have the text doing all the work and they’re in their office on the Internet or maybe even doing a plastic surgery case and not really involved.
Dr. Oz: all right. So, ask the questions, you always have to do that. Make sure the MD is doing the procedure otherwise you’re going to have someone else, maybe the first time ever trying it out on your body.
Dr. Oz: And then finally, if it’s too cheap to be true, we shouldn’t believe it.
Dr. Matt Heubner: Yeah, that’s something my mom always said, “If it’s too good to be true, don’t believe it.” Yes, so the average for someone that’s good, that’s reputable, an average surgery is going to be anywhere from $5,000.00 to $12,000.00 OK, depending on the doctor and how much work you need to have done. Just a little hairline work might be $5,000.00, a full head of hair, maybe $12,000. So, if anyone’s offering you a surgery for $1500.00, a red flag should go up immediately.
You– sometimes people will go to these outside clinics outside of the country for low-cost hair surgeries. We don’t even know if it’s a real doctor doing the surgeries. Your likelihood of getting a surgery that’s good goes down even more. And if you go into an office and you just don’t have a gut feeling that something is– “Something’s not right here. I just don’t feel good about the doctor. I don’t feel good about any” that’s a good– you know, that’s something you definitely should– a red flag should go up and you should run the other way.
Dr. Oz: So normally, I would call the FDA. I’d call the American Medical Association, even the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. I’d call somebody to get a response to the scams surrounding hair restoration, but I can’t because, there is no governing body or Medical Society to reach out to. Completely unregulated field, hair restoration. So I think it is time these major organizations got involved so unscrupulous doctors can stop preying on vulnerable women and men. You guys deserve better.
Thank you for sharing your stories, for your own homework and for coming on the show. I know a lot of you are looking for inexpensive at-home solutions to restore your thinning hair, so I’m excited to reveal those options, they are next!