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All’s hair in love and war: Maison Lutétia talk transplants

The leading hair care clinic is now in in Dubai. President and founder Nathanaël Aknine sheds some light on the rise in hair transplants

Hair transplantation is an art. It’s not an exact science that can be done by a machine.

“It’s war out there,” says Nathanaël Aknine, president and founder of Maison Lutétia, one of Europe’s leading hair care clinics, in the brand’s new outpost at Dubai Festival City.

The suave 40-year-old who sports an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak chronograph that matches the twinkle in his eye, is referring to the battle between the plethora of Turkish hair care clinics that have sprouted up in recent years and the high-end clinics in Europe and the US that charge higher fees and offer more in-depth, “artistic” procedures.

Turkey exploded as a hair care destination six years ago; today, it’s home to a multi-billion-dollar industry. As such, the clinics in and around Istanbul are significantly undercutting their European and American competitors, including Maison Lutétia.

“We were worried about the effect Turkey would have on our industry, but it’s actually been positive: the results speak for themselves. It’s really a matter of education,” Aknine tells Debonair in one of the plush, Paris-chic consultation rooms that feels less like a medical centre and more like a luxury hotel.

“The people going to Turkey are not our patients. They’re people who don’t ask the right questions and go through the whole process without finding out what exactly it is they’re paying for — or not paying for.

Hair transplantation is an art. It’s not an exact science that can be done by a machine.

“The biggest mistake people make when they seek a hair transplant is that they ask, ‘How much for 2,000 hairs? How much for 4,000?’ This is the wrong approach,” Aknine explains.

“For them, it’s a case of where they can get the best deal. And that’s made the hair transplant industry something like a marketplace with stool owners shouting out their best prices.

“The question you should be asking is, ‘What’s the rate of regrowth I can expect?’ And make sure the procedure is done by a doctor, not a technician.”

As a rough comparison, a hair transplant for 3,000 grafts at an average Turkish clinic will cost you about $4,000. The same procedure in London or Europe could cost more than $15,000. To some that’s a no-brainer: cheaper is better. But, Aknine explains, when it comes to having your hairs extracted and implanted, you really do get what you pay for.

“The majority of procedures carried out in Turkey are actually performed by technicians using drilling machines, not doctors using their cosmetic training and artistry.”

As Aknine says this, he lets the words linger for their import to hit home. It works.

“You’ll be greeted by a doctor in his scrubs in the morning, and he’ll do your final consultation. Then you’re taken into the operation room and two or three technicians go to work on your head using a machine that is less accurate than the human hand.

“People forget hair transplantation is an art. It’s not an exact science that can be done by a machine. And that’s why we have only doctors performing all our procedures, from the first hair extracted to the last hair implanted.”

It’s a point worth deliberating over for anyone seriously contemplating having a hair transplant. Do your research. Know who is doing your procedure. And how they operate.

Lutétia, which was the original French name for Paris, is said to be the biggest hair care clinic in Europe. It currently has a waiting list of more than seven months, performing more than six surgeries a day.

Hair transplantation is an art. It’s not an exact science that can be done by a machine.

Aknine was convinced to expand to Dubai the Al Futtaim Group, who recognised the potential of the business in the region. The new Dubai clinic has been designed with the highest and mightiest in the land in mind. Antique pieces of art adorn the walls and the VIP service doesn’t disappoint. There’s even an original topographical map of Paris from 1651, yellowed from the years since Louis XIV ruled France.

But the patients don’t come here to admire art. They’re here for an artistic touch and regrowth pattern on their head. “I don’t like the idea of a doctor behind his desk with a picture of his kids and a certificate of attendance at a university. I want it to feel like a home,” says Aknine.

Of such high-repute and standing is Maison Lutétia that the clientele who choose to use the services of the Parisian clinic have had the entire clinic shut down for their private use. To mitigate that in Dubai, Aknine has created a dedicated entrance for VIPs: You can drive into a private garage and take an elevator straight to a discreet lounge, all without being seen by anyone.

As for the stigma attached to hair transplants, Aknine has a stance: “Yes, there’s a bit of vanity to it. But it’s mostly about self-confidence. A hair transplant for men is what breast implants are for women. That’s about the same psychological need for the procedure. And about the same number of people that go through the procedure,” he says.

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