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Health Tourism (Medical Tourism) TURKEY

Health tourism can be a hairy business anywhere, but for Turkey this is literally the case. Hair transplants have been a cornerstone of the country’s billion-dollar-plus medical-tourism market for more than a decade. But recently, a growing number of medical tourists, especially Middle Eastern men, have been traveling to Turkey specifically for facial hair implants.

 

“Both in Turkey and in Arab countries, facial hair is associated with masculinity, and its lack can cause social difficulties,” commented Safiye Kurt from Adem&Havva Hair Clinic, a transplant special who has a private practice in Istanbul. She estimates that up to a quarter of his monthly hair-transplant patients are Arab men from the Middle East interested in more facial hair.

 

“Businessmen come to me to get beard and mustache implants because they say that business partners do not take them seriously if they don’t sport facial hair,” she added.

 

About 75 percent of her patients are Arabs, mostly from the Persian-Gulf countries, and many tell her they want transplants before contemplating marriage. “Thick hair is a status symbol, and a sign of strength and virility,” Safiye Kurt  explained. “Some patients want to look younger, some more manly — both important factors in the Middle East if one looks for a new wife.”

 

But why is Turkey emerging as the go-to place for mustache-and-beard work?

 

She said that at least 10 Arab tourists arrive in Istanbul each day for a facial-hair transplant. Most of her patients are from the United Arab Emirates, but some also arrive from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq.

 

Other Turkish citizens, though, do serve as role models for mustaches.

While mustaches like that of famous Turkish actor Kadir Inanır or singer İbrahim Tatlıses have long set the standard for what manly whiskers should look like, many patients now want stubble beards like that of Turkish TV heartthrob Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, or the rugged good looks of actor Kenan İmirzaglıoğlu, Kurt said.

 

“But not every beard suits every face,” she cautioned.

 

Grooming is not part of the treatment. “After a successful hair transplant surgery, a man could also grow a Marx-like beard if he so wishes,” commented Kurt.

 

Safiye Kurt agreed that Turkish television shows, hugely popular in Arab countries, have influenced style trends, but pointed out that hair transplants are no miracle cure. Hair for all hair transplants is taken from the back of the scalp, the only area where men do not go bald.

 

“If the hair in that area is too thin, it is not suitable for a transplant”, specialist Kurt explained. “And for a beard or a moustache, the transplanted hair needs to be quite thick.”

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