Courtesy of Dr. Sanusi Umar
J.M., who requested to be identified only by his initials, was one of Dr. Sanusi Umar's patients who received leg hair in his hairline.
By Bill Briggs
The nicknames are meant make to their targets bristle: “Yo, Doll Hair,” or, more cringe-worthy, “What’s up, Chia Head?”
Often, though, such cracks are an accurate description of reworked foreheads after people undergo hair transplants. Traditional hair plugs or replanted locks from the neck are usually thicker than the fine strands that normally grow somewhere above the eyebrows, leaving a coarse (and obviously fake) hairline.
But a Los Angeles dermatologist says he has devised a cosmetic solution to solve that gnarly, Raggedy-Ann look at the front edge of the scalp. And his method seems so simple, follicley challenged folks may kick themselves for not dreaming it up.
Yes, those curly, fluffy tufts on the thighs, knees and calves that men generally ignore and many women dutifully shave are ideal for transplanting just in front of and behind the original hairline, according to a study authored by Dr. Sanusi Umar and published this month in the Archives of Dermatology.
“It is a breakthrough because transplantation has been around for a long time, through many evolutions -- from big plugs that look like doll hair to what we have today: hairlines that can look totally undetectable,” says Umar, who heads DermHair Clinic.
“A trained eye can tell (an artificial hairline). Quite a number of our patients who come in don’t have bad transplants (from other clinics),” Umar says. “But they complain that people still stare at their hairlines. It bothers them. When you do any cosmetic procedure, you don’t do it so that people can tell you’ve had it done.”
OK, here are the bald facts: Leg hair meshes better with existing, frontal head hair precisely because it is thinner, Umar says. His study cites two of his patients who had leg-hair procedures performed on their hairlines about six years ago. (He waited to publish his findings so he could prove that the leg hair doesn’t eventually fall out). When leg hair grows atop heads, it can be groomed, styled and cut just like normal hair -- so patients aren’t left with random straight strands and a crop of new, coiled ones, the study states.
Umar has done such transplants on men and women, brunettes and blondes, he says. About 80 percent of the transplanted leg hairs grow successfully. A typical hairline transplant requires about 1,200 new follicles. The cost is $8 to $10 per follicle (or $9,600 to $12,000). The time needed to recreate a hairline: five to six hours.
But what about the legs? Won’t naked calves and bare thighs be a dead giveaway that your hairline may have been purposely relocated a bit to the north?
“On the legs, what we try to do is leave as few telltale signs as possible,” Umar says. “We want to diffusely take it, so it doesn’t look like there are patches there.”
And, ladies, if you’re considering this work, you won’t need to spend an entire winter growing out your leg hair.
Says Umar: “We need only stubble.”
Bill Briggs is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com and author of “The Third Miracle.”