When men and women of a certain age start losing their hair, many call Dr. Robert Leonard, the founder and chief surgeon of Leonard Hair Transplant Associates. In his Newton office and other locations, Leonard, 55, performs hundreds of hair transplant surgeries every year, a procedure that covers bald spots with growing hair. His patients include NFL stars. Leonard, who was on track to become an obstetrician before being turned off by the hectic lifestyle, now travels the world giving talks about hair loss treatments.
1. Hair transplants today look much more natural than the hair plugs of yesteryear. Surgeons like Leonard take a graft from the back of a patient’s scalp, split it into tiny pieces, and transplant the bits of skin and hair follicles into bald spots. The transplant allows new hair to grow in areas that are bare or thinning.
Leonard charges $5,500 to $15,000 for each procedure, depending on how much hair is involved.
“It takes a good six months after the transplant for the patients to really see an aesthetic result,” he said. “The hardest part of the transplant is waiting for the hairs to grow.”
2. Hair loss is not just a matter of vanity, Leonard said. It can hold men and women back from living active social lives and even contribute to psychological problems. The telltale sign of a man uncomfortable with his baldness? The baseball hat that never comes off.
“There’s a very high self-esteem issue with this. I have young guys who come in and say, ‘Doc, I’ve lost my mojo. I don’t go out anymore.’ I know I have saved people from becoming agoraphobic.”
3. Leonard doesn’t just talk the talk. Like many of his patients, he takes Propecia, a pill that treats baldness. He had a hair transplant four years ago, and another in August, to thicken his hairline. He turned to trusted colleagues to work on his dark coif.
“There’s an art and a science to medicine. With hair restoration surgery, the art outweighs the science.”
4. Leonard’s stable of patients extends beyond middle-aged men. He gets clients as young as 24, and as old as 91. Lately, he has worked with several transgender people transitioning from male to female. And women are a growing part of the business, making up 25 percent of his surgery patients.
“Women in the workplace don’t want to deal with wiglets any more. That’s been a big change.”
5. Most men are very private about their hair loss — they would just as soon admit to having erectile dysfunction, Leonard says. But the doctor also has a few outspoken patients who happen to play in the National Football League. Former New England Patriot Wes Welker came to Leonard’s office last year, and again this year, and he was not shy about discussing his hair issues. After Welker, Patriots player Rob Ninkovich and free agent Chris Gronkowski — brother of Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski — endorsed Leonard. You may know this if you listen to sports radio, where Leonard frequently advertises.
“It’s been wonderful for the business. When these guys who can go anywhere choose me, it’s a stamp of approval.”