Genetic hair loss is inherited by millions of men and women, but the latest robotic technology is helping transplants look more natural.
When Corey Gomez was in his mid-30s he noticed, like his dad and millions of others, he had the genetics for male pattern baldness.
"I just vividly remember the barber or the hairstylist saying, 'You know, you're starting to thin a little bit,'" remembers Gomez.
Gone are the days of the big, old-fashioned, hair plugs. Gomez' first transplant was more natural with individual hair strands. 15 years ago, a big strip of hair was harvested from the back of the head that left a scar. Each follicle was then cut out by hand and transplanted to the top of the scalp. Those hairs are there to stay but Corey's natural hair continues to thin, and now, nearing 50, he has come back for more thickness. It's important to him in his medical sales career.
"Especially for me being in the cosmetic market, you're selling devices that make people look better so you want to present yourself in a nice way. You want to look good because you're promoting products that make other people look good," said Gomez.
Today, Corey has better options. Doctors harvest hair follicles individually from the back of the head, so no scar. Automated machines make removal more precise, and it's more likely the transplanted will live.
"One of the things we love about the new way we're doing the hair transplant, it's way less traumatic on the hair follicle. We're not beating up the follicle," explained Dr. Felix Bopp, a dermatologist and plastic surgeon in Metairie.
Dr. Bopp uses the NeoGraft. The tiny holes are made with a motorized tool that sucks the hair follicle into a reservoir, so it's not tweezed and pulled by the doctor.
"I believe it's going to create a greater take of the graft, a higher survival of the graft," said Dr. Bopp.
Each plug, of one to four hairs, is then put in tiny holes made at the top of the scalp. There are no stitches or staples. A couple of weeks later, Corey says there was very little recovery time.
"There was no pain whatsoever, just a little tightness, but no pain. A little numbness, but a week later I was fine, going to the gym. I was fine," said Gomez.
There is newer robotic technology on the market called ARTAS, that also leaves no long scar. Some doctors like it better because harvesting is computer based not handheld. The software finds each hair follicle and its precise direction of growth and extracts it. The doctor then lifts it out.
For Corey with his light hair, the NeoGraft was a better fit since the ARTAS robot was approved for men with dark straight hair.
"Well, I was already feeling the stubble on Corey, so a lot of the grafts are not going to shed and are going to start growing," said Dr. Bopp.
For many patients, they get the thickness nature took away.
The cost of hair transplants vary by the number of grafts, but it can run in the thousands of dollars.