The Rise of Beard Transplants - Folk Week


By Chloe Kent

Image by Ryan McFarland.

Looking for that bearded Appalachian woodsmen look? Well, you’re in luck.

A relatively new procedure now allows men to actually get thicker facial hair in which strands of hair are taken from other parts of the body and inserted into the face via small incisions. Each strand has to be placed individually, and normally ranges from 500 to 2,000 strands.

New statistics from What Clinic report a 72 percent rise in consultations for beard transplants in the last year, giving new depth to the term ‘beard envy.’ After the skin heals, patients can shave and groom the hair normally.

“Brooklyn is probably the nucleus of the trend, it’s the hipster ‘look’ guys want,” Manhattan plastic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, who carries out the procedure two to three times per week, told The New York Post. “Beards are an important male identifier.”

The procedure is also rising in popular amongst transgender males and, interestingly, Hasidic Jews, who sport long beards in accordance with the Torah’s forbiddance of shaving specific parts of a man’s face.

According to Portland, Oregon’s Dr. Steven Gabel, who also performs the operation, there are normal risks inherent in beard transplants as with surgeries of any kind, although Dr. Gabel claims the chances for infection or resulting complications are minimal.

“The most common thing that patients experience afterwards will be some temporary redness and itching to the area. Some people say it is more intense than others, and it is usually short-lived,” says Gabel.

Those willing to forgo the risk will still have to contend with the procedures relatively high cost and wait time: Doctors charge up to $10,000 for a full beard and the transplant can take up to an entire day to apply.

While trends in celebrity facial hair may dictate otherwise, a recent study found that “when clean-shaven faces were rare they enjoyed a significant premium in attractiveness ratings over when they were common,” suggesting that “beard styles are likely to grow less attractive as they become more popular, and that innovative new styles may enjoy a premium while they are still rare.”

Or to put it more succinctly: “We may well be at peak beard.”

If the cyclical pattern of men’s facial grooming are to be believed, beards should be due to become unfashionable shortly. (The New York Times, for one, first reported on the trend in July of 2006.)

A study of men’s facial hair chronicled in the London Illustrated News from 1842 until 1972 conducted by the University of Washington found that trends in facial hair are more conspicuous than one might think, drastically changing every decade or two.

“In the 1890s, more than 90% of men pictured had some form of facial hair, a figure that dropped to below 20% by 1970. Sideburns occupied the news in the mid-19th century, whereas full beards reigned from 1870 to 1900, only to be replaced by moustaches.”

Whether the beard is a fleeting trend or due for another “moment,” perhaps a beautifully filled-in beard is nothing without the right attitude to accompany it.

The facial hair-centric blog Beardsy may have put it best: “The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy, but whatcha got under there? There’s a whole generation running around looking like lumberjacks, and most of you can’t change a fucking tire.”