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Thabiso Bapela hair transplant treatment restores healthy head of hair

Help at hand for men going bald

Nombuso Kumalo Content Producer
Gomora actor Thabiso Bapela
Gomora actor Thabiso Bapela
Image: supplied

Gomora actor Thabiso Bapela would often turn down or simply not audition for roles that required something that he was losing – hair.  

“As an actor you take on different roles; this character needs to grow their hair at this length and what happens if I can’t,” Bapela told me during a telephone conversation.

“As much as we have options right now with wigs for men, I would rather have my hair than wearing a wig.”

It’s not uncommon for men to experience premature hair loss from a young age. According to Scandinavian Biolab hair loss statistics, 25% of men will start balding before 21 years old and 66% percent would have experienced hair loss by age 35. At 37 years old, this was a huge blow to Bapela’s confidence and receding self-image. 

Known for his role as Dr Mlambo on the Mzansi Magic telenovela, Bapela has garnered significant success in his acting career, playing other recognisable characters in Generations: The Legacy, The River, Kings of Joburg and Giyani: Land of Blood. However, in his private life, his self-esteem had experienced much breakage. As a result, he often kept it to himself.

“I felt uncomfortable as I was limited to what I can do with my hair and can’t do with it as I don’t have enough hair to do other options. I had to keep it at a certain length so people wouldn’t talk about it,” he said.  

“People would throw jabs at me which would make me uncomfortable. As an ice-breaker, they would say ‘Ey ndoda, impandla? [The guy with the bald spot]’. Looking into the mirror, I was not pleased with what I saw. I then took the decision to undergo a hair transplant.”  

Located in the epicentre of Sandton, Alvi Armani clinic served as a refuge from the harsh clippers of scrutiny and shame Bapela experienced because of his baldness. 

“Before going for the consult, I had cold feet. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with it,” he said.

“Upon arriving at the clinic, the doctor assigned to me explained in detail what they do, and how they can assist me. I was quite anxious about going as these things are something that we [black men] don’t talk about.

“The one or two stories that I’ve heard of men who went on a hair restoration journey was not encouraging, and that added to my anxiety. I had to trust my gut with Alvi Armani, go in and hear what they had to say.” 

After the first consultation, patients undergo a waiting period of three weeks to a month prior to their first procedure. Guided by the results, patients are informed whether their condition can be addressed with a non-surgical option or if a hair transplant is required. Bapela’s results read to the latter.  

“The transplant is a process that restores your hair follicles. Before anyone has a transplant, the person would undergo a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment where the doctor tries to save the remaining hair and make it grow back again naturally,” Bapela said.

Gomora actor Thabiso Bapela during his hair restoration journey.
Gomora actor Thabiso Bapela during his hair restoration journey.
Image: supplied

“These treatments are done in intervals of three months. Gathering analysis from that period, depending on how much hair is grown back and how much of it is strong, will determine if a transplant is necessary. In my case, I needed a transplant, especially on my hairline and crown. 

“Undergoing hair transplant treatment does not delay the transplant, but rather it restores the current hair that you have, and the insertion of the donor hair brings back your hair, so you will have the hair forever.” 

Awaiting the shears of judgment and taboos that cloud premature balding in the black community, Bapela’s family and friends had mixed reactions at his decision to undergo hair transplant surgery.   

Haaibo!” that is what they said, Bapela told me.

“They had to listen to my story and I tried to make them understand that this is where I am, and this is what hair means to me. I need to be happy with myself and if I have access to solutions to fix it, then I might as well do this. I believe in it and took this journey. I won’t impose it on you – it’s a personal decision at the end of the day”.

Alvi Armani in Sandton is the largest International FUE Hair Clinic in Africa with other international clinics located in the US, India, Dubai, Argentina and Uruguay. Its other male local celebrity clientele include Faf du Plessis, Victor Matfield, Simon Dorey, Jonathan Boynton-Lee, Janez Vermeiren and Armand du Plessis.

“Not all hair transplantation methods are the same. Some are more invasive, painful and prone to scarring than others,” said Dr Kashmal Kalan, medical director at Alvi Armani SA.

“Some also produce sparse and unnatural results that do not match the patient’s facial features and age. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to choose a reputable and experienced clinic that employs the best technique for your needs and will achieve the optimal results for each individual case.”

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