Elton John Hair Transplant Disaster: What Happened?

Elton John Hair Transplant Disaster: What Happened?

“Elton John hair” has been the subject of much ridicule. And despite his best efforts to keep things hush-hush, it was an open secret that Elton John had hair transplants and rather terrible ones. But what was it about them that was so wrong? 

To this date, the hitmaker wears wigs since his hair transplants were a disaster. But, here, we’d like to explore the details of his hair loss and hair “regrowth” journey. Would we ever see Elton John’s real hair? Let’s find out. 

Who Is Elton John?

Introductions aren’t really necessary when it comes to the Rocket Man himself. Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947 in the UK, Elton John was playing the piano at the wee age of 4. Inarguably, he was a born musician (his father was also a trumpet player). By the age of 11, he was able to secure himself a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music while he was still in school, although he later left it before taking the final exams. He did pretty well without a degree, anyway.  

In 1962, he was a part of the band called “Bluesology,” but he later formed his own “Elton John Band” in 1970, and his star continued to rise afterwards (he is now retired). He came out with several chart-topping singles like Your Song, Candle in the Wind, Honky Cat, Ego, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Daniel, among many others. In fact, he is the first solo artist to score a UK Top 10 hit in six different decades. Known for his flashy and flamboyant style, the singer is considered one of the most influential musicians of the rock and roll era.  

What Was the Cause of Elton John Hair Loss?

Elton John lost his hair to one of the most common causes of hair loss – androgenetic alopecia. In this, a by-product of testosterone – dihydrotestosterone – binds to the hair follicles and miniaturises them. Eventually, it results in permanent hair loss. 

While the rock star enjoyed long, luscious locks in his early years, he was already warned by his mother that he would become “bald as an egg” by the time he turned 20. That’s because hair loss runs in the family. In an interview with Graham Norton, the singer said, “well, I wasn’t quite bald by 20, but more or less by 30 it was going.” 

Other than suffering from pattern baldness, Elton John hair loss may also have been exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse. The former not only affects the skin but also damages the structure of the hair. And alcohol abuse can result in a hormonal disturbance which can also cause hair loss. Both drugs and alcohol can also cause nutritional deficiencies, which can further contribute to the problem. 

Other than that, Elton John also blames a ‘bad dye job’ for his hair loss. In a radio interview with Chris Evans, the musician told everyone that he had dyed his hair red by “Vidal Sasson, and it [his hair] all fell out about three weeks later.” The harsh chemicals in hair dye can cause damage to the hair, but they often cause temporary hair loss only. Anyway, according to the singer himself, most of his hair was gone by 1976. And he did not like being bald. 

What Was Elton John Hair Transplant Journey?

While the exact timeline is not clear, what’s known is that Elton has had 2, maybe even 3, hair transplants in the 1970s, possibly in the 80s, too. 

First Hair Transplant

In his autobiography titled “Me,” the singer narrates the story of his first hair transplant. He was referred to a “Pierre Putot” in Paris, who was apparently famous for his hair transplants. “Undergo a simple procedure, I was told, and I’d be leaving his clinic a changed man.” Unfortunately, that’s not how things went for the singer. He describes being in a lot of pain for the whole 5 hours of the procedure. 

Additionally, he compares the sound of hair being extracted from his head to that of a ‘rabbit gnawing its way through a carrot.’ The surgical instruments were less sophisticated back then, but it still sounds horrifying. And since it was the 70s, the technique wasn’t as refined either. 

The Circle of Life musician recounts being in ‘agony’ while he was leaving the clinic. He even lost his balance while he was trying to get back into his car, and that was when he bumped his head. If the impact is strong enough, bumping the head after a hair transplant can result in permanent damage to the hair grafts. On that, the singer even said that the pain of the hair transplant felt like a ‘mere pinprick’ compared to the head bump after the surgery.  

Second & Third Hair Transplant 

Elton John has also admitted to getting a second hair transplant. However, according to him, that one too ‘hurt like hell.’ People (in a 1986 interview with the singer) reported that the singer had all three of his hair transplants in Paris. So, it is possible that he went to the same clinic for all his surgeries. 

Here, you should know that multiple hair transplants are needed when the balding area is quite large and looking at Elton John’s ‘before’ photos, you can see that the size of his balding area is significantly large. It was a Norwood Stage 7, where he had lost most of the hair on the top of his head and the crown region.

What Type of Hair Transplant Did Elton John Undergo? 

The singer explains that the surgeon took ‘strips of hair from the back’ of his ‘head and then attached them to the crown region,’ From that, it can be assumed that it was a FUT hair transplant, also known as the strip-harvesting method. 

Although the technique has since been refined, many people still prefer FUE over it because it does not leave visible scars. The results of hair transplants in the 1970s were also quite unnatural. Those who had them were said to have the heads of ‘Barbie dolls’ because of the pluggy appearance of the follicles. Even after experiencing all this, Elton John hair transplants failed, and he chose to wear a toupee instead. 

Why Did Elton John Hair Transplant Fail?

There are more than a few reasons why Elton John hair transplants failed. As mentioned above, his drug and alcohol abuse would have affected the recovery process. Doctors advise against them for a few weeks after the surgery. The singer himself thought that drug abuse was the reason why his hair transplant failed. 

The bumping of his head was another factor that would have damaged the results of his surgery. Another thing that he did was wear a hat right after the surgery. Patients are strictly advised against that because tight headwear can dislodge the grafts, and the accumulation of sweat can cause infection. 

The Your Song singer said that he ‘looked like something that turns up towards the end of a horror film and starts strip-harvesting teenage campers with an axe’ without his hat. Hence, he couldn’t help himself not wearing it. The paps were also obsessed with getting a picture of his head, so he must’ve felt like he had no other choice. The pop star said that he could’ve worn a loose bandana, but he didn’t want to look like a ‘fortune-teller.’ 

These factors would have had a significant impact on his final results and could explain why his surgeries failed. In his autobiography, he says, “My head was covered in scabs and weird craters.” The scabs are a normal part of the recovery process and fall off after 2 weeks, but the craters could be a result of too deep extraction and resultant scarring

Did Elton John Regret His Hair Transplant? 

Considering his agonising experience, you’d think that Elton John would have certainly regretted his decision to get a hair transplant. However, surprisingly, that’s not the case. “I’m glad I had them because before I had no hair at all. It just astounds me how people are so interested in it.” Through a hair transplant, he was still able to grow some of his hair back, although it wasn’t a complete success. 

In the radio interview with Chris Evans, the singer also mentioned: “Propecia and Rogaine” (brand names for finasteride and minoxidil). So, the pop singer was familiar with them, but it is possible that they didn’t work out for him (which happens), so he turned to a hair transplant. From what we know so far, it seems that the lack of aftercare was a huge reason why his hair transplant results weren’t satisfactory. Regardless, for the singer, it seems to have been worth it.

From Transplants to Wigs: Elton John Hair Evolution

While in the 1980s, Elton John hair did seem to grow thicker, those results didn’t last for long. Then in the 90s, he got sober and had a weave done instead. However, when he debuted his wig in the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, his hair was compared to that of a dead squirrel.

On that, the rock star said, ‘I was forced to concede he [the writer] had a point.’ However, in the interview with Graham Norton, he said that his hair looked more like a ‘dead mole.’ Since then, he has been wearing wigs, although they look much better now.

The reason why it’s not possible for him to get a hair transplant anymore is that he might not have enough hair in the donor area. When the bald area’s large, you need to have enough hair in the back and sides of the head that can be transplanted to the bald areas. When there’s not enough hair to transplant, the surgery cannot take place, which is why wigs seemed like the better option for the musician.

Conclusion

Elton John clearly said that being bald made him look like ‘Shrek,’ and he simply didn’t like being bald. So, he made the decision to get a hair transplant back in the 70s when the surgical technique wasn’t as refined. His negligence of the aftercare also contributed to the failure of the surgery. He finally decided to wear wigs to hide his baldness, and he’s most definitely rocking them now!

Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.