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Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

Men want it longer, thicker... their facial hair, that is

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Trouble with your stubble? Fret not.

There's a hair-raising solution growing in popularity: the facial-hair transplant.

Inspired by the hirsute hipster trend taking pop culture by storm, men are turning to this minimally invasive cosmetic procedure for bushier mustaches, sideburns, goatees and full beards, Palm Beach County, Fla., doctors say.

"It's more of a pop culture thing," said Dr. Larry Shapiro, a hair restoration specialist who has offices in Delray Beach and Hollywood. "People want a signature look. They want to stand out."

Especially in South Florida, home to such follicle-philes as the Brotherhood of Mustaches and Beards social group and one of the world's go-to destinations for plastic surgery of all types.

"It is a vanity capital," said Dr. Alan Bauman, a hair restoration specialist in Boca Raton who's seen his facial hair transplants go from a handful to about 50 in just a year. "It really started from... men looking for thicker, fuller beards."

Facial-hair transplants aren't entirely new, though recent advancements have made them more accessible and tolerable.

Once reserved for burn victims or men who wanted to cover up scars left by acne, injuries or a cleft palate, the procedure takes hair from the back of the head and replants it into the face or sideburns.

With a newer technique called the follicular unit extraction, or FUE, doctors remove one follicle at a time from the patient's donor area, rather than removing strips of scalp, allowing for a more precise execution and shorter recovery periods.

Such patient-friendly advances have helped contribute to the facial hair transplant's rising popularity, said Boca Raton hair restoration specialist Dr. Glenn Charles.

"A lot of it, I think, is awareness about transplants in general," Charles said, saying that interest in facial-hair transplants among his patients has grown exponentially from what it was a few years ago.

It can be a pricey choice, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the amount of hair extracted, and where it's transplanted.

The procedure is easy and painless, said Boca Raton resident Larry Roberts.

"I was out to dinner that night," said Roberts, 56, who paid about $4,000 a year ago to have Bauman fill in his patchy sideburns. "It was no big deal."

He wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others if they want a fuller look, on their sideburns or their face.

"Years ago, we (men) didn't have this kind of thing available to us. You got a shave and haircut, and that was it," he said.

Now, growing -- rather than cutting -- your hair is in. "It's no different from women who are doing permanent makeup or colouring their hair," he said.

Some requests can be very specific. One recent patient at Dr. Shapiro's Hair Institute wanted the kind of mustache sported by characters in HBO's Game of Thrones. Shapiro also pointed to other TV shows like A&E's Duck Dynasty for making the 1970s-era ZZ Top style vogue again.

"Everybody's hairier these days," Shapiro said.

-- Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 21, 2014 C4

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