That might seem like an incremental, unremarkable improvement, but it isn’t. Any step towards regaining a fuller head of hair without the evidence of scars, to the patients Wesley sees, is a monumental one. His calendar is filled with men coming to his office right after a breakup, their eyes bloodshot from sleepless nights scrolling through online forums like Hair Loss Help and Bald Truth Talk. They’ve become convinced that the way to restore a bruised ego and a broken heart (and maybe get a few dates) is by replacing lost hair.
"There’s no such thing as a hair emergency, but often times they make it seem like there is," says Wesley, 39, whose 6-ft frame, playful smile, and (yes) healthy crop of brown hair make him look less like a doctor than an actor playing one on TV. "Oftentimes," he says of his patients, "it’s clear a psychiatrist would be more effective."
Wesley has been doing hair transplants since graduating from Yale’s medical school nine years ago. After volunteering in Latin America as an undergraduate at Princeton, he’d originally wanted a job in the ER treating immigrant populations. But while working on his med-school thesis, Wesley came across research on hair follicle stem cells by a renowned New York hair surgeon named Walter Unger. After the two became friendly, Unger invited him to observe a few hair transplants. That turned into an apprenticeship, and Wesley found that he enjoyed the field’s relaxed pace and close relationships – doctors often spend all day with a single patient, and work with them over months and even years. He opened his own practice in 2007.
The Park Avenue office where Wesley sees patients is small and utilitarian. His diplomas hang on one wall, and a framed picture of Wesley dipping his wife, Anna, at their recent Malibu wedding sits on the bookshelf behind his desk. It’s here that Wesley spends hours doing consultations, trying to convey the benefits and limitations of existing hair-restoration options. Have patients tried Toppik, coloured fibres you sprinkle over your bald spot? Or Propecia, a pill that stops balding in up to 88% of men? Maybe Rogaine, a topical foam applied twice a day to slow hair loss? Hair transplants, he tells them, can offer robust results in some patients — but can sometimes be accompanied by significant downsides. "You have to get them to see, is the benefit better than the risk?" Wesley says.