A HAIR transplant, but for your armpits?
It may sound like a strange request, but that was what one patient here wanted.
The patient, a foreigner in his 20s, underwent the surgery to transplant hair on to his armpits two years ago.
It is believed to be the first of its kind here.
His surgeon was Dr Gerard Tan, the medical director of aesthetic clinic chain NeuGlow The Aesthetic Doctors.
The chain has been providing medical aesthetic treatment like Botox and dermal filler injections, skin rejuvenation and hair removal services for more than 10 years.
In an interview with The New Paper on Sunday, Dr Tan said the patient did not have any underarm hair.
He explained that the amount of hair people have on their underarms vary greatly from person to person and is mostly genetically determined.
Dr Tan declined to reveal the man's nationality.
The patient called his clinic and said he wanted armpit hair to feel "manly".
Said Dr Tan: "His request was so unusual that I couldn't understand it the first time he asked. Most patients want their underarm hair removed, not to have more of it."
He usually deals with cases involving male pattern baldness, where patients want hair transplanted from the back of the head to the front or crown.
Dr Tan was ambivalent about performing the procedure at first.
He said: "I told him the transplanted hair will not be curly or coarse since it came from his head. "I also couldn't guarantee a good outcome, as I had not done it before."
But as the patient insisted on it, Dr Tan went along.
He said: "The patient was concerned only with the quantity of armpit hair, not the hair texture. "We didn't delve into exactly why he wanted more hair there."
The procedure was conducted at the NeuGlow Medical Hair Centre at Mandarin Gallery.
Some 300 hair follicles were taken from the back of the patient's head and planted onto his armpits.
During the two-hour procedure, Dr Tan paid special attention to how the hair was distributed at the armpits.
"The pattern is quite complex. If I got it wrong, the hair would look very weird," he elaborated.
The procedure, which is performed under local anaesthesia, sees each follicle being "harvested" from the back and the sides of the scalp.
Tiny incisions are then made in the desired area and the follicles are inserted.
The extracted follicle will not be rejected by the same body as it is not a foreign tissue.
The procedure went smoothly without complications, he added.
No stitching was required, and the skin healed on its own.
The patient went for a follow-up checkup a week later, and had fully recovered.
Dr Tan said: "For such a case, it would take eight months to see results.
"This patient was generally happy with the result."
The procedure cost $2,000 and is the same rate as other types of hair transplants conducted at the clinic - at $7 per transplanted follicle.
Our checks with government hospitals that offer hair transplant services show that such a procedure has not been performed here before.
Dr Lynn Teo from Changi General Hospital, told TNPS in an e-mail that requests for such a procedure are not commonplace.
The dermatology consultant, who performed 78 hair transplants in the last two years, has not carried out such a procedure yet.
Neither does she know of any Singapore doctor who has.
While she feels it involves little health risks, she notes that doctors might face a challenge in making the armpits look symmetrical.
Dr Teo said: "The hair at this site is (also) not so well studied and so hair survival here may not be so robust.
"(Patients) may also need to trim the hair as they may grow as long as those on the scalp."
Dr Shenthilkumar Naidu from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has also not encountered such an unusual request before.
He acknowledged that some men do not naturally have much hair under the armpits, and might benefit from such a procedure.
But the associate consultant at TTSH's plastic surgery division added that he would discourage patients from the procedure since the armpits are "usually hidden".
"Most people would request for the permanent removal of armpit hair instead for hygiene purposes," he said.
This article was first published in The New Paper .