If you haven’t heard of the Bosley Medical Institute, Inc., you’re probably new to the world of hair restoration. Bosley touts themselves as “the world’s most trusted and experienced hair restoration expert,” and they’ve got a point. L. Lee Bosley, M.D., founded Bosley in 1974, and over the last 40 years, Bosley has completed 300,000+ hair restoration procedures in 60 different countries.
Lee Bosley was so successful that in 2002 he sold his company to Aderans, a Japanese wig manufacturer, for $45 million. In 2013, Aderans purchased Hair Club for Men for $163.5 million, making Bosley’s parent company a powerhouse of hair restoration in Asia and North America.
Corporate acquisitions aside, Bosley’s legacy still stands: They pioneered the hair transplant procedure, taking it mainstream and making it a popular option for balding men and women. So it’s worth delving into an overview and review of their business practices compared with another business that learned a lot from them, Barber Surgeons Guild.
What Does Bosley Offer?
Bosley offers two hair loss treatments: non-surgical and surgical. The non-surgical options include suggesting that patients try the Laser Comb, which the FDA has approved for safety and effectiveness. Bosley professionals also prescribe Propecia, a medication that is supposed to invigorate hair growth. (Note, however, that Propecia has not been approved to be prescribed for women.)
Now for the surgical options: A Bosley proceduralist can perform a surgical hair restoration (or “hair transplantation”) either through the FUT (“follicular unit transfer”) or FUE (“follicular unit extraction”) methods. These are bedrock terms in hair restoration, so let’s go over each one.
FUT: A surgeon performing follicular unit transplantation removes a strip of tissue from the back of the patient’s head — the zone of the scalp known as the “donor area.” After that, the surgeon’s team harvests individual follicles and transplants them to the “recipient area” (usually the top or front of the scalp, where the balding has occurred). In most cases, Bosley writes, “FUT is the preferred method because it allows the physicians to fully utilize the scalp area to deliver results consistent with patient expectations.” But they also make clear that some patients report that FUT leaves them in pain because the tissue removed can swell following the procedure. Also, FUT leaves a scar where the tissue has been removed. (That scar is about 1mm in diameter, although it can be quite thicker than that.) While the scar is supposed to fade, patients will have to wear their hair long to hide it.
FUE: With the FUE method, hair restoration clinicians take each follicular unit from the scalp without removing strips of tissue. Here’s Bosley’s description of FUE: “Hair follicles are removed in a random fashion and the result is less density in the donor area that many say is not even noticeable.” That snippet seems to imply that Bosley prefers FUT to FUE. But they do list FUE’s pros: low pain management and zero (or minimal) scarring. (Which, admittedly, is a relief.)
Here are some other hair restoration services that Bosley offers:
Capillus Laser Caps
Also “FDA-cleared,” the Capillus laser cap is a battery-operated wearable that looks like a baseball cap. The inside is studded with nodes that pulsate with low-level lasers programmed to spur growth in hair follicles. The model is designed to be flexible so that any patient can wear it, and patients only need to put it on for six minutes a day. Clinical studies also found that the Capillus laser does not result in negative side-effects, and participants experienced 11%-189% more hair at the end of a 17-week trial than they had at the beginning of it.
Scalp Micro Pigmentation
While most hair restoration options try to spur new hair growth, micro-pigmentation instead draws hair onto your scalp. Bosley employees are “specially trained” to apply the pigmentation onto a patient’s scalp thousands of times over. The result? A certain pointillism of impressions consistent with the patient’s natural hair color that fills in the thinning patches. Bosley recommends this option for patients who are looking for non-medical and non-surgical solutions.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
Bosley advertises LLLT as “one of the most effective, easy, and safe ways to treat hair loss.” The technology is essentially the same as the Capillus cap, except Bosley clinicians, use a handheld instrument to guide lasers over areas in the head that have suffered hair loss. The laser sends out a wavelength of light that the clinician can adjust to stimulate hair regrowth in the targeted zones.
Bosley Professional Strength Products
Think of this option as Bosley’s homegrown system to strengthen their patients’ follicles. A 6-month supply will put you out $449, and they break into these five steps:
Step 1: A shampoo designed to cleanse toxins that cause hair loss.
Step 2: A volumizing conditioner that makes hair thicker and more robust.
Step 3: A hair regrowth treatment solution (applied twice daily).
Step 4: A dietary supplement formula.
Step 5: A follicle energizer.
Bosley cautions that you won’t see hair regrowth until 4-6 months after you apply the solutions, and even then you’ll have to keep applying them to see ongoing results.
The other services that Bosley offers include eyebrow restoration, plus a slew of laser treatments — TriGen with PRP, Theradome Laser Helmet, and Bosley HairMax Laser Band. All these services have been successful enough to make Bosley a household name in hair restoration.
On their website, Bosley showcases an extensive Before/After page, replete with from-above shots of their patient’s heads with and without Bosley’s services. In their own words: “When you come to Bosley, you can be confident that you are going to get results that look completely natural and are virtually undetectable.” Bosley’s Reviews section, too, seems to bear out that promise, with its pages of 5-star reviews. Here are just a few examples of how Bosley has delivered on customer satisfaction:
“The anxiety & anticipation was far worse than the actual procedure. Very glad I did this, but I expect I will truly be happy when the new hair growth becomes permanent.”
“They offer a free consultation and it was really helpful on letting me understand which way I need to proceed. I am very thankful for Bosley because 5 months in and I’m starting to have my hair back and feel younger again.”
“Everybody there was absolutely awesome. It was the greatest experience, the whole experience was amazing. My results are amazing! I wish there was more hair in a couple of spots, I would consider going back but can’t afford to do it yet.”
While Bosley does share a lone one-star review on its page (“Have absolutely no regard for the customer satisfaction”), it seems like a token tidbit of criticism amid all the 4- and 5-star reviews surrounding it. Other reviews online aren’t quite as glowing. Granted, this one comes from Pissed Customer, but it starts with a warning for any prospective Bosley customer: “BEWARE!” From there, the tone hardly softens:
“I have NEVER experienced so much PAIN. I was told I would not feel anything. … I was in agonizing pain for the entire procedure and she was not even there. Everyone could hear me and my pain yet they did not give me the pain relief. … Lastly, she only showed up in the first couple [sic] minutes and last 10 minutes to do very small amount of work. She didn’t even stay in the room. I would give Zer0 stars [sic] if possible. … Monetary Loss: $5500”
True, that review doesn’t seem all that balanced, and it should be noted that the average Yelp review gives Bosley 3.5 stars. Still, potential customers might be worried to know there are sites titled “Bosley Reviews – Is it a Scam or Legit?”, plus an entire website dedicated to hesitations, complaints, and disappointments related to Bosley. Here are just a few choice lines from that website:
“DON’T DO IT!!!”
“I feel as though Bosley simple stole $8950 for me.”
“That means you will basically still be bald after the $7000+ procedure.”
“If there were an option to give this place ZERO stars I would gladly do it.”
“If Bosley institute has any decency or integrity, they would give back my money soon!”
One customer describes how the Bosley doctor he met with seemed to try to rush him into the procedure room, didn’t ask what hairline type he wanted, sketched a hasty line across his forehead, and said, “Let’s go.” The patient insisted that the doctor hear what he wanted to be done before the procedure, but it didn’t matter — “Long story short … 1-year post op, little to no growth and a HUGE scar on the back of my head.”
Reading through these reviews, a number of common themes seem to arise:
- Patients don’t even meet the doctor until the day of the procedure. (And, in the case of the patient above, they often feel hurried in and out of the office.)
- Multiple corrective procedures, each one expensive, each one compounding (or at least not fixing) the original problem.
- Only a small percentage of the grafts applied to the scalp actually take hold.
- Ongoing scars or discolorations on the scalp.
Others have criticized Bosley for performing procedures that don’t use the most recent technology. Bosley has 70 offices in the continental United States, but only their Beverly Hills location is listed in the ARTAS find-a-physician page. In other words, only one location implements automated technology. (Even this one location does not seem to have considerable use of the ARTAS restoration robot since it doesn’t have a utilization medallion listed.) Meanwhile, the rest of the Bosley offices primarily offer patients the strip procedures that were cutting-edge when L. Lee Bosley founded his business back in the 1970s.
Perhaps most worrisome of all, however, is the site BosleyMedicalViolations.com, which leaves you with some unsettling takeaways:
L. Lee Bosley, M.D., is the most widely disciplined physician in the country.
Most of Bosley’s offices do not have any medical staff on site and are used for consultations only. (“Consultations are given by unlicensed or untrained salespeople.”) What’s worrisome here is that non-medical personnel are making medical plans for you.
In 2018, the Medical Board of California filed a case for unlawful practices at Bosley’s Beverly Hills office. (The only one listed on the ARTAS site.) The charges listed include “Violating the Standard of Care, Repeated Negligent Acts, and Aiding and Abetting the Unlicensed Practice of Medicine.”
Barber Surgeons Guild
Like Bosley, Barber Surgeons Guild offers a range of services. Here are some of the more noteworthy ones:
- ARTAS Robotic Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE): Barber Surgeons Guild considers the FUT (strip) procedure outdated, and never wants to leave anyone with that dreadful scar on the back of their head. Instead, they specialize in the Robotic ARTAS procedure which has the most precision of any technique out there. In addition, BSG includes a PRP session as well as ATP therapy with each of their treatments to further improve results and growth. Additional, BSG offers a unique and competitive pricing structure that works to fill in zones where hair is needed, rather than arbitrarily chasing by graft. This allows us to really focus each procedure on a case-by-case basis directly tailored to the client needs and concerns without cutting any corners. Furthermore, a BSG physician is always involved in the planning, something we strongly believe is a crucial element of the procedure’s success, comfort, and trust.
- PRP Clinical Hair Maintenance Program: Our protocol involves monthly sessions with alternating treatments of PRP, then ATP with micro-needling. The PRP has numerous growth factors (PDGF, TGF, IL, PDAF, VEGF, EGF, IGF) which stimulate new blood vessel formation to feed the metabolically active hair follicles. Then the micro-needling sessions increase blood flow and bring the circulation closer to the surface of the scalp where the hair follicles need it the most. After the micro-needling is performed, pure ATP is then applied topically. ATP is what all cells use for energy and metabolism, so it can be thought of essentially as fertilizing the area to give a nice energy boost. With this protocol, we’ve seen great success to thicken up hair and prevent more hair loss.
- Propecia: In addition to prescribing Propecia, Barber Surgeons Guild dispenses, in-house, a generic version of the medication that clients can pick upon monthly basis or that Barber Surgeons Guild can mail to them monthly at no additional charge.
- Scalp Camouflage: In the world of hair restoration, SMP is short for “Scalp Micro Pigmentation,” a standard service that Barber Surgeons Guild offers, too, only this one’s called “scalp camouflage”: A high-definition technique used to mask the contrast of the client’s scalp for maximum realism in replicating the look of short or buzzed hair, or for the look of increased density for longer hair. BSG’s scalp camo is never sold by individual session but rather by results- we will do as many sessions needed to get perfect results (usually 3-4 sessions over the course of 6 weeks).
- Product Line: Barber Surgeons Guild has developed its own best in class product line, all fortified with many bioactive ingredients. (Which means none of the usual suspects often found in many styling products — sulfates, parabens, or mineral oils. Plus, no animals are tested in the making of the final product.) This line includes a shampoo, a conditioner, and a highly concentrated serum, as well as fortified styling products. Physicians and barbers alike helped formulate it, to ensure top quality both medically and stylistically. Box set subscriptions are available so you always get a fresh kit each month with the products of your choice.
With all that said, Barber Surgeons Guild should acknowledge that Bosley has been a pioneering force in hair restoration technology. No single hair restoration company has swelled to such a size on a national scale. Barber Surgeons Guild certainly hasn’t…yet. But our goal is to be a customer satisfaction based company, with a service-driven mentality that places the doctor’s focus on the customer and only providing the newest and most high tech procedures and offer only the highest quality products. At most, we do one procedure a day, sometimes two, in each location, so that the customer is never rushed and the result he gets is high-quality. And because our focus is on quality, we make sure that each of our locations has state-of-the-art ARTAS robotic technology that maximizes accuracy in each procedure we perform. Finally, we will never perform the FUT, linear scarring strip procedure.
Barber Surgeons Guild also understands that people have curly hair, coarse hair, large or small follicle units — the list goes on. Because hair is so varied, we adapt our procedure depending on what the patient needs. We don’t charge by the graft and we don’t treat hair like a commodity. A lot of other hair restoration practices do. That’s why most procedures follow these steps:
Harvest the hair from the donor site.
Prepare the recipient site for new hair.
Transplant the hair into the recipient site.
In other words, many businesses will strip out a section from the back of your scalp, see how many hairs you have, and figure out where to place them. In fact, many practices have been noted to charge extra the day of the procedure if they ended up accidentally harvesting moregrafts than a client had paid for, leading to unexpected additional expenses. Barber Surgeons Guild does the opposite. We prepare the head first, which tells our surgeons how many grafts they need, and they put them in the recipient site. That way, we’re not charging per graft, inflating the charge, and placing hairs in your head where they shouldn’t belong. (Which is sort of the reason you came to see us in the first place.)
Where you opt to undergo a hair transplant procedure comes down to where you live and what your own research tells you. Google “Bosley Reviews” or “Barber Surgeon’s Guild Reviews” and decide for yourself. But if you’re ever in the LA area, consider stopping by for a consultation with a doctor and see what the vibe’s like. If you’re not in the LA area, we commonly do video consultations and perform procedures for clients who live out of the state or out of the country. We even offer travel credit to subsidize the expense of visiting us for your procedure. In the meantime, get an SPF of at least 30 for that beautiful head of yours.