It can be difficult to tell if Rafael Nadal has had a hair transplant just by looking at his photos. That is because in the mid 2010s, he was showing signs of male pattern baldness, a common type of alopecia which affects 85% of men before the age of 50 . Then, after 2016, he seems to have recovered his hair fullness, only to start thinning again a few years later.
While the tennis star never discussed this matter publicly, media sources  claim that Nadal did indeed join the ranks of celebrities who had hair transplants, by having FUE restoration surgery in Madrid, Spain in 2016.
However, while many sportsmen have had successful hair restoration surgery (e.g. Rob Holding’s hair transplant or Ben Stokes’s hair transplant), it seems that Rafael Nadal’s hair loss was so advanced that it continued after his hair restoration. This means he may need to undergo a second hair transplant in the future to correct this.
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Rafael Nadal Parera is a world-renowned tennis champion. Born in Madrid in 1986, he started playing this sport professionally at the young age of 14. Since then, he has won 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles and is one of only 2 players to complete the Career Golden Slam, by winning all four major championships, as well as the Olympic gold.
While Nadal never discussed his hair situation publicly, several media outlets claim that he did indeed have a transplant . One sports news source even reveals the Madrid surgeon who allegedly performed his procedure .
The rumours seem to be supported by the fact that after years of visible frontal balding, in 2017, Nadal appeared publicly sporting a much fuller head of hair, suggesting he may have had a hair transplant in 2016.
While some blame the pressure of being an international tennis champion for Nadal’s hair shedding, it is unlikely that stress-induced telogen effluvium was the main reason his hair was falling out. That is because this condition is self-limiting and normally causes diffuse hair thinning all over your scalp, rather than only affecting the frontal and crown areas. Those symptoms are most commonly associated with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness).
Rafael Nadal had been exhibiting clear signs of androgenetic alopecia for approximately 3 years before his presumed hair restoration surgery. While his hairline had always been on the high side, he had also started to experience progressive temple hair loss, which led to the tell-tale M-shaped hairline. But more importantly, by 2016, he was showing visible signs of frontal balding, as well as a bald spot on his crown.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of age, genetic and hormonal factors and it affects most men to some extent before they reach middle age . However, many, such as Nadal, start losing their hair in their mid-20s. The main culprit is a hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which, when produced in excess, binds to receptors on your hair follicles, making them decrease in size and stop producing hair.
Here is an overview of how Rafael Nadal’s hair has changed throughout the years:
Like every young man, Rafa started out in life with a full head of hair. As a teenager, he enjoyed long hairstyles. While he has always had a wider forehead, there were still some years to go before reaching his mature hairline.
As a young adult, in 2008, he still sported full luxurious curls, which had not yet started to thin. This is not uncommon, as most men only start experiencing male pattern baldness after the age of 30, although some begin to lose their hair as early as puberty .
Come 2011, at age 25, his hairline had matured, but was not yet receding and his locks were as full as ever.
Two years later, however, things had already started to change, as Rafa began to show the first signs of hair thinning and balding. He began to develop an uneven hairline, as he was experiencing some hair thinning on one side of the head and around the frontal area.
By 2014, Nadal’s hair had fallen out visibly around the frontal area, he was sporting an M-shaped hairline and was also beginning to develop a bald spot on the crown.
As his male pattern baldness progressed rapidly, Rafa was trying to mask his hair loss with tennis bands, caps and combovers (which are one of the worst male styles for a receding hairline). However, since the balding on his crown was becoming more and more visible, he reportedly decided to get a hair transplant.
The hair restoration surgery appears to have been successful, as just a few months later, he appeared in public with thick, healthy, luxurious hair.
Between 2018 and 2020, the tennis champion’s hair still looks full, with no visible signs of frontal thinning, although it is difficult to tell what his hairline looked like since he was sporting a side-swept part (which is one of the best hairstyles for men with thin hair).
Unfortunately for Rafa, his post-transplant hair fullness did not last very long, as by 2021, he was once more showing considerable hair shedding on his frontal area and his crown, especially when his hair was wet. It appears that his male pattern baldness had led to continuing hair loss, which might make another hair transplant necessary.
There have been some online rumours that Rafa might have had a second hair transplant in 2018, however, there is no photographic evidence or any reliable source that can confirm this. Photographs taken between 2017 and 2023 are more telling of progressive hair loss, which might make a second hair restoration necessary in the future.
According to the media, Nadal got a Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) type transplant. This procedure is increasingly popular, especially because it only leaves minor scarring.
FUT type hair restoration surgery, which harvests an entire strip of hair from your donor area, often leaves a fine linear scar. However, hair follicles are harvested individually in FUE-type surgery, making their scarring barely visible once healed.
While it is difficult to say for sure, since Rafa likes to wear his hair longer, no FUT scar appears to be visible in his post-2016 photos. However, the hair on the back of his head does seem thinner than usual, which is consistent with FUE surgery which involved a large number of grafts.
According to media sources, Rafa got a 4,500 graft hair transplant, a similar amount as football player Wayne Rooney got in 2011 . That seems like a large number, considering that in his 2016 photos, he appeared to experience stage 4-5 androgenetic alopecia, as measured by the Norwood scale.
While more hair grafts do sometimes mean fuller hair, there is a risk in hair transplant overharvesting . That is because harvesting more grafts from the donor area than is absolutely necessary can leave insufficient healthy hair follicles left to use in case a second hair restoration procedure is needed.
Rafael Nadal reportedly paid €9000 (around £7700)  for his hair transplant in Madrid. That is approximately half of what the procedure would have cost him had he undergone it in the UK.
However, it must be kept in mind that a hair transplant is a delicate procedure and an investment in your appearance for years to come, so the price alone must not be the main criteria when selecting a plastic surgeon.
While this is not necessarily Rafa’s case, as he is reported to have used a well-reputed, high-end hair clinic, in general, lower hair transplant costs may not be worth the risk. While the best hair transplant clinics in the UK report a 97-100% success rate, 100% of post-cosmetic surgery complications were developed in Turkey in 2021 , where hair transplant costs are much lower than those in Spain or the UK.
Rafa’s hair transplant was not unsuccessful, in the sense that he did manage to achieve significant hair growth and good scalp coverage in the year following the procedure. This means that he did not show signs of significant graft rejection, patchy hair growth or infection.
The fact that his hair began to thin once more just a few years after surgery is likely to do progressive hair loss from male pattern baldness.
It is difficult to tell whether his surgeon could have done anything differently to avoid this outcome or whether the tennis star has taken any post-transplant hair growth treatment, such as Minoxidil or Finasteride. These treatments can help you keep your existing hair intact and reduce the risk of ongoing hair loss.
While most hair transplants are permanent, continuing hair loss which does not respond to medication can make a second hair restoration surgery necessary. However, given the high number of grafts Nadal received during his first hair transplant, there may be difficulties in harvesting the needed amount of healthy hair from his donor area without damaging its appearance.
If you are experiencing hair loss and thinking about getting a hair transplant, book a consultation now with one of our world-renowned surgeons. They will let you know if you make a good candidate for hair restoration surgery and provide the most competent recommendations for a natural looking hair transplant that will discreetly, yet effectively restore your luxurious locks.
If you are still having doubts that you can get a hair transplant without anyone knowing, take a look at our before and after hair transplant gallery and see our results for yourself.
Should you decide that a simple, fast and efficient surgical hair restoration procedure is right for you, you will be in good company, as more and more famous people have either admitted to having had one or are rumoured to have done so. Here are a few of the best-known:
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