Men with 'beard envy' getting beard transplants

(WJLA) - Even among members of the Northern Virginia Facial Hair Club, beard envy is real.

"I'm jealous of guys like my friend Corey who has got - it's like more of a mask. I would love a mask," said club president Gabriel Neas.

"I'm kind of jealous of the thickness toward the bottom of his," club member Corey Reda said of Neas' beard. "So there's something to like about everyone's beard."

So, what's the deal behind the appeal?

"Chicks dig it," said Patrick Bleakney of his beard.

"They tickle," said Misty Kilgore with a laugh.

Many members take the care and maintenance of their beards very seriously.

"I like it. I try to take care of it, trim it every now and then," said club member Jae Yi. "I oil it every day."

Some men can't grow a full beard naturally, though. T.J. Patney says, he'd always wanted a beard.

"Just to have that masculine look that everyone is looking for these days. I'd love that," he said.

So, he decided to take action - and got a beard transplant.

Doctors at Virginia Surgical Center took hair from the back of his head, and implanted it on his face.

"You can transplant the follicular unit, which includes the hair and the root of the hair," explains Dr. Frederick Quarles, a dermatologist.

Patney's main concern was a scar on his chin, where he couldn't grow hair.

"A lot of people would come up to me and ask what happened," Patney said. "I mean, you do feel self-conscious, 'cause it's your face."

According to doctors, most patients have beard transplants for cosmetic reasons, to achieve fuller, more masculine beards.

"I understand if you have a scar on your face; that's one thing. But it's another thing just to do it to be in the 'in' crowd for right now," said club member Juan Castillo.

Doctors say the procedure is safe, and done under local anesthesia so patients don't feel anything.

A week after his transplant, Patney says there's already a difference - and he can't wait to grow a big, burly beard.

"I was always feeling jealous. These guys have a really masculine look and I didn't," he said.

"I think now people are going to be asking me to shave my beard off," he joked.