This article is just one in a series of articles that cover hair loss and hair restoration. Click these links to check out the other articles:
- What Are the Top Female Hair Restoration Options?
- Hair Restoration: Understanding Hair Loss and Treatment Options - Part 1
- Surgical Hair Restoration Options for Women
- Surgical Hair Restoration Options for Men
- Understanding Hair Loss and Causes for Hair Loss in Women
- Hair Loss: Thinning Hair in Men and Its Causes
- Understanding Men’s Hair Restoration Options
Surgical Hair Restoration Procedures
Many people who have suffered permanent hair loss turn to some of the move invasive treatment options such as hairline grafting or natural hair replacement. In order to be a good candidate for this form of treatment, you need to have either male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness – this treatment is also an option for people who have lost some or all of the hair on their scalp due to burns or other injuries. Patients with diffuse or widespread hair loss are not recommended for this procedure, nor are patients who don’t have sufficient donor sites to draw from.
Surgical hair restoration must be performed at a hair transplant center by a qualified surgeon. The procedure involves taking hair plugs from the back or another part of the body and transplanting them on the scalp. The hair plug is simply a tiny plug of skin that contains a few hairs – micro grafts contain just one or two hairs each while slit grafts contain four to ten. During the procedure, a local anesthetic is injected into the scalp. The surgeon then removes some of the hair-bearing skin from the back of the heat and cuts it into tiny segments. The segments are then transplanted into the balding area where, ideally, they will continue to grow.
Depending on the size of your bald spot, female and male hair plugs can require several sessions to reach the desired level of fullness. Following each session, the doctor usually recommends two to four months of healing. Some of the most common side effects of the hair replacement procedure include swelling, bruising, crusting, loss of sensation, and itching. Not only is this process long and often painful, but it can be quite expensive as well – real hair restoration can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 and it is rarely covered by health insurance.
Though hair plugs are the most common surgical hair restoration option, there is one more procedure that can be done – scalp reduction. This procedure doesn’t actually increase hair growth, but it can reduce the size of a bald spot to disguise hair loss. A scalp reduction involves removing the non-hair-bearing skin from your scalp (the bald spot) and stretching the remaining hair-bearing skin to fill in the area. Scalp reduction is more painful than grafting and mild side effects like headaches or scalp tightness can last for several months.
Minimally and Non-Invasive Hair Restoration Options
If the idea of having a surgeon cut into your scalp doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll be glad to know that there are a number of hair restoration methods out there that don’t involve any slicing or dicing. Some of the most popular non-invasive treatments for hair loss include cold laser therapy, prescription medications, topical applications, and lifestyle changes.
Cold laser hair restoration is also known as phototherapy or low-level laser therapy. This treatment is most commonly used for genetic forms of hair loss in both men and women. Laser therapy for hair loss involves the use of infrared laser beams which decrease inflammation in the scalp and increase blood flow, the combination of which stimulates healthy hair growth. The treatment is FDA-approved and completely painless, making it a great option for non-invasive hair restoration. It two to three treatments per week, each lasting up to 15 minutes, and results are typically noticeable after two to three months of treatment.
If laser therapy sounds too expensive or time-consuming, prescription medications and topical applications are also available. The most effective treatments in each of these categories are finasteride and minoxidil. Finasteride is a prescription drug known by the brand name Propecia that slows the process of hair loss to allow for new growth. Minoxidil, or Rogaine, is a topical application that can be applied to the scalp to slow the rate of hair loss and encourage new growth. These two treatments are the most effective when used in combination for a period of at least several months.
Though the combination of finasteride and minoxidil can be very effective, all prescription drugs come with the risk for side effects. The only non-invasive treatment option that doesn’t come with side effects is making changes to your lifestyle. Eating a healthy and nutritious diet is the first step in slowing hair loss – eat plenty of whole foods and try to avoid processed foods and refined sugars. Get plenty of lean protein in your diet as well as nuts, seeds, green tea, and bone broth. You might also try natural supplements like saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil, fish oil, Ashwagandha, zinc, or b-complex vitamins.
If non-invasive therapies are insufficient but invasive treatments are too severe, there may be an option in between. Minimally invasive therapies like strip donor transplant and follicular extraction may be a better choice. Strip donor transplant involves taking a linear micrograft of healthy hair from the rear or side of the scalp and transplanting it into the balding area. Follicular extraction is a refined method of surgical hair transplant in which a small punch instrument is used to remove individual follicular units instead of entire plugs. This procedure has a lower risk of post-procedure scars and it is popular among men who prefer shorter hair styles.
Choosing the best treatment for your hair loss is not a decision you should make on your own. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to determine what type of hair loss you have so you can explore the most effective treatment options. Together, the two of you will develop a treatment plan that suits your situation as well as your budget.