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
- Hair Restoration: Understanding Hair Loss and Treatment Options - Part 2
- Surgical Hair Restoration Options for Women
- 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
When Men Lose Their Hair
By the time they reach 35 years of age, about two-thirds of men will have some detectable amount of hair loss. At age 50, that number jumps to 85% and, for many of those men, the hair loss or hair thinning is significant. The primary cause of hair loss in men is DHT sensitivity – dihydrotestosterone is a male androgenic hormone that causes the hair follicles to shrink while also reducing their lifespan. This results both in thinning hair and decreased hair growth.
What is Hair Transplant Surgery?
Also known as hair plugs, hair transplant surgery involves taking healthy hairs from one part of your head and transplanting them in another area. Generally speaking, the healthy hairs are harvested from “donor sites” on the sides or back of your scalp – hairs that are not DHT-sensitive or affected by diffuse thinning. The hair plugs are then implanted into the balding part of the scalp where, ideally, they continue to grow. Over time, the balding area fills in and starts to look like the rest of the head. Depending on the severity of your hair loss, it could take multiple procedures and many months to achieve the desired look. There are also different types of hair transplants to consider.
Options for Real Hair Restoration
When it comes to natural hair replacement, there are several different procedures that your surgeon may recommend. Here are the two most common:
- Strip harvesting
- Follicular unit extraction
The strip harvesting procedure involves harvesting one or more strips of skin from the back of the scalp – an area that exhibits strong hair growth. Each strip measures about 1 to 1.5 by 15 to 30 cm in size which are then divided into individual grafts. The wound is closed with stitches and concealed in the existing hair. The grafts are then inserted into the balding area and sutured in place. The sutures will be removed after about 2 weeks. Another name for strip harvesting is follicular unit hair transplantation.
The second option for hair grafting is follicular unit extraction, or FUE hair restoration. In this procedure, the surgeon harvests individual follicular units (grafts) from the donor site and transplants them in the balding area. The FUE method can be prolonged and tedious, but it is painless once the numbing injections have been given and it is less invasive than strip harvesting. Follicular unit extraction does not produce a linear scar like FUT and the recovery time is much shorter.
Wondering which hair transplant method is right for you? Here are some things to consider:
- The FUT method is better for men with large bald patches
- FUE is suitable for men with smaller bald patches and those who wear their hair short
- The recovery time for FUE is much shorter – you can return to work in 24 hours
- The FUT method produces a linear scar that may or may not be concealed by hair growth
- You should expect some swelling and tenderness with either procedure
- You may need to take antibiotics and pain killers during the recovery period for both
In addition to thinking about the efficacy and safety of surgical hair restoration methods, you should also think about the price. Hair loss restoration cost varies from one procedure to another, but all of them tend to be fairly expensive. For hairline grafting and hair plugs, you can expect to spend somewhere between $4,000 and $15,000 in total. If that sounds like more than you can afford to spend, you’ll be glad to know there are other options. Keep reading to learn more.
What is Laser Hair Restoration?
If surgical hair transplant methods don’t seem like the right fit, you may be more interested in a nonsurgical treatment such as low-level laser therapy (LLLT). This type of therapy can be done at home or in a salon setting and each treatment only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on your degree of hair loss, you may need two or three treatments per week and you can expect to start seeing results after about 2 to 3 months. It is completely painless and can be administered through salon hoods, overhead panels, handheld devices, bonnets, or head caps.
The way LLLT works is by using a specific wavelength of infrared light to target dormant or miniaturized hair follicles, stimulating them to shift into the anagen (growth) phase. This treatment works on active follicles that have gone dormant due to an accumulation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which causes the hair follicle to shrink and eventually stop growing. The low-level laser is just the right wavelength to be absorbed by the follicles where it simulates the stem cells in the epidermis to trigger regeneration.
Low-level laser treatment is a noninvasive men’s hair restoration method that is completely pain-free. If you hate the idea of incisions and stitches, it is a great option to consider. When it comes to hair restoration prices, it may be less than the cost of hair plugs but it all depends on how many treatments you need – each treatment costs about $50. If you think this option might be right for you, talk to your doctor to see whether you’re a good candidate.
Other Therapies for Hair Loss and Treatment
While low-level laser therapy can help stimulate hair regrowth, it tends to work best in conjunction with medical treatments like minoxidil and finasteride. Minoxidil is a topical liquid or foam that you rub into your scalp to help slow hair loss and improve hair regrowth. It is available over-the-counter for about half the price of the brand name – about $15 versus $30 for two ounces of the solution. Finasteride comes in 1mg and 5mg tablets, the former is recommended for men and the latter for women. A month’s supply of 1mg finasteride will cost you between $10 and $80, depending whether you choose the brand name (Propecia) or the generic.
Minoxidil works by widening the hair follicle itself, causing a thicker strand of hair to grow and by prolonging the anagen (growth) phase of the hair. For the best results, minoxidil should be applied twice a day and the maximum results will appear after about 4 months of continued use. As long as you keep applying the solution, you’ll maintain the results. It does come with a risk for side effects which usually include irritation to the scalp, unwanted hair growth on the hands and face, and a rapid heart rate.
Finasteride is available by prescription only and it should be taken once a day. Originally developed to treat enlarged prostate, finasteride works by inhibiting an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase which triggers the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from the androgenic hormone testosterone. DHT tends to accumulate in the epidermis in the scalp, causing the hair follicles to shrink in size and go dormant. Finasteride helps to prevent the buildup of DHT and increases circulation to the scalp to promote hair growth. Potential side effects include diminished sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and an increased risk for prostate cancer.
When it comes to male hair restoration, there are a great many options available. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor to determine the type and severity of your hair loss so you can choose the most viable form of treatment.