It’s inevitable that a great number of us, both men and women, will witness at least some hair loss as we get older. But instead of accepting this sad fact of life gracefully, many of us fight against it. Thankfully, today we no longer seem to be fighting a losing battle: the success of hair transplants means that people who are not totally bald can successfully regain much of their former hirsute beauty.
Cutting it all off is easier for men than women, but isn’t a Kojak-style crop far better than a Trump comb-over? Some women think bald is sexy…
Hair transplants work by taking “donor” hair from the back or sides of your scalp, then placing them in areas of your head where there is no hair, or where it is very thin. The idea is to have new hair begin to grow in places where it has stopped growing, making a thinning scalp a thing of the past.
It’s estimated that as many as 90 percent of all men experience some hair loss, known as male pattern baldness, and that as many as one quarter of all women in the United States have thinning hair linked to hereditary reasons. We also experience hair loss due to illness, stress (such as stress-related alopecia), pregnancy, medical conditions, infection and age.
If your hair loss bothers you so much that you spend every waking hour dreaming about how to regain your former luxurious tresses, perhaps now is the time to finally do something about it.
Types of Transplants
Three main types of hair transplants are available, including:
Follicular Unit Micrografting. This is the most common type of “hair grafting”, which has been around for years. Involves removal of donor strips of hair, usually from the back of the head, which are then grafted onto the place where hair loss has occurred, usually the front of the scalp. After a strip is removed the area is tightly sutured together, becoming unnoticeable due to surrounding hair.
The pieces are then cut under a microscope and implanted in the new area. Each unit has up to three hairs, which is the way hair grows normally, and the results are visible after the first session. The implants are placed naturally so a “line” of hair doesn’t appear. In a “megasession” lasting five to seven hours, as many as 4,500 units are implanted at one time to achieve a fuller head of hair virtually in an instant.
The entire procedure is done in several sessions using local anesthesia with prescribed painkillers and antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. Normal activities can usually be resumed within a week.
Follicular Unit Extraction. A relatively new technique in which a large incision to extract a donor strip of hair is not made. Instead, up to 3,000 units are meticulously extracted within a few days, one by one, using new instruments, then implanted onto the donor site.
This is good for people who may want to have their heads shaved in future without any visible scars, who may want to sport a Mohawk or for people with very curly hair. The growth rate is about 10 percent less than those who choose Follicular Unit Micrografting, and a session will take longer – as long as nine hours a day for two consecutive days. Cost is also more.
Laser Hair transplant. Hotly disputed and relatively new, described as “stat-of-the-art” and “cutting edge”. It involves using lasers to make the slits to implant new hair. Proponents say it can minimize bleeding; opponents say it clogs the blood needed to nourish the grafts.
Please note that facial hair transplants are also available, for men who can’t grow a beard, mustache or sideburns, and for both men and women who want more luxuriant eyelashes. Each facial area is unique, so each hair restoration program is as well. Don’t go overboard and turn into a werewolf!
Some people are also beginning to experiment with PRP Therapy, or Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy, alongside hair transplants. This blood plasma is thought to be especially good for hair growth, as it contains certain growth factors in its bioactive proteins. Taken from the client’s own blood, it is injected directly into bald patches. Still in its experimental stages.
Non-Surgical Hair Loss Treatments
If you have lost your hair – or are in the process of losing it – that doesn’t mean you have to resort to surgery. There are a host of other measures that can make you look better, including:
* Correcting a medical problem. If your loss of hair is due to an underlying medical condition, sort it out. Your doctor can ask questions about your diet, medications, illnesses, pregnancies etc. It may be easier to treat than you think!
* Wearing a wig. Call it a wig, toupee, hairpiece, mop, cat – it all boils down to the same thing. Some salons specialize in special wigs for people who have gone through chemotherapy or stress-related alopecia – their wigs are usually well made and they deal with clients in a sensitive manner. Check them out.
* Taking hair loss drugs. Rogaine (available without prescription) and Propecia (for men only, with prescription) are the two top-selling hair loss drugs, although many more are on the market. You’ll have to use them for at least six months to see if there is any effect.
* Employing topical hair loss treatments. Many scalp treatments and shampoos are on the market. For most, their efficacy has not been proven. Some claim to nourish hair follicles, others claim to stimulate hair growth, still others purport to block DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, which causes male pattern baldness, in the scalp.
* Using cover-ups. Different types of aerosol spray-ons exist to cover up baldness. In the old days they looked like shoe polish sprayed on the back of your head; today they can be made of small fibers that look, so they say, like real strands of hair. Ummmm…… not!
* Cutting it all off. Easier for men than women, but isn’t a Kojak-style crop far better than a Trump comb-over? Some women think bald is sexy…
Hair loss is incredibly common, but if you find your loss of hair hard to deal with, a transplant may be an option. Keep in mind, however, that a bad hair transplant is obvious from miles away – as is a badly fitted hairpiece or cheap, spray-on cover-up. Insist on the best, and know what you are getting into before you embark on any hair replacement solution. Good luck!