By the age of fifty, 85% of men and 40% of women will experience some degree of hair loss. While some people are unconcerned with their thinning hair, others spend a fortune to stop further hair loss and seek treatments to reverse the unavoidable process. There are many treatment options available for people trying to reverse their hair loss.
While some hair loss treatments are well established and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as viable hair loss treatments, other treatments do not have sufficient evidence to validate their efficiency. A new all-natural hair loss treatment is gaining popularity in the hair loss industry.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is being touted as the new miracle cure for reversing hair loss. Is platelet-rich plasma therapy for hair loss another marketing gimmick, or an innovative breakthrough that can help you restore your full head of hair?
What Causes Hair Loss?
While some types of hair loss are temporary, others are long-lasting and can have a devastating impact on an individual’s self-esteem. Many people don’t perceive their hair loss as an aesthetic flaw. Hair thinning can have a profound detrimental impact on an individual’s psyche, with devastating consequences on an individual’s personal and professional life.
Many internal and external factors contribute to hair loss, some of which include: heredity, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, medications, medical conditions, and environmental stressors. The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary pattern hair loss, known in the medical community as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA).
Androgenetic Alopecia is a genetic condition that affects both men and women, though it’s more common in men. Androgenetic Alopecia in men is known as male-pattern hair loss (MPHL); Androgenetic Alopecia in women is known as female-pattern hair loss (FPHL).
Male and female pattern hair loss occurs gradually over an individual’s lifetime. Men typically exhibit symptoms of Androgenetic Alopecia by a gradual receding hairline and the disappearance of hair from their crown to their frontal scalp. Women, on the other hand, exhibit symptoms of Androgenetic Alopecia by a gradual widening of their hair parting. In both men and women, Androgenetic Alopecia is characterized by a gradual reduction in the size of hair follicles.
The gradual reduction in hair follicle size is known as miniaturization. During miniaturization, hair follicles gradually decrease in size over time. The size of the hair follicle has a direct correlation with the diameter and length of the hair the follicle produces. As the size of the hair follicles decrease over time, so does the diameter and length of the hair that it produces.
The diminished hair follicles produce hair that is finer and shorter over time, eventually producing microscopic hair that is unnoticeable. Some studies have revealed that stimulating and nourishing hair follicles can trigger them to produce thicker and longer hair. As a result, many in the research and medical community believe PRP’s growth factors can be used to stimulate hair follicles, resulting in new hair growth.
What is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is an all-natural and minimally invasive injectable medical treatment that uses components of your blood to stimulate healing and regeneration. Your blood is composed of four components: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Platelets are cell fragments within your blood. The primary function of platelets is to attach and form a plug to prevent blood leak out of injured blood vessels.
Aside from their blood clotting functionality, platelets also have incredible healing and regenerative properties. Platelets are a rich source of growth factors, such as proteins and cytokines, that send signals to damaged tissues, stimulating them to regenerate and remodel. Consequently, PRP therapy is used commonly in regenerative medicine to heal and repair damaged tissue, and to stimulate the growth of new tissue.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy has common use in oral-maxillofacial, plastic, and orthopedic surgery to speed up healing, and is recently being used in Obstetrics and Gynaecology to rejuvenate ovaries. A sizeable faction of the medical community hypothesizes that the healing and regenerative capabilities of PRP can also be used to stimulate natural hair restoration.
How Does Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment Work to Reverse Hair Loss?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is gaining popularity as a hair restoration treatment after numerous studies found that growth factors in PRP help prolong the hair’s growth cycle, and stimulate hair follicles to produce thicker and longer hair.
Previously, the medical community hypothesized that inactive hair follicles were dead, but later research revealed inactive hair follicles to be dormant. Current research theory on PRP treatment for hair loss hypothesizes that the growth factors in PRP awaken, nourish, and stimulate dormant, lazy, and unproductive hair follicles to produce thicker and longer hair.
Aside from stimulating dormant hair follicles, PRP also generates new blood vessels, and repairs damaged blood vessels in the surrounding area of the hair follicles. This results in enhanced blood and nutrient flow to your hair follicles.
In theory, PRP treatment works like a fertilizer for your hair follicles, supplying all the nutrients your hair follicles need to enhance your hair’s quality and maximize its growth potential. The platelet’s growth factors stimulate hair follicles to enter the growth phase from a dormant phase. Platelets also stimulate hair follicles to remain in the growth phase for a longer duration, producing longer and thicker hair.
A handful of studies on PRP for the treatment of hereditary hair loss validate these hypothetical claims. An Indian study conducted to analyze the efficacy of PRP treatment for Androgenetic Alopecia revealed PRP therapy to be an effective method for treating patients with hereditary hair loss. Patients who received four PRP injections demonstrated a 31% increase in their hair count after three months on the treatment.
A Greek study also examined the effect of PRP treatment on hereditary hair loss and found a noticeable reduction in hair loss and increased hair density three months after receiving the treatment. Another study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), also found an increase in hair count and hair diameter after patients received PRP treatment. The overall majority of studies on PRP treatment for hair loss reveal patients’ high satisfaction rate with the relatively pain-free and low-risk procedure.
How Does the PRP Hair Loss Treatment Procedure Work?
Platelet-rich plasma hair loss treatment is an injectable medical procedure that must be administered by a board-certified dermatologist in a clinical setting. To reduce hair loss and stimulate new hair growth, PRP treatment should be administered in three sessions, with every session taking place four to six weeks apart.
The entire procedure is performed in less than an hour, and it involves the following steps:
- A small amount of blood is drawn from the patient’s arm.
- The blood, now in a test tube, is then placed inside a centrifuge and spun rapidly to separate the blood into its various components based on their density. During the centrifugation process, the densest blood component, the red blood cells, sink to the bottom of the tube. The platelet-poor plasma rises to the top of the tube, while the platelet-rich plasma takes its place between the two, floating in the middle of the tube.
- The PRP is then collected and activated in the doctor’s office, making its growth factors ready to release their signals in order to stimulate new hair growth. The activated PRP is then injected into the problem areas of the scalp, where increased hair count and density are needed.
Patients usually notice the results of the treatment after six months. PRP treatment’s results are not permanent. To maintain and enhance the desired results, touch-up treatments must be performed every four to six months.
PRP Hair Loss Treatment Safety, Risks, and Side Effects
Platelet-rich plasma is a natural substance, produced by the PRP recipients themselves. Because PRP treatment uses the patient’s own blood to treat their hair loss, the risk for acquiring a transmissible disease, allergic reaction, or immune system rejection is non-existent.
Although PRP treatment is generally a safe and low-risk procedure, any medical treatment that involves injectables can trigger the following adverse reactions at the injection site:
- Irritation, infection, and inflammation
- Nerve and blood vessel damage
- A small amount of bleeding
- Formation of scar tissue
Some medical practitioners might use local anesthesia to reduce discomfort for the patient. If local anesthesia is used, you could develop an adverse reaction to the local anesthesia used on your scalp prior to getting PRP injections. Communicate with your doctor beforehand if you had any allergic reactions to anesthetics in the past.
Be sure to inform your doctor if you are on any medication, supplements, or specific diet, so your doctor can determine whether you are the right candidate for the PRP hair loss procedure.
PRP Hair Loss Treatment Cost
Platelet-rich plasma hair loss treatment is a minimally invasive, in-office, and non-surgical treatment. Treatment costs are significantly more affordable than hair transplant surgery, but will vary depending on a number of factors:
- Physician’s reputation and expertise
- Your geographic location
- Quality of the clinic’s equipment
In general, one course of PRP hair loss treatment requires three sessions. The average cost for a three-session PRP treatment ranges from $1,500 to $3,500. You will also need a touch-up treatment every six months, with each PRP injection costing $400 to $600 on average. Insurance companies do not cover the costs of PRP hair loss treatments as they are considered to be cosmetic procedures.
Who is an Ideal Candidate for PRP Hair Loss Treatment?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy for treating hair loss is an all-natural, drug-free, and in-office procedure. The hair loss treatment is most suitable for individuals experiencing early-stage hereditary pattern hair loss, as the hair follicles are still intact, and therefore, respond better to stimulation. It is less challenging to stimulate hair follicles that have been dormant for a brief period, than to stimulate hair follicles that have been dormant or inactive for a long time.
The procedure is ideal for candidates with mild to moderate pattern hair loss, and whose hair loss has occurred within the past five years. Patients with advanced hair loss, or whose hair loss is older than five years, generally do not respond well to PRP treatments.
PRP treatment for hair loss produces subtle results. PRP treatments will not restore a head full of hair if you are completely bald. If you desire dramatic hair restoration, then PRP is not suitable for you. PRP is best used as a hair enhancement or improvement procedure. PRP will not perform complete hair restoration.
While platelet-rich plasma therapy for hair loss treatment has sufficient theoretical scientific basis validating its efficiency, clinical evidence certifying its capability is still limited because the use of PRP to treat hair loss is still a nascent practice. PRP therapy for treating hair loss is rational and logical in theory, and consequently, its future looks promising.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is an all-natural, minimally invasive, and relatively affordable treatment that can moderately enhance your hair count and density with negligible side effects. If your hair loss occurred within the past five years, and you desire modest hair restoration, there is a likelihood that you will obtain satisfactory results from the treatment.