Hair loss doesn’t just happen to older people.
Hair loss doesn’t just happen to men, either.
Despite our stereotypes, hair loss affects people of all ages. We see it in everyone, from teenage boys and girls to elderly men and women.
Most patients come to us once they notice shedding. Their baseline hair growth just can’t keep up with the amount of shedding they’re having. Their hair keeps falling out, but there’s not enough to replace it. Now, their ponytails just aren’t as thick anymore and their hair strands feel thinner than ever.
But there’s good news: you have what it takes to fight hair loss.
In fact, your very own blood contains an essential component that can help you combat patterned hair loss. With a PRP hair treatment, we take the best parts of the blood and use that concentrated product to work to your advantage.
Here’s how PRP hair treatment works:
What Is PRP?
PRP stands for Platelet-Rich Plasma. We find this plasma in your own blood and use it to help you fight patterned hair loss (or reverse the effects of aging). PRP has been around a long time. It was used initially for musculoskeletal injuries, where it was injected into tendons and ligaments for healing. Now, we use it in aesthetic dermatology both for fighting patterned hair loss and stopping the signs of aging in the face.
We start by drawing your blood (about three tubes). Then the blood is spun down using a proprietary kit that separates the red blood cells from the plasma. Within the plasma is a concentrated area that’s rich in platelets. These platelets are a component of the blood that helps it clot — but they also help stimulate growth. We then inject the platelet-rich plasma into the affected areas of hair loss to stimulate hair growth. The injection itself only takes about five to ten minutes.
Is PRP Hair Treatment Right for Me?
The first step to starting a PRP hair loss treatment is making sure you’re the right candidate. PRP hair treatments work to fight androgenetic alopecia or patterned hair loss. Yes, this is the same type of hair loss often referred to as male-pattern baldness — but it affects women too. In fact, eight of out ten of our patients are women.
Most patients suffering from androgenic hair loss have noticed a thinning of their hair and a decrease in total density of hair — meaning they’re seeing their scalp more than ever. They’re concerned because their hair is shedding and it doesn’t seem to stop.
When patients come to see us, we first try to determine the cause. If it’s patterned hair loss (the most common cause of hair loss), they’re a candidate for PRP hair treatment along with other medical treatments. If they’re facing alopecia areata, inflammatory alopecia, autoimmune alopecia, or scarring alopecia, PRP hair treatment isn’t an option.
Once we determine they have patterned hair loss, we recommend 5% Minoxidil foam (aka Rogaine) to every patient — no matter their age. If the patient is under 65, we also offer an anti-hormonal treatment like spironolactone, finasteride, or dutasteride.
PRP hair treatment is our third line of defense. It’s the least established of the three treatment options, but over the last couple of years, the benefits have become more evident. The most recent data shows benefits for most patients in the shedding process, stimulation of thicker hair, and new hair growth.
How Does A PRP Hair Treatment Work?
The first goal of PRP hair treatments is to stop the shedding.
Shedding 100 hair shafts per day is normal — shedding 200+ hair shafts a day is not. This is when the body has a hard time keeping up.
Once the shedding stops, the PRP may also thicken the hair strands themselves. With less shedding and thicker strands, you’ll notice a big difference in your hair quality.
The real holy grail of PRP hair treatment is seeing new hair growth. This new growth starts as fine hair, but hopefully additional PRP treatments combined with the use of Rogaine and anti-hormonal medication causes the new hair growth to become thicker as well. After using the current protocol in our office, we are seeing very noticeable results usually within one to two treatments. This is really exciting for both the patient and the provider, and it is motivating to continue the topical and oral treatments.
What Causes Patterned Hair Loss?
Why does patterned hair loss even happen? The male hormones are off balance. Both men and women have levels of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. These hormones are toxic to the hair follicle. An excess of the hormones triggers the hair to miniaturize, causing it to thin.
Male hormones also affect the hair cycle. The normal hair cycle has three phases:
- Anagen Phase: The hair is growing. The total length of the anagen phase determines how long the hair can grow. People with a long anagen phase may end up looking like this. If someone has hair to the floor, they’re probably stuck in the anagen phase. Think Rapunzel.
- Catagen Phase: For most people, their anagen phase is limited to a defined period of time. Then they move into this transition phase.
- Telogen Phase: This is the resting phase before the anagen phase begins again.
The problem with patterned baldness is that the hormonal imbalance shortens the anagen phase so the hair doesn’t have time to grow. Then it thins out. Eventually, the hair cycle doesn’t replace itself, but it gets stuck in the telogen phase. That’s where we start seeing a drastic decrease in hair density.
The combination of therapies works to wake the hair back up. The minoxidil foam externally signals to the hair, “Grow, baby, grow!” The anti-hormonal pill internally blocks the action of the testosterone at the hair follicle level, saying, “Don’t fall asleep! Stay awake and keep growing!” The PRP injection stimulates the chemical signals to wake up dormant hair follicles and increase their growth.
If these treatments aren’t effective, transplants are another option for androgenetic alopecia. This is where you take hair from areas where you have enough to spare and transplant it to areas that are less dense.
PRP Hair Treatment Cost
Patients of any age are eligible to use PRP therapy along with medical therapy. Medical therapy is relatively inexpensive, while PRP hair treatment costs more.
Minoxidil foam, our first recommended medical treatment, costs pennies per application. Anti-hormonal pills are another affordable option (and have a good side effect profile).
A PRP hair treatment cost starts at $500-700 per treatment. The total cost increases depending on the zip code, the doctor, and if you opt for added ingredients to the PRP injections. Some doctors offer additional add-ins (such as stem cells) to your PRP hair treatment.
PRP Hair Loss Treatment Side Effects
Most side effects are avoided if the right condition is being treated and if the profile for the right candidate is followed. PRP is not for people with lupus, scarring alopecia, low platelets, low fibrinogen, ongoing infections (acute or chronic), or severe liver disease.
Most patients who elect for a PRP hair loss treatment have minimal side effects. In fact, they tolerate the injections very well and don’t even need topical anesthesia. In some areas, the patient barely feels the injections while other areas can be mildly painful. The patient primarily notices an increase in pressure as the PRP is injected.
Typical PRP hair loss treatment side effects are limited to 24 hours of mild discomfort, slight bruising, and scalp tenderness. Patients may experience a headache the evening after their treatment. These headaches are not serious and are easily controlled with Tylenol and rest. We don’t recommend exercising on the day of the treatment, but within a couple of days, people feel like they’re back to normal.
How Many PRP Treatments Are Necessary
Most providers recommend a series of three injections and then they’ll reassess for growth. Hopefully, by this point, you’ll see less shedding and new growth. If that new hair growth continues to get stimulated by ongoing medical treatment (anti-hormone pill and Rogaine), your doctor will likely recommend one or two PRP treatments per year to maintain the effect.
Patterned hair loss is an unfortunate and frustrating side effect of a hormone imbalance — but it doesn’t have to be permanent. If you’re ready to try medical treatments to get your hair cycle back on track, give your dermatologist a call to see if PRP hair loss treatments are right for you.
PRP Hair Treatment Before & After
Individual results may vary. A series of three PRP hair treatments is recommended.
Dr. Adrian Guevara is a board-certified dermatologist in El Paso, TX. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Mohs Surgery, Dr. Guevara has served the extended El Paso and Las Cruces region since 2006. In his spare time, Dr. Guevara enjoys spending time with his family and playing tennis.