Do Hair Transplants Really Work?
A hair transplant is one option for men and women who experience hair loss or thinning hair. But does it really work and is it worth the often steep investment?
Hair today, gone tomorrow. It's a truth many men, and an alarming number of women, have to face. Many associate long, bountiful locks with youthful vigor or exuberance. There's no shortage of infomercials catering to those who are thinning (or are completely bald), touting the latest in chemical or surgical procedures designed to restore a person's scalp back to its natural and growing state. However, these promises aren't without their detractors and critics.
Root of the Problem
Understanding the nature of the problem sheds some light on the mystery of balding, although the mechanics still baffle scientists. In male pattern baldness (MPB), hair recedes or sheds at an excessive rate, much faster than the average person's hair loss cycle. This process appears to be genetic. Researchers know the hair on the crown of the head is genetically encoded to fall out, but remain baffled as to why it falls out.
The Business of Hair
In decades past, the toupee was the next logical step from the comb-over. In addition to the creams, herbal supplements, and "systems," hair restoration received a scientific boost when cosmetic surgeons boasted the success of surgical grafts in the 1940s. Luckily, as the technology advanced, doctors began to get a better understanding of the specifics of grafting, and fared better at creating more realistic looking hairlines. Because of varying factors though, not every procedure ends in success.
DHT is the genetically active chemical that sends the signal to the follicles to fall out (and to not re-grow). Surgeons remove small skin sections of DHT resistant hair (usually found on the sides and very back of the head) and graft them to the hairless scalp. By having the receiver also be the donor, the incident of lifelong dosages of anti-rejection medications lessens considerably. The amount of grafts is entirely dependent on the extent of the baldness and the hair type (thick, thin, curly, etc.) of the patient.
Results May Vary
Due to a person's future hair loss patterns, future appointments may be necessary to continue the grafting process as needed, which can contribute to the already high cost (individual costs vary by location). Once the grafting is complete, the patients will go through several months of healing, in which stitches can be removed, cleaned, or additional grafts may be in order. It's considered normal to have the first crop of hair fall out, which then lengthens the amount of time until any noticeable growth can be visible.
Micro-grafting is considered relatively safe and has a fairly high success rate, but only when done by licensed surgeons trained in micro-grafting. Outdated surgical procedures are considered unsafe and largely ineffective. Hair flapping involves cutting away large portions of the scalp and turning it inside out, increasing the chances of infection and leaves an unsightly scar. Male Pattern Reduction (MPR) is a procedure in which the bald scalp is surgically removed and, essentially, the back of the head becomes the forehead, which results in scarring, additional hair loss, and an unnatural look.