Donna Kim-Brand

Hair loss is caused by several factors, among them physical and emotional stress, aging, reaction to medications, hormonal fluctuations, thyroid deficiencies and skin infections.  And then there’s Androgenic Alopecia (male pattern baldness) which accounts for 95% of thinning hair in men due to follicular sensitivity to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). While baldness tends to be genetic and can start after puberty, for 65% of American men balding is apparent by age 35, with 85% showing signs of baldness by age 50.

There are a range of methods to restore or transplant hair, some more daunting than others. You can choose from the only two FDA approved topical methods to date: an over-the-counter (Rogaine-topical monoxidil) and a prescription product (Propecia- finasteride). The rate of success in re-growing hair is only around 14%, although hair loss itself is slowed. A downside is that discontinuation of the topical treatments stops hair growth from that point.

There is a traditional method called Follicular Unit Transplantation or the ‘Strip Method’, where surgeons cut a long thin strip at the rear of the scalp, which then requires stitches or staples to close the wound. The ‘strip’ of scalp cut out is then used to dissect individual follicle units in groups or ‘plugs’ of multiple hairs, which are then transplanted back into the balding areas of the scalp. Meanwhile, the incision must heal over weeks or months, and tends to leave a scar across the back of the scalp. Many report extensive and lingering pain or numbness after the procedure. (And women think WE endure hair care pain to look good! Not even in the same league, I’d say…)

There are now new methods using Follicular Unit Extraction, where the follicles are transplanted one by one without removing a strip of scalp. This approach is less invasive as it doesn’t require cutting, stitching or blatant scarring. Follicles are selected from what is called the donor area at the rear of your scalp, as this area is not usually subject to male pattern baldness. The donor follicles are strategically extracted to leave the hair pattern looking natural, and are likewise strategically placed where you want new growth. Doctors assess your hair type, personal goals and personal characteristics to design a new, natural hairline and add density to thinning areas one follicle at a time. Recovery takes only a few days while the follicle extraction spots heal.

The transplanted hair fills in on your scalp during the next few months as natural growth takes over. Most people find that consistent growth kicks in around three months after the transplant, and by months 6 – 9 you have near-full regrowth. Every person responds differently to the treatment, but before a year is out you can cut, style and even color your hair as you desire. You’ll tend to look younger, so it’s recommended you keep up a healthy regime of exercise and nutritious eating during the transplant and subsequent growth process.

Unless you tend toward keloids- the build-up of scar tissue on burns or wounds, have hair loss over your whole head, or lack donor hair follicles, you should be a candidate for this less invasive type of hair transplant. Be sure to explore your options, costs and expected outcomes with a professional before taking action.

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