SURGICAL HAIR REPLACEMENT: Follicular Unit Micrografting
While hair transplants have been around since the mid-1950’s, the process used today is radically different than the original hair plugs. There have been many advances in Hair Restoration solutions.
Hair grows out from openings in the scalp usually in groups of 1 to 4 hairs. These hair groups are known as follicular units. When harvested from the back of the scalp (“donor area”), either from the removal of a “strip” (FUT or follicular unit transplant) or “punched out” (FUE or follicular unit extraction), the resultant “micrografts” contain a follicular unit consisting of 1 to 4 hairs.
Single hair grafts are used to create a natural hairline, replace sideburns or enhance eyebrows or eyelashes or treat scars. The 2 to 4 hair grafts are placed in areas where density is a priority.
After the thinned or balding (recipient) areas are injected with a local anesthetic, micro-incisions are made with tiny needles. The micro-grafts are inserted in numbers that average between a few hundred for eyebrows to several thousand for a complete Norwood 7 bald scalp.
The transplanted hairs are shed over several weeks and start to re-grow after two to five months. These hairs appear very natural and are indistinguishable from any neighboring hairs that were there previously.
While we try to limit the number of sessions required to replenish hair volume, often more than one session is required to achieve desired hair density or to replace future thinning.
MEDICAL HAIR REPLACEMENT
There are only two approved medical methods of improving scalp hair density.
MINOXIDIL (both Rogaine® and it’s generic equivalent). The way this product which is applied to the scalp twice daily in liquid form works is still not completely understood. It seems to strengthen follicles and extend their growth cycle so you tend to have more hairs present on the scalp (because of less shedding) and better quality hairs.
PROPECIA (No generic available now). This tablet taken by mouth once daily is an anti-androgen. It blocks a percentage of di-hydrotestosterone—“DHT”—a male hormone that is responsible for the development of genetic baldness.
FUTURE TREATMENTS ARE UNDER INVESTIGATION
Cloning efforts so far have been disappointing. Any hair follicles that have been reproduced have been too undersized to be of value.
Newer studies involve finding ways of blocking the destruct mechanism within the growth center of the hair follicle. Like minoxidil and Propecia®, this kind of hair restoration therapy will probably only help individuals who have hair, to either slow down or stop their hair from falling out. For now and the immediate future, getting hair to grow on a bald scalp is only possible by having a hair transplant.
OTHER METHODS OF HAIR RESTORATION
Hairpieces and/or creative hair styling is an option, but that is something beyond the scope of this discussion and is not truly Hair Restoration.
Hair laser treatments have been heavily promoted over the past few years, but there is no real clinical evidence that they really work.
I strongly suggest that you ignore non-approved products that promise hair growth. You should consider consulting with a dermatologist before wasting your time and money.