Hair loss isn’t something only men experience. Although it might not be discussed as much, up to half of the female population experiences hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia by the time they are 50-years-old, according to a 2003 study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings. Hair loss in women looks a bit different than it does in men. While many men are candidates for a hair transplant, not as many women are. If you are a woman who is concerned about hair loss or thinning hair, speaking with a hair restoration specialist can help you determine the cause of the hair loss and the best options for treating or coping with it.
Is a Hair Transplant for You?
Two things need to be true for a hair transplant to be the right procedure for a person. First, a person needs to have some amount of permanent hair loss, usually on the top of the scalp or near the hairline. Second, a person needs to have a fair amount of donor hair, or hair that is unlikely to fall out due to exposure to DHT, which is responsible for male and female pattern baldness.
Some women do have hair loss, but don’t have an adequate amount of donor hair because they are experiencing thinning all over their scalp. Hair loss related to menopause or to taking certain medications usually can’t be treated with a hair transplant, because the loss is diffuse. In some cases, women with hair loss don’t need a hair transplant because the hair loss is only temporary. For example, some women might lose their hair due to telogen effluvium, which usually happens when there’s a shock to the body or a major change. A severe illness, pregnancy or sudden weight loss can all trigger telogen effluvium. While the initial hair loss is upsetting, the good news is that it often grows back on its own.
Women who can benefit from hair restoration surgery include those who have female pattern baldness near the hairline and top of their heads (plus an adequate amount of donor hairs on the back or sides), women who have had facial plastic surgery and have hair loss around the incision sites, and women who have been burned or otherwise injured on the scalp, leading to areas of baldness.
During the Transplant
There are two types of hair restoration surgery commonly performed today: follicular unit grafting (FUG) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). During FUG, the surgeon removes all of the grafts in one long strip, making an incision in the scalp. The incision is then stitched up and the resulting scar can be hidden by the hair. FUE is performed using a pneumatic device that removes hair follicles individually. There’s no long incision or scar, but the process tends to take much longer, since the surgeon is essentially removing and transplanting the hair follicles one by one.
Usually, women are better candidates for follicular unit grafting. They wear their hair longer, so scarring isn’t as much of a concern. If you do wear your hair cropped close to the head, you might want to discuss whether FUG or FUE is more appropriate for you.
The procedure itself doesn’t take very long and most patients only receive a local anesthetic during it. The scalp is numb, so a patient doesn’t feel anything, but she’s also not asleep during the surgery. How long the process takes depends on how much hair the surgeon is harvesting and transplanting.
After the Transplant
If the hair a surgeon transplants isn’t affected by DHT, the results from the surgery will be permanent. It is possible for a woman to continue to lose hair, though, so some women may consider another transplant in the future.
It’s important to know that the results from a hair transplant aren’t immediately visible. You’ll shed the newly transplanted hair after a few days, and it can take as long as 10 months for the new hair to grow in. Depending on how you style your hair and how long it is, it can be quite a while before you have the head of hair you had longed for.
What if a hair restoration surgeon determines that you’re not a good candidate for a hair transplant? You still have options, beyond wearing a hat or scarf all of the time. One option is to try minoxidil, a medication that can encourage new hair growth. You’ll need to apply the product twice a day and if you stop using it, you’ll stop seeing results. You can also try using a cosmetic product that camouflages the hair loss. If the hair loss is due to a dietary issue, illness or pregnancy, sometimes your best option is simply to wait and to improve your diet.
Dr. Kyle Choe is a hair restoration specialist practicing in the Virginia Beach area. He can help you determine the cause of your hair loss and let you know what the best option is for handling it. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Choe, call (757) 389-5850 today.