Hair restoration treatments and technologies have come a long way since their beginnings. The oldest known topical prescription for baldness dates back to 1550 BC and involved regular application of a home mixture containing iron-oxide, onions, honey, alabaster, lead, and a combination of animal fats that included snake, crocodile, hippo, and lion fat among others. Its efficacy is undocumented, but it stands to reason that any topical containing lead should be avoided.
Today’s topicals and technologies are much more likely to afford better results in less time, though even today, not all hair restoration treatments are equal in efficacy and efficiency. Protocols, duration, and results among other factors can vary quite significantly between treatments and technologies, so which may offer the best outcomes for your patients? Here, we explore today’s most popular hair loss treatment options alongside those just starting to see more interest in 2019.
The first drug treatment approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for hair loss, minoxidil remains one of the most commonly used topical treatments for hair loss. Available over the counter, minoxidil-based shampoos and topicals are often the first step patients take to treat early hair loss and thinning. If used properly, minoxidil-based solutions can slow hair loss, but the details regarding whether they can stimulate new hair growth remains a little murky, particularly for older men and women.
Finasteride is another drug-based topical hair loss treatment that may be an effective solution for males. An oral medication, finasteride works by preventing testosterone from forming DHT, the androgen hormone that is most commonly the culprit behind decreased hair growth in hormone-sensitive follicles. Because it works on testosterone, finasteride is not an ideal option for female patients. Minoxidil, on the other hand, is suitable for men or women, but offers best results when combined with other hair restoration technologies.
It should be underscored that drug-based hair loss treatments are only effective if used properly and consistently. For this reason, drug-based treatment plans are best left to those with high patient compliance.
Most commonly used in facial treatments, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has recently been adapted as an effective hair restoration treatment.
PRP therapy utilizes the patient’s own blood plasma to stimulate cells. Blood contains two main components: red blood cells and plasma, which further breaks down into white blood cells and platelets. Platelets are the component rich in growth factors, which act as a sort of messenger to skin cells. In the case of PRP therapy for hair loss, these growth factors can kickstart dormant hair follicles, leading to new hair growth.
While PRP therapy may be used alone, one study has suggested that it can also help to improve the survivability of hair transplants following the initial procedure.
Still in its experimental stages, hair cloning theoretically offers an ideal way to stimulate dormant hair follicles and encourage regeneration. Essentially, healthy hair follicles are extracted and grown in a lab, sometimes with artificial skin. Once growth occurs, the hairs are extracted and recombined with living skin cells to create new active hair follicles. This offers a greater yield of transplants with fewer extractions. However, because the treatment is still being tested, its efficacy is still unclear, particularly regarding long-term results.
At present, several low-level laser or light devices have been approved for at-home hair restoration. Devices vary between power output and configuration, requiring consumers to commit to treatment intervals of as little as 90 seconds to as long as 25 minutes daily or multiple times a week at minimum. While some studies have shown noticeable increases in hair density with these treatment therapies, patients cannot reduce use or cut out therapies altogether once their aesthetic goals have been achieved. When treatments are not regularly administered, hair loss will resume.
For those with more advanced hair loss, medical interventions focus in on the transplantation of healthy hair follicles from areas where hair is thicker, like the back and sides of the head, to areas where hair is thinner, which is usually towards the top of the head. Today’s hair transplant treatments have evolved from earlier frontrunners, like the punched hair transplant surgery that was introduced in the late 1950s and became popular in the 1970s. This procedure extracted round grafts of 12–20 hair follicles and often resulted in significant scarring and less natural results. In comparison, today’s hair restoration treatments utilize smaller grafts for more natural results and greater physician control over extraction and placement.
Generally speaking, hair restoration procedures can divided into two classifications based on method: Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). Both methods utilize hair follicles that are extracted from the back and side of the head. In these areas, living tissues tend to be more resistant to DHT, an androgen that most commonly causes the thinning and inactivity of hair follicles, making the back and sides better donor sites. However, there are a couple of key differences between the two procedures.
Invasive FUT procedures use a scalpel to surgically excise a strip of hair from the back of the scalp. Next, the strip is dissected into smaller follicular units that are then implanted in the recipient areas of the scalp, where hair is thinning, using a needle. FUT can be an effective hair restoration treatment, but it is a rather invasive procedure that leaves a noticeable linear scar and causes increased patient discomfort during the post-treatment recovery period. For patients preferring shorter hairstyles, FUT is not an ideal solution.
In contrast, minimally invasive FUE procedures extract naturally-occurring groups of hair follicles directly using very small circular punches of less than one millimeter, rather than removing an entire strip from the scalp. Each group contains one to three hairs, on average. The grafts are then sorted by the number of hair follicles in each, making it easier to create a natural-looking and feathered appearance during implantation. Because follicles are extracted in smaller units, hair density in the donor site may be better maintained. This method is also more effective in implanting hairs at an angle that more accurately matches the patient’s natural hair growth. The FUE method leaves no linear scarring, ensures little to no discomfort for patients, and offers a more rapid recovery and healing time.
While the FUE method is more involved for practitioners, ergonomic enhancements and automation have brought improvements to the process. FUE devices such as NeoGraft® extract hair grafts with a single mechanical action, rotating the punch to gently free each hair graft from the surrounding tissue. The graft is then gently suctioned into the collection canister to be inserted using a dedicated implantation handpiece for the most natural-looking results. For providers, the NeoGraft® FUE-based system offers all the capabilities needed for optimal efficacy to help you earn patient trust, build loyalty, and strengthen your patient lifecycle.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of NeoGraft® for your aesthetics clinic? Download our new exclusive report, “How the New Era of Hair Restoration Technology Benefits Patients & Practitioners,” which covers the basics regarding industry demand for advanced hair restoration options, a detailed overview of the top treatments, and what sets NeoGraft® ahead of its competitors. Click the button below to download your free copy today.