Our hair can say a lot about us. Unfortunately, for many people, hair loss is a growing issue (pun intended!)and the search is on for non-surgical hair loss solutions. According to the American Hair Loss Association, 85% of men and 40% of women report significant hair loss by age 50. Younger people are affected too. While male pattern baldness is most common among older men, roughly 25% of younger men recall seeing signs of hair loss before the age of 21. When it’s this common, is it any surprise that men and women in the US spend more than $3.5 billion each year to treat hair loss?
The average person loses 100 strands of hair a day, which is natural and unnoticeable because new hairs are constantly growing to replace the ones that have fallen out.
True hair loss occurs when the hair growth cycle is disrupted or when a hair follicle is destroyed or shrunken. There are a variety of reasons why someone might start to experience thinning hair. Some hair loss is temporary and can be due to stress, hormonal changes, or poor diet. Other hair loss can be permanent and might be due to environmental factors, health conditions, or heredity. Since there are so many causes of hair loss and thinning, there is no one cure-all. But as hair loss rates rise, there is more research, which leads to more solutions, and hair restoration doesn’t necessarily mean you need surgery. Here are five ways to promote hair growth without going under the knife.
The most effective and proactive non-surgical technique for hair restoration is Platelet-Rich Plasma, also known as PRP. PRP is made from the platelets in a patient’s own blood and, when reinjected into the scalp, can stimulate hair follicles to promote hair growth. “When injected into the scalp, PRP acts like fertilizer for the hair, allowing to grow stronger and thicker,” explains Beverly Hills dermatologic surgeon Jason Emer, MD.
Since PRP requires the patient’s blood, it is more invasive than other non-surgical hair loss treatments. The doctor draws out a small amount of blood from the patient’s arm and processes the blood in a centrifuge, a machine which spins the blood at a high speed, to separate the red blood cells from the plasma. In doing this, only the enriched growth factors remain in the plasma. PRP is then carefully injected along the scalp into the thinning areas. Overall, the process takes about half an hour to complete, although it depends on how large the treated areas are. “PRP can only be used on the patient it is harvest from,” says Dr. Emer, which means that the blood extraction process is necessary for each session.
PRP is only for the committed. Sessions cost between $300-$900 each, and “this treatment is done monthly for six months, then every other month forever,” says Dr. Emer. “It works well when you are just starting to thin, so do this as prevention or early enough to regain what you might have lost.” Typically, the first results patients see is decreased shedding followed by hair regrowth.
Low-Level Light Therapy
Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT) has been around for about a decade but has not reached the buzz of PRP or the name recognition of Rogaine or Propecia. Also called low-level laser therapy, treatments like iGrow and iRestore are available to consumers in the form of helmets. LLLT can be a good option for those looking for at-home treatments or more flexibility for their schedules.
The helmet uses LED lights which create cellular energy known as ATP. The outer layer of skin absorbs the ATP, which promotes hair follicle growth, in a similar way to how plants use light to grow. Like PRP’s ongoing maintenance, LLLT requires users to wear the helmet every other day for four to six months and every two weeks after that for maintenance. LLLT helmets range from about $400-$600.
While LLLT is a great option for those not looking to invest as much as PRP, it is not for everyone. LLT therapy’s efficacy for hair loss is widely debated and some people do not see results from it. Before making the initial investment in a LLLT helmet, consult a specialist or your primary care physician to determine if it could be the right option for you.
Topical solutions are the easiest and most non-invasive way to tackle hair loss. There are two types, prescription and over-the-counter, and both come in several different formats like shampoo, spray, or foam. Regardless of the format, most products take a few months of routine application before obtaining visible results.
Particularly in hereditary hair loss, follicles become sensitive to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a byproduct of the hormone testosterone, which causes them to shrivel and stop producing hair. Topical solutions, both prescription and over-the-counter, are anti-androgenetic, which means they work to block testosterone and DHT. When looking for DHT blocking ingredients in topical products, look for ketoconazole, salicylic acid, pyrithione zinc, and saw palmetto extract to ensure efficacy. Over the counter shampoos often also contain amino acids and antioxidants, which promote healthy hair growth and reduce damage. Natural ingredients like biotin, niacin, pumpkin seed oil, or rosemary oil can also be effective in topical solutions for hair growth.
Rogaine is one of the industry standard topical hair loss treatments and uses a DHT-blocking chemical called Minoxidil. It is clinically proven specifically on male-pattern hair loss and can be used by both men and women to maintain hair and stimulate hair growth. Minoxidil revives and increases the size of hair follicles have shrunk due to heredity hair loss and lengthens the hair’s natural growth cycle for thicker and longer hair.
Since topical solutions are generally chemical-based, some people have reported side effects and limited research has been done on the effects of hair regrowth medication on pregnancy and nursing, so it is advised to proceed with caution. Always consult your doctor before using any chemical-based hair products.
Like most other non-surgical hair loss treatments, topical solutions must be used on a regular basis, usually one to two times a day depending on the product. Unfortunately, if you stop applying the topical solution, you will revert back to your natural hair loss pattern. This holds true for most non-surgical treatments. While there are many solutions to help slow down hair loss or alter hair growth, there is currently no solution to completely reverse the hair’s natural course.
It should come as no surprise that your diet can play a huge role in hair health. A balanced diet can help hair grow faster, decrease hair fallout, and give hair a beautiful, healthy shine. It is important to consume essential fatty acids, like omega 3’s, omega 6’s, and protein. While most Americans consume nearly 10 times the amount of omega 6’s they need to, they tend to eat less omega 3’s than suggested. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in foods like flaxseed, walnuts, almonds, edamame, black beans, kidney beans, and most cold water fish.
Since hair is made of protein, it is critical for hair production. People who have eliminated protein from their diets have reported higher rates of shedding and hair loss, but with increased protein intake, these same people can stop shedding in its tracks. Additionally, certain vitamins and trace minerals, like B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, folic acid, biotin, iron, and magnesium, that are naturally found in food have been shown to promote hair growth.
In addition to the vitamins and minerals you want to include in your diet, there are dietary supplements available as well. Before you invest in a bottle, it is important to identify whether you are looking to support hair growth or prevent hair loss. Like diet, supplements are not going to reverse the damage that has been done. In other words, if you already have a receding hairline or bald spots, vitamins are not going to correct it but could be beneficial when paired with a pharmaceutical treatment or procedure like PPR.
Depending on preference, you can opt for supplements of a specific ingredient, like Biotin, or you can choose a multi-vitamin with a mixture of vitamins and minerals. There are several supplements on the market that specifically support healthy hair growth, like NutraFol. Just keep in mind that supplements should not replace diet and there has been mixed scientific evidence. Speaking with your primary care physician can help you identify which supplements might be right for you.
Precautionary Hair Care
In addition to more targeted measures, one can also take general precautions to assist hair growth and to not cause further hair loss:
- Lightly brush or comb hair from the roots to the end. Brushing knots at the bottom of the hair can unintentionally tug hair out.
- Only brush or comb hair when it is dry. Wet hair is more fragile and can be damaged when brushing.
- Avoid heat styling or hot tools like hair straighteners, curling irons, or hot rollers to keep hair hydrated and healthy.
- Use a silk pillowcase instead of a cotton one to reduce friction and split ends during the night.
- Avoid tight hairstyles like high ponytails, buns, or French braids.
- Visit your hairstylist for regular trims to get rid of split ends.
- Use a shampoo specifically designed for thinning hair to effectively cleanse the scalp, maintain volume and promote hair retention.
- Hydrate hair with deep conditioners or natural oils like coconut oil, olive oil, or castor oil.
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