mhn news & blog

December 05, 2011

Are hair transplants an option for women suffering from thinning hair?

Mars vs. Venus Hair Loss

Men suffering from male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) typically lose hair from the front and top of their head. Women usually retain their frontal hair line and have diffuse hair loss, or thinning over the entire scalp. This means most women with hair loss do not have enough healthy hair follicles to transplant elsewhere.

Surgeons need “donor hair areas” to perform transplants. These are areas where the hair has remained stable. Because most men retain healthy hair on the sides and back of their scalp, doctors have plenty of donor hair to transplant in bald areas.

Since a majority of women lose hair diffusely, there are no stable donor areas to harvest healthy strands from. Moving hair from one thinning area to another produces no increase in volume, which is what women hope for, and affected hair will eventually fall out anyway.

“Who” To Blame

The culprit in both male and female pattern baldness is dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. Though DHT sounds like an insecticide, it is a hormone that destroys hair follicles. DHT affects hair in three ways:

1.  DHT keeps follicles from absorbing protein, vitamins, and minerals from the blood stream.

2.  DHT shrivels hair follicles, called miniaturization, so your hair becomes increasingly fine and finally falls out.

3.  DHT creates a waxy buildup around your hair roots preventing hair growth.

Not every woman of the millions who suffer from hair loss is a candidate. In fact only 2% to 5% are can actually benefit from a hair transplant. Underlying conditions, including anemia, vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems, that are temporary, treatable or affect the scalp rather than the hair, must be dealt with before a transplant can be considered. If a transplant is ruled out, sufferers must rely on non surgical hair replacements, wigs, hair extensions or styling tricks.

Transplant surgeons caution women that their results may not appear as dramatic as with men. That is because adding hair to an area of loss is not as noticeable as restoring a frontal hairline or a crown on a man. (Again very unfair) Hair transplants, though, don't do much to increase volume. Hair transplants just moves hair from one place to another.   Expense is another factor. Hair transplant surgery can cost from $5500 to $15,000.


Types of Hair Loss Appropriate for Hair Transplant

1.  Women who have had plastic or cosmetic surgery and want to make sure the incision does not show.

2.  Women who, like men, have a distinct pattern of baldness with a receding hairline and hair loss on the crow.

3.  Women who have traction alopecia. This type of hair loss is due to constant traction, or pulling on the scalp. It usually occurs with certain hairstyles such as cornrows, or a ponytail.

4.  Women who have lost hair because of trauma such as fire or chemical burns, or scarring from accidents.

A Few Words of Transplant Wisdom

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) cautions women to find a qualified, experienced transplant team. Hair Transplants involve the painstaking harvest of one to four hairs at a time, and skillfully replanting them where needed. Only well trained surgeons know how to graft hair at the same angle as the surrounding healthy ones, which allows new hair growth to look natural.

If a hair transplant is not an option for you, doctors suggest finding a topnotch non surgical hair replacement specialist that is up to date in the latest technology available to women with thinning hair.  You may also consider keeping your hair shorter than shoulder length, changing where you part your hair, or use hair color which swells hair shafts to provide movement and volume. (Check with your dermatologist before using harsh chemicals on your hair and scalp.)  Finally, treatments such as: Low Level Laser Therapy or Minoxidil can help you preserve the hair you have.  Keeping the hair you have and slowing down any further hair loss should always remain your first priority.