When most people first experience hair loss which could occur as early as one’s twenties, the routine reaction is to try over-the-counter solutions such as shampoos, gels, lotions, potions and other topical and oral solutions. As hair loss progresses, some people, particularly men, opt for hair pieces, wigs and hair systems which is now a declining trend and shrinking market. Men in the present generation simply do not prefer an artificial solution that looks like a toupee and one that requires ongoing maintenance and visits.
Recently, non-surgical solutions have emerged including, but not limited to, Scalp Micropigmentation (SMP) which involves filling the thinning and balding areas with a pigment that matches your hair color. It requires two or three treatments and lasts about five years following which a re-touching procedure is necessary. This procedure is ideal for those who like to shave their hair thin. It enables them to disguise the bald and thinning spots.
Another solution is called MicroPoint which involves attaching strands of artificial hair to existing hair using a knot and locking them into place. However, since these strands fall off with hair due to natural attrition, the individual comes in every four to six weeks for additional strands much like getting a periodic hair cut. The positive element of this procedure is that there is no glue, no wigs, no hair pieces hair systems to purchase or maintain.
Over-the-counter and prescription topical and oral solutions such as Rogaine, Propecia and Minoxidil may help preserve existing hair but are not proven to consistently re-grow a meaningful amount of hair. These can be best utilized in tandem with hair transplantation.
Hair transplantation is generally the final step in the pursuit of a hair loss solution or treatment. A hair transplant procedure involves taking existing hair from the back and sides of the head (donor site) and transplanting this hair to the thinning and balding areas (recipient site). The hair in the donor site is genetically different from the hair in the recipient site and is resistant to DHT, the hormone that produces testosterone. On the other hand, the hair in the recipient sites is sensitive to DHT which is why it falls off. Among men who suffer from male pattern baldness, DHT levels tend to be higher than normal.
A hair transplant procedure is generally performed by a physician or surgeon with a surgical background and training. The conventional strip procedure, known as Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), entails taking a strip of hair from the donor site and dissecting the strip into individual grafts (micro grafts) containing one to three hair follicles and mini grafts which contain three to five hair follicles. These grafts are then implanted into the recipient site. There is a linear scar at the donor site that is only visible if one looks underneath the hair that covers it.
The more contemporary and increasing popular procedure known as Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) involves taking micro grafts and mini grafts from the donor site and implanting them directly into the recipient site. There is no linear scar in the donor site but there is some scarring and thinning in the donor area.
While some people are fearful of surgery, hair transplantation is the only permanent and natural solution to hair loss. Apart from a follow-up visit or two, there is NO ongoing maintenance and no long-term visits. For those who want to preserve their existing, non-transplanted hair, the hair transplant surgeon can prescribe Rogaine or Propecia to preserve existing hair.
Recent advances in hair transplant technology have resulted in newer and more advanced options for hair restoration surgery including, stem cell hair restoration and combination procedures that combine FUE with SMP or other combinations including Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), laser hair therapy and others.
Ultimately, the choice between a surgical solution for hair restoration and non-surgical treatments is yours. A consultation with a hair transplant surgeon could help tremendously. The decision depends upon your desire for a one-time, natural, permanent solution which is a hair transplant or a non-surgical, non-invasive solution that requires repeat visits and follow-up. A hair transplant may cost more on a one-time basis but may be more cost-effective long-term.