For more than half of the human population, there’s no way around it – hair loss is simply going to happen at some point. It’s not a question of if, but when. However, there are now numerous products, medications, treatments, and techniques employed by specialists in the field to slow the rate of hair loss and even restore lost hair with advanced procedures.
While hair transplantation methods like strip surgery and FUE are getting a lot of attention in the 21st century, there is a new type of treatment in town: platelet-rich plasma, or PRP. For the uninitiated, PRP seems out of left field, drawing on dubious methods that might turn off some people who prefer to stick with the more wholesome, all-natural side of things.
On the other hand, many doctors swear by PRP as the latest and greatest advancement in hair restoration technology in a long time, with plenty of happy patients to back them up.
How does this treatment work, what pros and cons need to be weighed, and what can patients expect in terms of results? Since it sounds like PRP is here to stay, it’s deserving of a closer look.
As the name suggests, PRP focuses on the use of plasma and platelets, which are components that comprise blood in mammals and humans. While red blood cells are tasked with transporting nutrients and oxygen to the body’s vital organs and muscles, white blood cells and plasma are responsible for defending our system against things like disease and responding quickly when we experience trauma like cuts or bruises.
In the early 1980s, doctors began to recognize that plasma had particular properties that allowed people to heal quicker and improve the quality of the recovery in areas that were typically slow to bounce back.
Tendon injuries, for example, are notorious for their long and arduous recovery times and a high likelihood of repeat occurrence. When doctors began administering PRP injections, people with problems such as tennis elbow or Achilles tendonitis found it easier to recover in a more reasonable timeline.
Athletes report successful recoveries from acute injuries with the help of PRP treatments in areas such as pulled hamstrings, ankle sprains, shoulder dislocation, and other problems. It’s now fairly common to hear about top-performers receiving PRP to get back in the game.
As far as hair loss goes, PRP has shown promise in treating androgenetic alopecia, the primary condition thought to be the reason for male pattern baldness. While this is still a relatively new finding in hair restoration science, more clinics are offering the treatment, and clients around the world are jumping at the opportunity to try it out.
On paper, PRP treatment sounds like a great idea for addressing hair loss, now that we know the powerful properties of plasma and its effectiveness in treating injuries. But do we have concrete evidence that this approach actually helps the growth of quality hair on the scalp?
While there has not yet been a definitive conclusion on PRP’s impact, support is piling up in its favor. Articles and studies from dozens of medical journals over the past decade show that PRP treatment does indeed positively affect the health and growth of scalp hair, even in cases of advanced male pattern balding.
The most recent and relevant study appeared in the journal Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in 2019. In this analysis, researchers synthesized the findings of 11 different papers covering the journeys of over 250 patients with androgenetic alopecia. The researchers concluded that PRP injections reduced the rate of hair loss, increased the diameter of individual hairs, and boosted the overall density of hair growth in key areas of the scalp such as the vertex, hairline, and temples.
Another review of a similar nature, this time in the journal Dermatologic Surgery, compiled findings from 19 different studies on the subject of PRP for hair loss. These studies included more than 450 people with varying types of hair loss – not just androgenetic alopecia.
The key discovery here was that PRP treatments promoted hair growth in patients with alopecia areata, a condition that has stumped hair loss experts for years due to its unpredictable patterns and lack of foundational research. Another review of studies from the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology found that PRP was “promising” for treating hair loss and thinning in women.
In the world of clinical trials, however, this is still considered a somewhat small sample size, and the big picture is still not complete from the perspective of many professionals in the field.
A lot of pushback on PRP from the medical community stems from the fact that there is still no standardized protocol for injections. While there is somewhat of a consensus on how the treatment should be performed, it is not 100% agreed upon and there are many variables at play, making it a subject of controversy in some circles.
However, there is a general pattern that most doctors follow when administering PRP treatment, and the variations would be imperceptible to the average patient on the receiving end.
The procedure begins with a physician drawing blood from a vein in the arm of the patient, which should not be an unfamiliar feeling for most people.
Medical professionals will then place the sample in a centrifuge, which will spin rapidly to separate the blood into its components. Leaving most of the blood behind, the technician will target and extract the desired platelet-rich plasma from the sample, drawing it up into a syringe ready for injection.
The medical team may provide some local anesthetic to the patient to reduce discomfort prior to the injection. As the PRP material is injected into the scalp, doctors may focus on one particular area or evenly distribute it across the entire scalp, based on the game plan.
The average PRP treatment session takes about an hour, and patients are typically in and out of the clinic fairly quickly if they space out sessions across many months.
PRP is different from procedures like hair transplants in a few key ways. Hair transplants like FUT and FUE are considered invasive surgeries that require the physical removal and implantation of hair grafts from the back of the head to the scalp.
These types of procedures take quite a toll on the body and require several days of pure recovery time for the system to heal the many small wounds across the head. If a client wants to undergo repeat procedures to maximize coverage on the scalp and leverage the most donor hair possible, they will need to space out procedures over several years to accomplish their ideal look.
PRP, on the other hand, is a fairly simple and pain-free process that builds up gradually over the course of several months and does not require bandages, time off work, restriction of physical activity, or any other heavy demands from hair transplantation.
Is PRP starting to sound pretty good? There are still some things to keep in mind for those considering the treatment.
Firstly, PRP is not going to provide instantaneous results, and this is not a one-and-done deal. In fact, the initial PRP treatment will likely not be noticeable for several weeks, and then several more sessions are recommended to maximize results.
PRP is significantly more convenient than a hair transplant, but it is not free of side effects or physical discomforts. People report aches and pains in the target area, and there have been instances of nerve injuries or infections for those who go with less qualified medical professionals.
Finally, PRP is not cheap, or at least it shouldn’t be. Newcomers can expect to pay anywhere from $1500 to $2500 for three PRP sessions over several months, and it’s more than likely that ongoing treatment is necessary for continued results. Ultimately, a hair transplant may have better results for the same money as the PRP.
Like any high-level treatment or surgery, it’s vitally important that clients communicate with medical professionals about all the considerations going into something like PRP.
Speaking of professionals, finding the right clinic and doctors to perform PRP is crucial, especially since this treatment is still not widely adopted or understood by the medical community.
Clients should look for clinics that have been doing PRP for many years and have a strong track record of success and many patient testimonials affirming things like professionalism, consistency, transparency, and other key factors.
It’s also important to go to a doctor that specializes in all types of hair restoration – not just PRP. These professionals will have a more informed opinion about treating hair loss from every angle and recommend a complete game plan that will be hugely valuable down the road.
Still, you have so many questions about the PRP process: Will it hurt? What kind of results can I expect? Are my expectations realistic? PRP for hair loss is not a common topic of discussion. So, who do you turn to?
A successful hair restoration plan starts with a consultation with an expert who truly wants to understand your personal goals. Dr. Jae Pak of Jae Pak, M.D. is a board-certified physician and a hair transplant artist with 15 years experience. With a complementary background in engineering, Dr. Pak uses precision-like skill to bring his patients a natural and balanced hair line they can be proud of. He has dedicated his career to helping his patients restore and maintain a natural-looking head of hair, whether through PRP, hair transplants, or other cutting-edge processes.
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Pak today and discover what hair transplants can do for you.
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