Losing your hair can do serious damage to your self-esteem. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there now to help you fight balding. The procedure of choice for hair transplants is still "the strip method," or follicular unit grafting. This is when a doctor surgically removes a strip of hair from the back of your head, dissects every hair graft under a microscope, and then plants the individual grafts onto hair-thin areas of your scalp with tiny incisions.
"If you're considering a hair transplant, it's important that you choose a doctor who focuses specifically on the technique by treating at least 50 patients a year, and who has experience with all different ethnicities and hair types," says Yael Halaas, M.D., FACS, of the Foundation for Hair Restoration & Plastic Surgery in New York City. "An experienced doctor can help minimize scarring and create a more natural hairline." If you're still nervous about getting a strip-method hair transplant, Dr. Halaas offers four more high-tech options to battle balding.
Option 1) Scar-less Hair Transplants
How it works: "Men, particularly younger men, are often nervous about having a hair transplant because they don't want a scar in the back of their heads in case they ever want to wear it short," says Dr. Halaas. Compared to the "strip method," follicular unit extraction (FUE) avoids a scar because grafts are harvested one at a time with tiny punches that heal virtually undetected so you can still buzz your head. "There are two ways of harvesting grafts: manually by the doctor, and automatically by a machine that speeds up the incision-making process but might be less accurate," says Dr. Halaas. "It takes longer to graft individual hairs and costs more, but it reduces healing time with an 80 percent re-growth rate." That's comparable to the results seen with the strip method, where re-growth rates are about 90 percent.
The Cost: It depends on how many grafts you have taken, but each graft is around $7 and the average procedure is between 1600 and 2200 grafts.
Option 2) Cell Therapy
How it works: Called platelet rich plasma (PRP), the technique is just starting to be used for hair restoration even though it has been used for years in cardiology and plastic surgeries. A small amount of your blood is spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets and growth factor proteins that aid healing, and then added to your scalp. "It helps increase blood flow to the scalp and can reawaken dormant hairs to stop active hair loss," says Dr. Halaas. "When used with a hair transplant, it speeds the healing process and helps transplants grow in better."
The Cost: It runs around $1200 as a stand-alone treatment and $450 in combination with a hair transplant.
Option 3) Laser Light Therapy
How it works: "Laser light encourages the protein synthesis needed for hair regeneration, and also stimulates blood flow to the area for better growth," says Dr. Halaas. "Laser therapy is best for men who notice increased shedding and want to maintain the hair they have on their head, as well as have some re-growth." Studies show that 80 percent of people treated with lasers for hair loss have a decrease in shedding or complete stopping of hair loss, and 40 percent get thicker hair.
The cost: One session is $75, or one-year packages are $1900.
Oprion 4) OTC Drugs Such as Propecia
How it works: "Propecia can prevent hair loss, and has the added bonus of helping to keep prostate size down and preventing cancer," says Dr. Halaas. "Men can start taking it at a young age and can be on it fairly long-term. There is a two-percent risk of sexual problems, but that should go away the second you stop taking it." Also known as Finasteride, the drug works by blocking production of a male hormone in the scalp that stops hair growth. A five-year study found that 65 percent of men taking Propecia experienced a stopping of hair loss and even regrowth, while all men taking a placebo continued losing hair.
The Cost: You can get a 90-day supply online for $185 plus shipping.