Both men and women may experience hair loss in their lifetime. With an average of 100,000 hair follicles on our head, it’s entirely normal for hair to fall out and grow back in stages.
But genetics, diet, drugs, chemotherapy, and even stress all can contribute to excessive hair loss or a thinning of the hair, characterized by a reduction in the number of hair follicles. The number of hair follicles shrink with male and female pattern baldness, (androgenic alopecia) producing shorter, finer strands of hair which eventually stop growing entirely.
Hair loss can also be caused by an autoimmune disease, alopecia areata (AA). In this case, your immune system attacks the hair follicles resulting in hair loss.
There are more than six million people suffering from alopecia universalis, where the hair falls out over the entire body. Altogether, about 50 million men and 30 million women are suffering from some form of hair loss.
Blood and Hair Loss -What is the Connection?
What does blood have to do with regrowing hair?
It may sound strange but for about 40 years, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has been used as a treatment for various ailments such as healing ligaments, muscles, and injured tendons. PRP has been injected into the face as an anti-aging protocol, part of microneedling where it’s known as vampire therapy.
And there have been promising results noted with PRP as a treatment for male or female pattern baldness.
For those going bald who reject medications such as Rogaine and Propecia, and their side effects, or are not willing to undergo a hair transplant, PRP therapy may be a viable option in your search for a full head of hair.
How Does it Work?
The mechanisms of healing are not quite understood, but in our bodies, blood platelets promote cell growth. They present a growth factor that heals and helps regeneration.
PRP involves three steps in treating hair loss. First, blood is drawn from the intended recipient. It is then processed in a centrifuge separating the blood into three layers – platelet-poor plasma, platelet-rich plasma, and red blood cells. It is the platelet-rich, concentrated platelets, more than normal blood, that are injected into areas deep in the scalp at the base of the hair follicle. The injection is thought to stimulate cells known as dermal papilla cells, that drive hair growth.
PRP requires three treatments delivered from four to six weeks apart. This can continue for four to six months as a way to maintain the results. Results should be seen within two or three months.
The theory is that PRP may increase the blood supply to the hair follicle resulting in an increased number of new hair follicles. Not only does more hair result, but also the thickness of the hair shaft has been noted.
More study is needed to fully understand the mechanism of what makes PRP therapy effective.
Studies on PRP and Hair Loss So Far
In one study, there was a reduction in male pattern baldness. However, this published study only had 11 participants. The results need to be replicated.
In another published report based on a study out of Italy in 2015, 20 patients exhibited improvement in the average number of hairs in a target area and an increase in total hair density.
A team in 2019 published in the journal Aesthetic Plastic Surgery compiling the results of almost one dozen studies included 262 patients who had androgenetic alopecia. Most of the studies found PRP injections reduced hair loss as well as increased the diameter of the hairs.
So far, the evidence points to effectiveness for androgenetic alopecia or hormone-related baldness in both men and women. There is less evidence for its effectiveness in treating stress-related hair loss or thinning hair with an autoimmune cause.
Little Downside to PRP Therapy
Because there is nothing implanted in the body and because the blood is bio-identical, there is little risk for rejection or for transmitting a communicable disease.
The risks of any injection include infection, injury to nerves or blood vessels, calcification at the injection point or the creation of scar tissue. Anesthesia used in therapy always contains some risk.
As part of your therapy, stress management may help reduce future hair loss including exercise, meditation, and hobbies. Finally, PRP therapy can be employed as part of a multifaceted program that may include medications such as Rogaine foam or Evolis, an over-the-counter medication.