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New year, new hair: A brief exploration of hair restoration techniques

a brief exploration of hair restoration techniques

The new year often brings the excitement of creating a new self and making changes to promote health, wellbeing and confidence. Yet, for those men and women who are experiencing thinning hair or hair loss, the idea of confidence might not be something that seems achievable. This is where hair restoration can help.

A relatively new option in the world of plastic surgery, hair restoration is a unique group of procedures developed to permanently restore hair in areas of loss. This field is quickly growing in popularity and boasts one of the highest patient satisfaction rates.

For those who are interested in hair restoration and the variety of options available, we are happy to help. We reached out to a leading expert in this category, Tim Neavin, MD, for his expert insight into the world of hair restoration for both men and women. Discover these exciting procedures and learn what to expect if you choose to undergo hair restoration.

The benefits of hair restoration

When examining the innate benefits of pursuing hair restoration, the most important is that it inspires a sense of confidence that may have been lost over the years.

"Hair loss and hairline recession are often felt to be an unwelcomed gift," said Neavin. "It is a sign of aging and can create an imbalance in the facial proportions of both men and women. Sure, some notable musicians like Seal and Pitbull or famous tennis star Andre Agassi can pull off the bald look, but for many men – and women – a full head of hair remains the preferable alternative."

Fortunately, there are several popular procedures that plastic surgeons can use for hair restoration.

One of the most common techniques is the follicular unit extraction (FUE) method. It removes individual hair follicles from the back of the scalp and then transplants those follicles to the area where there is thinning hair or hair loss, typically the top of the scalp. Another common option is the follicular unit transplant (FUT) method, where a strip of skin from the back of the scalp with hair follicles is surgically removed and transplanted to the area where there is thinning hair or hair loss, again, typically the top of the scalp.

You've likely noticed in male pattern baldness that the hair on the back of the scalp doesn't often fall out. It is resistant to the thinning and balding that occurs on the top of the scalp, which makes those hair follicles on the back of the head ideal donors for both methods.

A newer option is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which uses the regenerative properties of platelet-rich plasma from the blood to repair injured hair follicles. To do this, blood is drawn from the patient, and then the platelet-rich plasma is separated from the blood and reinjected into the damaged hair follicles.

"Most commonly, I perform follicular unit extraction in men and women for hairline restoration and eyebrow transplantation," said Neavin. "Less commonly, I will perform platelet-rich plasma in men and women, generally under 50, to improve hair density and thickness. PRP does not work quite as well on older patients because older patients don't just have injured follicles failing to produce hair; they have more dead follicles. While PRP can salvage injured follicles, it cannot reincarnate dead ones."

In addition to PRP, there are other procedure options that are less popular but still viable depending on what the patient needs.

"I'm partial to follicular unit extraction, but I think there is still a role for follicular unit transplantation, commonly referred to as the 'strip method,'" said Neavin. "It really depends on the patient's desire and the size of the transplant. Of course, FUE and FUT only refers to the method of harvesting, not site insertion or grafting, which is a more decisive step in generating realistic results."

The future of hair restoration

Hair restoration is a relatively new procedure, so there have not been many significant advances within the past few years. Yet, there is a great possibility of new technologies and innovations hitting the market, but not any time soon.

"There are no shortages of new potions and lotions, but nothing else exists that is as predictable and impactful as hair transplantation," said Neavin. "I am often asked when we will be able to cost effectively clone hair follicles in a lab to transplant. I am unaware that we are anywhere close to that feat."

Tips for patients considering hair restoration

If you are considering taking the plunge into the world of hair restoration, there are a few methods that you can employ to make sure that you are achieving your desired goals and maximizing your results.

Don't be intimidated to ask questions

Oftentimes, the hardest part of hair restoration is taking that first step to actually look into the procedure. Don't be afraid to ask your physician for a recommendation or start looking for the right doctor to help you achieve the results you want. Once you find a doctor, continue to ask questions!

"Patients should not feel intimidated to ask physicians questions about different harvest methods and experience of the team," said Neavin.

Find the right doctor

When searching for a doctor who can perform hair transplantation, it's important to find one that is compatible with you.

"The most important factors in my opinion are experience, trust and likeability," said Neavin. "Our FUE procedures from start to finish take often more than eight hours. It's a long day to spend with someone! Joking aside, patients should "click" with their provider. It will be about a year before hair is fully growing after a hair transplantation. Patients will inevitably have questions or concerns, so before you sign up with a doctor for this journey, it's a good idea to ask yourself, 'Is this doctor approachable and available?'"

Remember, this is a safe procedure

Many surgeries can come with certain levels of risk and complications, but hair implant procedures are considered to be low risk and safe.

"I have been doing hair transplantation for over a decade and it's wonderfully predictable and safe, with probably the highest patient satisfaction out of all of the procedures I perform," said Neavin.

Go in with realistic expectations

When considering hair transplantation, always keep your expectations level in reality, as resources may be limited.

"The limiting factor, of course, is the donor availability," said Neavin. "There are limited resources since the hair follicle we are transplanting will not grow back where it was harvested. So, for some or women with advanced hair loss and/or depleted donor availability from prior hair transplants, the best we can do is improve hair density without altering the hairline too much. But it's really a case-by-case basis. Thankfully, with experience, the anticipated results can be rather predictable, so realistic expectations are set from the initial consult."

Getting the head of hair you deserve

A new year often brings the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and make changes for the better to inspire health and confidence. However, if you are someone who is experiencing hair loss or thinning hair, this is often a difficult feat. Fortunately, achieving the fuller, healthier hair of your dreams can be within reach with hair restoration procedures.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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