Here’s what to know about this increasingly popular new treatment.
Going bald may seem to be a fact of life for many men and women as they age, but there are new treatments that could make a difference.
While there have been some longtime recommended treatments for hereditary hair loss like Rogaine and Propecia, there haven’t been any major breakthroughs in recent years.
Now more dermatologists are offering a new type of procedure that uses a person’s own blood.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is used to accelerate healing in a wide range of applications, from dentistry to orthopedics.
A well-known use is in “vampire facials,” but it’s also the next big thing in treating hair loss.
Research on the therapy remains in the early stages, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved it yet for hair loss. But many dermatologists say they think the treatment can be beneficial.
PRP therapy involves drawing a person’s own blood and putting it into a centrifuge that separates red blood cells from the plasma. The plasma, which contains growth factors, is then injected back into the person.
When PRP therapy is used for hair loss treatment, the plasma is injected into the person’s hair follicles. It involves only minimal discomfort and can take about 10 minutes.
After the first treatment, people have injections monthly for three months, then once every three to six months. Within a few months of treatment, they can notice less hair loss. Soon after, they may experience an increase in thickness or regrowth.
Insurance doesn’t cover the procedure, which can cost around $1,000 per treatment, according to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist based in New York City.
PRP therapy is cleared by the FDA for use in orthopedics, but it’s considered off-label for skin and hair procedures, says Dr. Amelia K. Hausauer, a California-based dermatologist who’s published research on PRP therapy for hair loss.
The devices that separate cells from plasma are FDA-approved, notes Dr. Neil Sadick, a dermatologist from New York City.
Studies have found that people with hereditary hair loss or male or female pattern baldness can potentially curb or even regrow some hair after PRP injections.
Other small studies have shown the procedure has had high success rates in people with certain types of hair loss, namely those who experience baldness or hereditary hair thinning.
This doesn’t mean that if you’re almost completely bald you should try PRP therapy.
The ideal candidates for PRP therapy are people who have hair that’s present but thinning, Zeichner says.
“PRP is best for people who have mild to moderate hair thinning,” he said. “It won’t regrow a full head of hair if you’re already bald.”
Sadick says that both men and women respond well to the treatment, particularly those with genetic hair loss by the temples or crown.
PRP therapy has worked well for the most common type of hair loss, which is known as androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness. But dermatologists are also examining if it can be used for other types of baldness, including autoimmune-induced hair loss.
Hausauer says she’s had success using PRP therapy for the autoimmune-induced form of hair loss called alopecia areata.
PRP therapy may also work for traction alopecia. That’s hair loss caused by a regular pulling force on the hair.
“If the hair loss started less than five years ago, the chance for remarkable regrowth goes up, but even those with long-standing or advanced alopecia who haven’t responded to other therapies can do well with PRP,” she said.
Zeichner says PRP therapy isn’t a “perfect or permanent solution,” but it can help.
“I explain to people that this treatment is like fertilizer for your hair follicles to help small or lazy hair grow to the best of its ability,” he said. “I don’t find that it grows hair in areas where you haven’t grown it already, just as fertilizer won’t grow grass if there aren’t any seeds.”
“PRP requires maintenance treatment, and it’s extremely safe and natural because it uses your own blood,” Zeichner said.
Hausauer says even people with a fear of needles don’t need to fear the pain of the procedure.
“People are surprised by how painless and simple the treatment really is,” she said. “We use acupuncture-sized needles, so the average pain score is a 2 on a 0-to-10 scale.”
She adds that there’s virtually no downtime after the procedure.
“People can go back to work, travel, and work out with very little interruption, which makes it easy to fit into any lifestyle,” Hausauer said. “It can produce dramatic results while restoring confidence.”