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PRP Injections for Hair Loss: A Comprehensive Guide
Hair loss is a common problem that many people face. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, age, and lifestyle choices. There are many treatments available for hair loss, but one of the most popular is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. A platelet rich plasma injection procedure involves a medical professional using a patient’s own blood to create a regenerative fluid that can be injected back into a patient’s body to promote healing. When PRP is injected into a patient’s scalp, it can even directly affect hair follicles to stimulate hair regrowth! In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about PRP for hair loss!
What is Platelet Rich Plasma?
Platelet rich plasma is made by taking blood from someone and then separating the platelets from the other blood cells including red blood cells and white blood cells. The platelets are separated from the whole blood with a machine called a centrifuge – and are then are added into plasma, which is a fluid in blood that helps transport cells throughout the body. The resulting mixture has a much higher platelet concentration than normal blood – which is why it is called, “platelet rich plasma.”
There are a variety of medical devices used to produce PRP and each one requires a slightly different process. These PRP devices vary based on how the clinicians will perform the blood draw, to how the patient’s blood is spun in a centrifuge. Medical providers will also use different techniques in their hair restoration procedures, including how they administer PRP into the scalp. The technique used by wellness professionals, as well as the PRP devices they use, will all impact the effectiveness of the PRP procedure.
The Role of Platelets in The Body
Platelets are small, disc-shaped cells that circulate in the blood and help to stop bleeding. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets stick together to form a plug at the site of injury. This plug helps to prevent further bleeding. Platelets also release chemicals called “growth factors” that attract other cells to the site of injury and help to repair the damage.
Platelet Growth Factors Related to Hair Growth
While platelets are commonly known for healing damaged tissue and stopping bleeding, they also play an important role in hair health. Platelets function by releasing growth factors, which are molecules that cause a biological response in the body. Several growth factors have been clinically shown to promote hair cell regeneration. These growth factors are likely the reason that a PRP injection has been shown to stimulate hair regrowth in peer reviewed studies.
Scientific Support of PRP for Hair Growth
There are many published peer-reviewed studies show PRP can be an effective treatment for patients suffering from hair loss. Again and again, these studies show that patients treated with high concentration PRP experience a significant increase in hair density and hair count. Some studies even show that PRP can be more effective than minoxidil (a common hair loss medication) in promoting hair growth. Some researchers conducting a review of the literature concluded that “PRP is a promising therapy” for the treatment of hair loss. What is perhaps most exciting about these popular articles on PRP for hair loss is that many of these clinical studies not only demonstrate that a platelet rich plasma treatment can reduce hair loss but in many cases can actually stimulate new hair growth!
PRP Injections for Androgenic Alopecia
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), sometimes referred to by it’s abbreviated name, Androgenic Alopecia, is the most common type of alopecia in men and women. In women, AGA is commonly called female pattern hair loss and in men it’s often called, you guessed it, male pattern hair loss! AGA is caused by a combination of hormones and genetics. While there is no cure for AGA, treatments are available to help slow down or stop the progression of hair loss – including platelet rich plasma therapy.
A PRP injection for hair loss works by increasing the concentration of growth factors in the scalp. These growth factors then stimulate the follicles to enter into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle. PRP is typically administered two to three times over the course of several months. Many studies have shown that a significant amount of patients with male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness see a reduction in thinning hair within three to six months after their treatments. While PRP has an immediate impact, it can take a while for patients to notice results.
PRP Injections for Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease that causes patchy hair loss on the scalp and body. The exact cause of alopecia areata is unknown, but it is believed to be related to genetics and stress. There is no cure for alopecia areata, but treatments are available to help hair regrow including Platelet Rich Plasma injections.
A 2020 peer-reviewed study showed that patients suffering from AA experienced a significant improvement from PRP hair loss treatments. Patients in this study received two different times of PRP treatment – with one group receiving topical PRP that was introduced into the scalp via a dermaroller microneedling device and the other group receiving intradermal injections into the scalp. Both groups saw an improvement in hair follicle health with an overall reduction in hair thinning and significant hair regrowth.
PRP vs. Minoxidil
In 2016, Egyptian researchers discovered that in a clinical controlled trial, platelet rich plasma injections were more effectual than topical Minoxidil 5% in treating Alopecia Areata.
The study included 90 patients, 10 to 40 years old, who had Alopecia Areata for an average of 28 months. The participants were randomly assigned to three groups of 30 patients each: group A was treated with Minoxidil 5% twice daily for three months; group B received monthly injections of PRP for three months; and group C used topical Panthenol cream as a placebo, applied twice daily.
It’s worth noting that when properly performed, PRP treatments are nearly free of severe negative side effects. Allergic reactions from PRP are extremely rare because PRP is made from the patient’s own blood. In contrast, Minoxidil can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Minoxidil’s adverse effects can even include accelerated hair loss! Additionally, although Minoxidil provides temporary results in a significant amount of patient, hair growth often fades within months after treatment discontinuation.
PRP vs. Oral Finasteride
Some patients opt for oral medications like finasteride (brand name Propecia) to treat alopecia. Finasteride is a prescription medication that is approved for treating male pattern baldness and has not been approved for women. Typically taken once daily, Finasteride works by inhibiting the production of DHT, which is thought to be the primary cause of androgenetic alopecia.
While finasteride may be a good option for some people, there are several cons to consider before taking it. One risk in taking finasteride, is that it can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some patients. Additionally, many patients taking finasteride will notice that hair growth often fades within months after treatment discontinuation. Propecia can also have negative side effects in some patients that include erectile dysfunction and even accelerated hair loss!
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy offer a number of advantages over finasteride. PRP therapy is nearly free of severe negative side effects and are generally safe for people with allergies. Additionally, unlike finasteride, PRP procedures have been shown to be effective in both men and women.
PRP Injections vs Hair Transplant Surgery
Hair transplant surgery is a popular treatment for alopecia, however, it is not without its risks. The most common complication from hair transplant surgery is “shock loss”- when the newly transplanted hairs fall out shortly after the surgery. Shock loss can be temporary or permanent and is often a result of the trauma associated with the surgery.
Platelet rich plasma therapy, on the other hand, is much less invasive and involves a shorter recovery time. PRP treatments also carry a lower risk of shock loss because the injections stimulate existing hair follicles rather than introducing new ones. While PRP and hair transplant surgeries can both be effective for treating male pattern baldness (and female pattern baldness), it’s important to consider the pros and con’s of each procedure.
If you would like to learn more about the in’s and outs of hair transplantation, we recommend reading our Guide to Hair Transplants.
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