By Dr. Barry DiBernardo
Hair loss can be particularly upsetting for women. and for many, many years, was not openly acknowledged, seen rather as a mysterious “female problem”. As the techniques used for surgical hair restoration have progressed, more and more women seek this treatment to help restore their self confidence and to feel better about their appearance. In order to determine if hair restoration surgery is the best course of action, we must first look at the cause of the unexplained hair loss. Initially, a scalp examination will be conducted. If pattern baldness does not appear to be the contributing cause, further examination may be needed, which can include:
- Hair Pull: Used to assess the hair growth cycle. Based on a series of gentle hair pulls, we are able to assess the hair growth cycle, the condition of the hair shaft and bulb
- Scalp biopsy: Used to determine cause of hair loss from within the hair follicle. A scalp biopsy is rarely needed for most patients that are evaluated for hair loss
Some causes of hair loss may be treated by hair restoration surgery, for others, it may not be a recommended treatment. If it is determined that hair restoration surgery is an option, the next step is to then figure out if the woman is a good candidate for hair restoration surgery. Some of the factors that may be considered are:
- Age that hair loss began
- Family history regarding female hair loss
- Whether or not patient has sufficient availability of donor hair
- Pattern and progression of hair loss
- If medical treatments have been used for hair loss, what the results were
- Outcome expected by the woman
It cannot be emphasized enough that it is extremely important for a woman’s expectations of hair restoration surgery be realistic. Working together with the doctor, reasonable outcomes can be determined in advance of the procedure so that no false hopes are given. Hair restoration can certainly receive very positive results for the right candidates but it does not return hair to its full density as it once was. This is because there are only a certain number of hair follicles available for transplant on each person’s head and the doctor is moving them from one place to the other. So, although a thinner area will then have more hair, the thicker area will have less. The overall appearance will be much improved but new hair growth is not actually being created, only relocated. A doctor must also make sure that a woman recognizes that hair restoration results are not instantaneous. Although a woman can expect to see significant growth at about 9 months post-op, final mature hair replacement may not be fully realized until 12-18 months after surgery.
Hair restoration for women is safe and effective for the right candidates. Transplanted hair maintains all of its original characteristics after it is transplanted including color, curl and growth rate allowing for a more natural appearance. Making informed, realistic decisions about hair restoration can help a woman make the choice that is right for her to achieve the look that makes her feel most attractive.