Does PRP for Hair Loss Work? The Science Behind Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
As you age, you may start to notice more hair in your sink or on your pillowcase. You're not alone; around 85% of men experience some form of hair loss by the time they reach 50 years old.
For some, this is a mere nuisance; for others, it can be a cause of significant anxiety and self-esteem issues. If you're among those struggling with thinning hair, you may have considered PRP therapy as a potential solution. But does platelet-rich plasma for hair loss work? Let's take a look at the science behind it.
What is PRP therapy?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves drawing your own blood and subsequently separating out the platelets, which contain high concentrations of healing growth factors. These hair regrowth factors may help stimulate hair follicles in the scalp, potentially increasing hair density. When applied to the scalp via injection or topical lotion, platelet-rich plasma is thought to stimulate collagen production and hair regrowth.
In addition to promoting collagen production, platelet-rich plasma is also a source of stem white blood cells. These can differentiate into various cell types and have been shown to successfully treat a number of maladies. For example, studies have found that patients with bone injuries have seen significant increases in bone density when treated with PRP therapy.
Is PRP effective for hair loss?
PRP therapy has been studied as a potential treatment for a male pattern or female pattern baldness. Studies have found that PRP can be an effective treatment for androgenic alopecia, the most common cause of hair cycle loss in men.
However, further investigation is necessary to determine which treatment techniques are most likely to elicit the desired results. PRP treatment may be one effective option for men suffering from progressive hair loss.
How does PRP therapy compare with other options?
Currently, there are two FDA-approved medications for hair loss: minoxidil and finasteride.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment that can be applied to the scalp in liquid or foam form. It's designed to stimulate hair growth by opening potassium channels in the hair follicle cells, which allows them to absorb more nutrients from their own blood.
Finasteride is an oral medication designed to block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone associated with hair loss. However, these drugs take time to work and are not guaranteed to help everyone who takes them.
How does PRP work?
Platelets contain thousands of proteins called growth factors that signal cell growth, division and survival. To make PRP, doctors draw blood from the patient, separate out the platelets via a centrifuge and then inject or apply them to the scalp where new hair growth is desired. The PRP contains concentrated amounts of platelets loaded with various growth factors that can help stimulate hair follicles.
Once your body senses injury in your skin or hair follicles, it sends platelets to the area. Your body reacts in a way that causes its tissue-building platelets to release dozens of proteins—called growth factors—that signal nearby cells to make new collagen and foster their own blood vessel growth. This helps your skin recover from damage and promotes healing after an injury. Platelet-rich plasma(PRP) therapy is a treatment that takes advantage of this natural wound-healing process.
Methods for applying PRP to the scalp
The process is similar to a typical blood donation. A local anesthetic is used to numb your scalp, and a needle is inserted into the area of thinning hair. The syringe draws out a portion of your own blood, separating out the platelets. Once processed, the concentrated platelets are injected into the scalp.
This method uses a specially designed topical lotion to apply concentrated platelets directly to the scalp.
In this process, both injection and topical applications are utilized simultaneously. As you can imagine, this is a rather involved process and may only be recommended for those with severe cases of hair loss. It is not yet known exactly how the stem cells contained in PRP work to stimulate hair growth, but research into this area is ongoing. However, it has been established that PRP does promote collagen production and therefore can strengthen hair follicles.
How long does it take for PRP to work?
Patients may start to notice results as quickly as three months after their very first platelet-rich plasma session, although cumulative results are typically seen over time—especially in those with significant hair loss. Hair loss due to steroid injections may start regrowing three months after your initial platelet-rich plasma hair loss treatments session. In some cases, patients with male pattern baldness may need several PRP sessions before seeing any results.
Most people see positive results from a platelet-rich plasma injection within six months.
How many treatments are needed?
The number of hair loss treatments required will vary from patient to patient. Some patients see only a slight improvement in hair growth after one course of hair loss treatment, while others may require multiple courses of platelet-rich plasma therapy before experiencing the desired results.
It's important to keep in mind that platelet-rich plasma is not a permanent solution and will eventually need to be repeated if you want to preserve your hair. However, the results of platelet-rich plasma therapy do last longer than most forms of hair loss treatment; for this reason, it is an excellent option if you aren't ready to commit to a permanent change in your appearance.
Who are the best candidates for PRP therapy?
Platelet-rich plasma therapy can help both men and women, but it is especially well-suited for those experiencing hair loss due to autoimmune disease or genetics.
If your hair loss is caused by one of these factors, platelet-rich plasma could be an effective solution for you:
- Hereditary hair loss
- Autoimmune disease (e.g., alopecia areata)
- Scarring due to injury
What are the long-term effects of PRP?
Since these are experimental PRP treatments, there is not yet enough data on their long-term effects to determine whether there are any associated risks.
That said, many patients have experienced long-term benefits that allow them to retain their results for several months or more. Studies also show that PRP is effective in stimulating hair growth and visibly improving the quality of affected hair after multiple PRP treatments.
What is the success rate of PRP hair treatment?
The majority of patients who try platelet-rich plasma will experience some degree of improvement in their hair growth. However, the amount of time required to see results depends on several factors, including your current health and the severity of your hair loss.
There is no agreement on the success rate of PRP injections for hair restoration, but it ranges from 70 to 90 percent. It works better in younger individuals who are beginning to show signs of genetic hair loss and thinning.
Risks and side effects
Because it is based on your own plasma, PRP is typically safe and well-tolerated. It's feasible to develop an infection; however, your doctor will take precautions to avoid this, such as cleansing the scalp with ethanol.
Other dangers include damage to blood vessels or nerves, calcification at the injection site, and the formation of scar tissue. Following are a few common risks and side effects associated with PRP therapy, including:
- Bruising and swelling at the injection site
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Skin discoloration
- Allergic reaction to the platelets
It's critical to pick a PRP therapy provider that has taken a training course in PRP therapy and has been performing it for at least a few years to minimize the danger of negative effects.
What to avoid after PRP treatment
You should avoid the following things after the PRP session:
- Do not perform any strenuous activities for at least 24 hours after having PRP applied or injections
- Do not massage the treated area
- Do not wash your hair with hot water for 48 hours
- Direct sun exposure for 48 hours after your treatment.
- Strenuous exercise for 48 hours after your treatment.
- Saunas and hot tubs for 48 hours after your treatment.
- Drinking alcohol for 24 hours after your treatment.
- Eating spicy or acidic foods for 24 hours after your treatment.
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