Hair loss is an ancient problem. It has led to a relentless pursuit of understanding what causes it and how hair can be restored. As a result, treatment for the condition has come a very long way, especially in the 21st century.
Of course, not all hair loss is the same. It can be the result of hormones, autoimmune disorders, trauma, and chemicals, such as those used in chemotherapy. It can be temporary or permanent. In any case, it’s rarely welcomed.
Today, there are surgical procedures, topical solutions, oral medications, and other treatments designed to combat hair loss and restore hair growth. In fact, the frequency of modern advancements makes it difficult to keep pace. But here are some recent developments you might want to explore.
The concept of removing healthy hair from one part of the scalp and transplanting it to another seems obvious. There have been many methods used to do this, including scalp flaps, surgical excision, and noticeable grafting. But nothing has risen to the level of today’s follicular unit extraction techniques (FUE).
FUE hair transplant uses a micro punch to remove healthy hair follicles from one area of the body. The punch then inserts them into areas of the scalp where hair is no longer growing. Although the extracted hairs will shed, most of the grafts will then begin to produce healthy hair.
FUE has several advantages over its predecessor procedure, follicular unit transplantation (FUT). FUT requires the excision of a strip of hair from the scalp that is then transplanted to a recipient area. FUT is still used, and its transplants are largely successful. However, FUE has some clear advantages.
FUT leaves a scar at the excision site that will persist and will be noticeable with short haircuts. The micro-punch approach of FUE disperses the excisions, leaving tiny unnoticeable scars. Because FUE doesn’t require the stitches in the donor strip that FUT does, risks of infection and complications are reduced.
Another advantage of FUE is its latitude to transplant hair from areas other than the scalp, such as the chest, beard, or pubic area. And that makes the procedure possible for many patients with insufficient donor scalp hair.
FUE may be performed manually or mechanically. Automated procedures employ robotics to remove donor grafts and transplant them more quickly. The NeoGraft system is the most recent advance in automation, and it uses suction to remove grafts. Although the robotic procedure may be faster than the manual one, its performance may be hampered by angled hair follicles.
Accuracy, surgeon skill, graft viability, and faster recovery time are factors driving hair transplantation procedures. As technology advances, so will positive outcomes in hair restoration.
The best way to regrow healthy hair is by FUE or FUT. However, there are non-surgical solutions that may slow hair loss or even spur growth. Many affected by hair loss may want to try some of these methods before opting for surgery.
Minoxidil and finasteride are two hair loss restoration products that have been around for a long time. They also were both originally designed to treat other conditions. Minoxidil treats hypertension and finasteride treats enlarged prostate. Both initially became available for hair loss in oral form, by prescription.
More recently, the two have been formulated into a single gel, delivering a one-two punch. Finasteride is formulated to stop hair loss and minoxidil is designed to promote hair growth. You apply the combination gel to the scalp once a day.
In just the last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two new oral prescription medications for treatment of alopecia areata. This hair loss condition is due to an autoimmune disorder. That genesis is different from the hormone-related androgenic alopecia, commonly referred to as “male pattern baldness.”
Baricitinib and ritlecitinib both inhibit cell signals that cause the inflammation associated with autoimmune disorders. Studies showed slowed hair loss and increased growth with both. But ritlecitinib is the first medication approved for use by those ages 12 and older. Hair loss in adolescents has a particularly negative impact on their lives.
Lasers are also creating innovative approaches to hair restoration. Low-level laser therapy is delivered by a helmet or comb. An even newer method employs fractional lasers in office procedures. Lasers stimulate stem cells in the follicle. They won’t regrow hair but can slow loss and improve hair thickness and density.
Many of these solutions, medications, and lasers are used in combination to address hair loss and spur new growth. Use of minoxidil and finasteride, in particular, are recommended after FUE or FUT to enhance surgical outcomes. So, while it may take more than one approach to restore your hair, there are increasingly more combinations to choose from.
Old Problem, New Solutions
Recognition of alopecia areata dates back at least 3,500 years. But in the 21st century, hair loss is sure to meet its match. Surgical, pharmaceutical, and technological advances are making rapid strides toward slowing hair loss and sparking new hair growth.
Two new oral medications approved in only a year exemplify the speed of research. Who knows what will be available in a year from now. Still, there’s no reason not to try some of these cutting-edge solutions right away. You have nothing to lose but more hair.