We expect things to change as we age. Physically speaking, we expect to put on a little weight even as gravity kicks in and changes the appearance. We expect wrinkles to develop around the eyes and in the forehead. We expect to experience some measure of hair thinning or hair loss. It is certainly not the end of the world. Having said that, treatments are available that will help slow down the aging process and reverse some of its negative effects.
Where hair loss is concerned, one of the more exciting new treatments involves something we already use here at Orchid Aesthetics for skin rejuvenation: platelet rich plasma (PRP). A French study released last year provides strong evidence that PRP can be used as an effective treatment for alopecia. If further research confirms the results of the French study, some patients would be able to naturally regrow hair without the need for hair follicle transplants.
‘Alopecia’ is the medical term describing hair loss or baldness. There are four primary types of alopecia, the most common being androgenic alopecia, better known as male pattern baldness. It has been estimated that approximately 95% of all cases of alopecia are of this form.
Male pattern baldness takes its name from the fact that hair thinning and hair loss occurs in specific geometric patterns. Some men begin seeing the pattern develop at the hairline of the forehead; others first notice it on the crown of the head. The pattern can spread until the individual is completely bald.
So what causes male pattern baldness? It has to do with a powerful hormone known as DHT. This hormone is a form of testosterone that directly contributes to hair production. Dropping levels of DHT result in shrinking hair follicles that are not as productive as they once were. This results in hair falling out of follicles that can no longer support it, and no hair being grown to replace what was lost. Women are also affected by this form of alopecia, though not in numbers as large as men are.
One of the most widely used treatments right now is to replace the lost DHT with a topical treatment applied directly to the affected areas. It works well for some men, not so well for others. And of course, using male hormones to treat alopecia in women is questionable. That’s why the breakthrough in PRP therapy is so important.
How PRP Works
PRP therapies are based in the knowledge that blood plasma contains certain bioactive proteins and a number of growth factors. The proteins are an essential part of wound healing while the growth factors stimulate the body to create new tissue. PRP has already proven effective as a treatment for certain cardiovascular conditions, sports related injuries and a number of dental procedures.
The French study set out to prove that injecting PRP into the scalp could stimulate hair follicles in order to return them to their previous levels of production. Where follicle transplant therapies take active follicles from another part of the body and graft them into the scalp, PRP therapy works with the follicles that are already present.
Researchers found that injecting affected areas with PRP not only stopped follicle shrinkage, it also encouraged those follicles to open back up again. That is the key to stopping alopecia. When follicles return to their normal size they are able to accommodate long, thick strands of hair naturally.
Of course, further research is needed to determine if PRP is consistently effective. However, what we have seen thus far is very encouraging. PRP could eventually turn out to be one of the best natural treatments for alopecia.