So you’re losing your hair and want to salvage whatever you can without a transplant. You’ve heard of the pills (finasteride), and you’ve heard of the potion (minoxidil). Talk to your doctor about both, since they can be used together to halt hair-compromising hormones and improve nutrient delivery to the scalp. But also ask your dermatologist about the third hair-growth solution, which rounds out this full-force trifecta. It’s a relatively new option, and is flowing through your veins as we speak: It’s the plasma in your blood. I tried PRP injections (platelet-rich plasma), and can vouch for it.
I can accept that my hair will turn gray and the crow’s feet around my eyes will get more and more prominent with time. I understand that aging is going to take its toll on me. However, I’ve long put up a fight and am proactive against aging skin. I was slower to start with hair loss, though, mostly because I was in denial that my thick mane would ever compromise.
It started with a recession in my mid-20s, then seemed to stop by 28. I thought “this is fine” and went on without any action. The general thinning took over from there, hitting hard around 31. (This timing and rollout is different for all men.) By many standards, I still had a lot of hair. But by my standards, I had about half the hair on my crown that I used to, maybe less. I needed to accept this was happening, and I needed to do something about it if I wanted to keep my hair. (Because once a follicle stops growing hair, you only have a year or less to restore it before it’s totally dried up and irreversible.) I knew I couldn’t revive the hair that had receded, since those tend to be gone forever, but I could resuscitate much of the hair that had thinned out in previous years.
So, I went to my trusted doctor, NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green. She recommended I try all three methods. I started finasteride in October of last year, the same time I started my first of three rounds of PRP, platelet-rich plasma. (I also began minoxidil in January of this year.) These dates are important for the before and after photos you’ll see during my PRP sessions. The results are not influenced by minoxidil, which increases blood and nutrient delivery to the hair follicles, in turn strengthening and thickening them. My photos are also not influenced by finasteride, either, since it takes 3 months to quell hormones and regrow any dormant follicles.
What Does PRP Entail?
PRP is pretty straightforward, albeit a little strange. The doctor withdraws blood, then spins it into a centrifuge to extract all the red blood cells, leaving your plasma behind. It’s thick and off-white and gooey. Then, they put this into syringes and shoot the plasma into your scalp, massaging it in like botox. This hurts a tiny bit, but quickly turns into a numb sort of contact high that wanes over the next couple days. You simply avoid alcohol and painkillers—anything that thins the blood—for a few days.
How Does PRP Actually Regrow Hair?
I’ll let the medical professional explain this one: “PRP stimulates the hair by injecting specific growth factors that are derived from your own blood to regenerate and grow hair,” says Green. “PRP contains special cells called platelets, which can theoretically cause growth of the hair follicles by stimulating the stem cells and other cells around the hair follicle. This platelet-rich plasma promotes healing, accelerates the rate and degree of tissue healing and regeneration, and promotes new cellular growth. It stimulates the hair follicles to grow and cause both the growth of new hair and the thickening of existing hairs.” In short, it does the work of both finasteride and minoxidil, or bolsters their efforts.
If you want the specifics on the growth factors that PRP cells have, here they are: platelet-derived growth factor, transforming growth-factor-beta, vascular epithelial growth factor, epidermal growth factor, and fibroblast growth factor. “Human blood contains mesenchymal stem cells and autologous blood products contain this myriad of growth factors that assist in tissue regeneration and healing,” Green says.
Who’s a Good Candidate for PRP?
Green says you’re a prime PRP candidate if you have early-onset hair loss and want to prevent future hair loss. If you’re already bald or are hoping to treat an area that has no hair follicles, then PRP is not going to help. It can only restore and strengthen active follicles.
Can PRP Be Done in Place of Finasteride and Minoxidil?
Yes, it’s a good holistic approach for someone who doesn’t want to take medication for hair loss, and there are no side effects to putting your own plasma back into your body. However, you will need to keep getting PRP treatments yearly (or more frequently) since you aren’t supplementing the efforts with pills and drops.
How Many PRP Treatments Are Necessary, and How Often? What’s a Good Long-Term PRP “Plan”?
“The plan usually is four treatments of PRP for my patients, one month apart, and then an assessment three months later to see the success of my treatment plan,” says Green. “We take before and after photographs to judge the effects of the hair growth. We then assess the maintenance of the PRP injections which can vary between three or more months.” Some patients will “top off” once a year, while others will come in quarterly. It’s up to personal preference, and sometimes budget.
How Expensive Is PRP?
The costs vary wildly, based on the experience your doctor has, and the equipment they’re using. You should expect each treatment to land in the $800-1,500 range, however. (Yes, it’s pricy.) Hopefully, as the treatment becomes more prominent and accessible, this price will go down.
My PRP Results
Given all you know about my hair-loss timeline, and my PRP timeline, here are some before, during, and after photos that map my own success with plasma.
Before: The first is before my initial treatment, in early October. (Forgive the fact my hair is different colors in each photo, since I’d dyed it blonde just before.) Note the significant thinning around my cowlick, which is representative of the hair atop my crown overall. This is also when I began taking finasteride.
During—3 Months Later: This was taken just before my third round of PRP, in late December. Note the fuller crown. Because my hair is shorter, it stands up a bit more than the separating effects of longer hair, but you can still see how much fuller it is overall. By this point, I could run my hand through my hair and feel it was much thicker, too—probably 50 percent fuller than just months before. The finasteride regrowth would not have fully kicked in yet, and I would start minoxidil a week or two later.
After—6 Months Later: I’m back to my natural brown hair, but more importantly, I’ve got fuller hair all around the crown. You can see the thickness in the cowlick (don’t just give it a passing glance; if you study it, you see it). And, when I run my hand through my hair, it feels as full as it was five years ago, before I had any real qualms about hair loss. It stands up when I texturize or volumize it, and I notice far fewer hairs in my sink—just the ones that naturally fall out and quickly regenerate. This was a combination of all three methods—finasteride, minoxidil, and PRP—though you can study photo two for the benefits of PRP itself.