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HomeOpinionHair transplants don’t work for balding women. But don’t lose heart

Hair transplants don’t work for balding women. But don’t lose heart

Even if a woman decides to go under the knife and get a hair transplant, the chances of newly placed hair falling off are very high.

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For most men, hair transplant is an effective tool to restore lost tresses. But while men have that option, hair transplants often prove to be an unsuccessful exercise for women—a mood dampener, for sure.

This is because the major type of hair fall in women is chronic telogen effluvium (CTE), which causes hair diffusion in the entire scalp. Even a healthy-looking scalp can be affected, especially between 30 to 60 years of age. Women facing this condition are at risk of total baldness.

On the contrary, hair fall in men is called androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness. In this condition, the scalp’s hair follicles are genetically sensitive to dihydrotestosterone or DHT, a hormone that shortens the lifespan of each affected hair follicle, eventually leading to baldness. This condition can start with a receding hairline and hair thinning at the crown, leaving a horseshoe lining from ear to ear. Actor Anupam Kher is an excellent example of this hair strip, which consists of strands that are ideal for extraction and transplant. But no such strip exists on the female scalp.

Now, men suffering from pattern baldness are lucky to have male hormone receptors on the back (occiput) and sides of their head, leading to thickening of the hair tissue. And this hair—sourced from the body’s best donor areas—with healthy roots, stem cells and density, is used for transplant. Interestingly, hair from the groin, chest and underarms is also used for male hair transplants.

Also read: Diet, not fancy hair products, can help stop hair loss. Here’s why

Why female baldness is different

Female pattern baldness is unpredictable and the hair fall area is more widespread. This means there is no fixed hair loss pattern and thinning happens across the scalp. Almost all follicles are affected by DHT, including those on the sides and back of the head—the main donor-hair regions in men. Moreover, unlike men, body hair cannot be used for hair transplants in women. This is because there is a miniaturisation of hair follicles in women due to CTE. Moreover, the density of a woman’s hair root follicle is much lesser than that of a man’s.  Almost as if nature has a vendetta against women’s hair.

Hence, even if a woman decides to go under the knife and get a hair transplant, the chances of the newly placed hair falling off are very high. Eventually, all that money you spend on treatment will waste away with your hair.

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Options for women

This doesn’t mean women have no options at their disposal. Platelet-Rich Plasma Injection (PRP), a special blood solution created from the patient’s blood sample, has a higher concentration of platelet cells than blood plasma and is a feasible option. These cells are responsible for clotting and healing. When injected at the target area, they help increase the growth of certain lipoproteins and hormones and help with hair growth.

Another option is hair vitamin infusions. These infusions are a special cocktail of hair vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants fed to the patient’s body via an intravenous (IV) drip. The idea is to add the nutrients directly to the bloodstream for 100 per cent effectiveness.

Bio hair fibres can also hide hair fall in women. These hair-building fibres come in a powdered form and can be sprayed over areas of the scalp showing baldness. Keratin-packed hair fibres are available online and come in multiple shades to match your hair colour. They help your hair appear fuller and thicker.

Hair extensions and wigs are a great non-invasive method to camouflage hair loss. Cosmetic hair extensions and wigs can add instant volume to your hair without any medical procedure.

But before getting into anything else, the first and best thing to do is take good care of your biological hair while you can.

Hairfall can start at any age. It’s no more a thing that only advances with age. Everything, from your diet to your lifestyle, has an impact on the health of your hair. Pollution, seasonal changes, the fast pace of life, and most importantly, the recent Covid-19 pandemic, have made hair fall a serious issue among the female population. Many women are struggling to cope with hair loss and live in constant fear of baldness.

Hair fall is a vicious cycle. The more you think about it, the more your stress levels increase, and the more your hair falls. So, if you Google solutions to hair fall and baldness, you only risk exacerbating your hair anxiety and (wrongly) finding hair transplant at the top of the list of remedies.

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Taking care of your tresses

Hairfall is triggered by many factors, the most significant reason being lifestyle. Here are a few lifestyle tips to protect and care for your locks:

First, create a good diet plan. A balanced diet is packed with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibre, and water. Include foods like spinach, guava, eggs, yoghurt, cereal, sweet potatoes and cinnamon in your daily plate to aid healthy hair growth.

Second, lower the use of chemicals. Women often make permanent changes to their hair to keep up with the latest trends in fashion. However,  constant exposure to chemicals and heat from perming, blow drying, straightening, curling etc., can cause irreparable damage to your hair follicles. Try to have chemical-free days for your hair every week. Avoid styling and use baby shampoos once every week.

Third, focus on cleaning your hair properly and try to wash it straight. Like everything else, gravity applies to hair too. Washing hair while lying down can increase hair fall. Washing it straight minimises this risk.

Fourth, try a head massage. Covid has caused severe damage to the hair life cycle among sufferers. Whether or not you were affected by Covid, massive lifestyle changes and stress can disrupt the hair’s natural growth-rest cycle. Therefore, creating stimulation and enhancing circulation in hair follicles is crucial, and massage is a suitable method.

Last but not least, use a broad-toothed comb to untangle your hair. A narrow-toothed comb can get stuck in your locks, creating pressure on hair and weakening roots.

While hair fall can take a huge toll on one’s confidence, it is imperative to acknowledge that your worth is more than the thickness of your hair. Try to keep your hair as safe as possible and consciously make efforts to give them good nourishment and upkeep. However, never let hair fall be a limiting factor in your life.

Dr Deepali Bhardwaj is a dermatologist, anti-allergy specialist, laser surgeon and internationally trained aesthetician. She tweets @dermatdoc. Views are personal.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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