I went to a Las Vegas hair restoration clinic today – one that specializes in hair restoration for women and men. Hair restoration is another name for hair transplants – a surgical procedure that moves hair follicles from one part of your head (normally the back) to where you most need it – the top and front. Personally I’m not looking to get hair transplants any time soon (if ever) but the consultation was free, and I was hoping to finally get a definitive answer about whether my hair loss is genetic, or if something else is causing it.
Even though I was recently diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia (this link goes to my skin care blog), a very small part of me still thinks it could be chronic telogen effluvium, and I would like to know for sure so that I concentrate on the right things. Some hair restoration doctors do hair mapping, where they look at your scalp under a video magnifying camera to determine if your hair is miniaturizing (which most likely means you have genetic hair loss that will probably get progressively worse). I was hoping to get that done at today’s appointment.
My female hair restoration appointment
The hair restoration clinic I went to is owned by a popular doctor that has clinics in a few locations in California and Las Vegas. I had come across his name years ago when I was first learning about hair loss, and I’ve seen him on TV shows and read about him in magazines as well. I had first contacted their office about getting HairDX genetic testing done, and I may still do that soon. This doctor is also working on a promising treatment to “cure” hair loss, so I was excited to meet with someone that understands hair loss.
I first met with a consultant that went over my hair loss history and treatments that I’ve tried. He looked at my hair and noted that I have fine, evenly thinning hair all over my head (even in the back, which is where the donor hair would come from if a transplant was ever done). He asked if I’ve always had fine hair, and I really don’t know. I used to have super thick hair, and I never thought of my hair as fine before, so I think my hairs have shrunken a bit in diameter (and of course tons have fallen out too). The consultant told me he could see how stressed I was about my hair, and to try to stop stressing or it will just make it worse. What’s funny is that I felt more relaxed than normal at a hair loss appointment, and I told him it’s just a given that I will stress about my hair, although I feel a lot calmer about it now than I did last year. There were several years that I tried to pretend my hair was fine and I didn’t think about it, and that didn’t magically bring my hair back then. When I feel calm and relaxed, people still say I look tense – I guess that’s just how I am.
Hair transplant candidate?
Next the doctor came in and briefly looked at my hair. He didn’t have a magnifying camera to look at my scalp, so I was a bit disappointed about that. I had hair mapping done once, about 8 years ago, and at the time they claimed my hair follicles looked great and showed no signs of miniaturizing, but I have a feeling the shrinking has since set in. The doctor noted visible miniaturizing at my hairline and temples, and drew lines where transplanted hairs would go (if I had the procedure). I have heard that most women with overall thinning (like me) are not good candidates for transplants because the donor hair thins too, and there’s so much area that needs to be filled in to look acceptable (men can get away with a lot less coverage). It seems like the doctor would do a transplant on me if I wanted one, but he wasn’t pushing it. If my hair loss stabilized and never got worse, then I could see getting a transplant to fill in my hairline and wide part, but if it gets any worse (which is likely since I’m only in my mid-30s), I wouldn’t have enough hair to work with in the future. After the appointment I wondered if female celebrities, and rich women, get hair transplants at the first signs of thinning, and then of course thicken up their hair with extensions. That might keep your hair looking good for a while, but eventually it would probably get too thin too to look acceptable if your hair loss is genetic.
Overall, hair transplants can be a good option for some women, but for someone with overall thinning, or alopecia areata, where hair loss can come and go in different areas, it’s usually not the right solution. For women that have lost hair in a small area due to an injury, a scar from a facelift, traction alopecia in just the front, a high hairline, or just a small stable balding area, then it could be a viable option. Eyebrow hair transplants are a good treatment if you need to permanently fill in sparse and balding brows. There are side effects and risks from hair transplant surgery, including shock loss, which means additional hair falls out after the surgery (usually temporarily). Hair transplant surgery is a complicated topic, which I may write about in more detail in the future.
The hair restoration doctor’s suggestions for me
The doctor said if I were to get transplants, he recommended 1200 grafts (I’m not sure if that’s just for my thinning hairline and temples, or if that covers my entire thinning part). Then he said if I’ve ruled out all of the likely causes of non-genetic hair loss (hypothyroid, anemia, hormone imbalance, etc.) then it’s probably genetic, or maybe a combo of genetics plus stress, and hormones. My blood tests always come back “normal” for the most part, but one thing I eventually want to consider is extensive hormone testing and bio-identical hormones.
The doctor said he recommends women use Rogaine foam 5% once a day. I told him about my headaches from Rogaine and the never-ending shedding, but he seemed to think the shedding would end eventually (but what if it doesn’t?) I’m still too scared to try Rogaine all over my scalp again, but maybe I’ll try it just on one discreet area. I also haven’t tried the foam yet. Currently I’ve just been using liquid Rogaine on my temples and hairline – and I can’t tell if it’s working. Next he mentioned buying the supplement Viviscal, which they sell at their office. I had thought Viviscal was another one of those scam products, but I’m going to look into it and might try it. Next he said I could try laser treatments (either a series of in-office laser treatments, buy a HairMax LaserComb for around $400, or buy some sort of $3ooo laser helmet). I have considered getting a HairMax, but the results seem to be lackluster, although some people claim to see results. I’ve also considered in-office laser treatments, but they are expensive, you have to do them indefinitely, and again few people seem to see positive results.
Finally I asked about taking Propecia, and if he thinks it can work for some women. Unlike my current Dermatologist, who thinks Propecia can make female hair loss worse, this doctor has never heard that. He said he would prescribe Propecia to me only if I had the HairDX genetic testing done, and it said I would be a good candidate for Propecia, and then I promised not to get pregnant (I’m not having kids). So I’m thinking about doing the genetic testing, or trying to find another doctor somewhere that will just prescribe Propecia. But I’m not quite there yet. I want to give the Spironolactone I’m taking some more time to work first.
After the doctor left, the consultant said he wouldn’t try to do a hard sell on me for anything because the practice is plenty busy and they want to keep up their good reputation and have happy clients. He said the doctor is very meticulous and does great work, and from what I’ve read about this doctor, I believe that’s true. If only I was a man with a great donor area! But at least women can just buy great wigs and hair pieces and instantly have nice hair. If you are considering transplants, and are a good candidate for it, I would do a lot of research on doctors before picking one. There are a lot of doctors and different techniques out there – good and bad – and results can vary greatly. Also, the cost of hair restoration is expensive, and you may need follow-up surgeries as your hair loss progresses, but the price can be worth it.
Have you consulted with a hair restoration doctor in Las Vegas, or anywhere? Have you had hair transplants? Let me know.