Hair Loss Treatments Past and Present
It is unbelievable to me that I began in the field of hair transplant surgery nearly 32 years ago. In the late 1980’s, the lotions and potions that purported to grow hair are still available today. In those days, these snake oils had to be purchased over the phone or by sending in a written request cut out from a newspaper or magazine. Today they are sold online with a credit card. Nothing has changed as far as their lack of effectiveness—they still don’t work to treat hair loss! Additionally, shampoos, herbal solutions, scalp massage, and hair treatment oils being sold as hair loss solutions also do not work! In those early days, wigs or toupees were commonly used to cover baldness, as there were not many other known options to the public.
Surgically speaking, the state-of-the-art in hair transplant surgery then was the old hair plug method in which large 4-millimeter cylinders of skin with hair were removed from the donor area and were transplanted into similar-sized holes in the bald area. Each graft at that time contained between 25 and 35 hair follicles. They were placed in curved lines, appearing like rows of corn or a toothbrush. Several sessions were necessary to offer a natural-looking result. It was common to perform scalp reduction surgery, which surgically removed areas of bald scalp so the area to be transplanted would be smaller. Today, this procedure is rarely used.
Today’s surgical hair restoration techniques offer very natural-looking results even after just one transplant session. The numbers of follicles in contemporary grafts range from only one to four hairs. These tiny grafts are planted very closely together and in an irregular fashion—providing a very natural and virtually undetectable transplant. Current surgical advances offer two different ways in which to harvest donor grafts: the Traditional Strip Technique and the Follicular Unit Excision (FUE) one to suit our patient’s needs. Both provide excellent results.
One fact that hasn’t changed since the earliest of times is that hair loss is a progressive condition. Prior to the late 1980’s, we had no FDA-approved treatment for androgenetic alopecia until Rogaine or minoxidil topical solution became available. Thankfully, today, in addition to Rogaine Foam, we have at our disposal the first FDA-approved oral medication in Propecia (finasteride 1mg) pills, which treats the bald spot area of the scalp in men very well. Finally, but not the least important FDA-cleared hair loss treatment for both men and for women, is the CapillusRx laser device. This very effective therapy works to both stabilize progression and to re-grow hair over the entire top of the scalp without any side effects and with the ability to use this laser in the comfort of your own home in just six minutes per day.
So, where does the future bring us in hair restoration? Cellular-based therapy, gene therapy, hair cloning, and new medications are the expected treatment options for the future—but not for now. The tincture of time is necessary for scientific breakthroughs. They will be exciting to learn about over the next three decades.
For now, however, do all that you can do to stop your hair loss progression and to re-grow your hair with the current transplant procedures and non-surgical treatments available.
Dr. Robert Leonard
Founder of Leonard Hair Transplant Associates