Female hair loss expert Ranbir Rai Watson recently launched HairLossForWomen.com to help the many women suffering from hair loss conditions. Here she answers, one of the frequently asked questions: are women suitable for hair transplant surgery?
For men, hair transplant surgery is considered the gold standard when it comes to hair restoration – about 90% of men with thinning hair are good candidates for the procedure, and assuming it is done well, it is almost guaranteed to restore hair where it has been lost.
So, if hair transplants are this good for men, why aren’t more women having them done? Female pattern baldness might not be quite as common as its male equivalent, but psychologically at least the damage can be even worse. Sadly, however, hair transplant is rarely an option for women, and here’s why.
Hair loss in women occurs differently
Although they come under one umbrella title – androgenic alopecia – male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness develop in very different ways. For men, the hair loss is usually quite predictable: it starts at the hairline and/or the crown and spreads from there.
For women, on the other hand, hair loss tends to be diffuse; that is, it occurs as a general thinning, rather than necessarily with specific bald patches.
Why does this matter?
Well, it matters for two reasons. Firstly, because if hair loss is diffuse and you’re trying to find and replace all the missing hair, then the procedure would be very lengthy indeed/
Secondly, and most importantly, because of the donor site. In men, hair follicles at the back and sides of the head are usually fairly stable, at least in the early stages of androgenic alopecia. In women, however, there is no guarantee that follicles from any area of the head will be more likely to survive, as the thinning occurs all over.
So which women are suitable for a hair transplant?
Around 2% of women with hair loss are suitable for hair transplant surgery. This figure includes women who have lost their hair through trauma, through traction (pulling of the hair) and women with alopecia marginalis, a type of hair loss that occurs mainly at the hairline and temples.
What other options are available to women with thinning hair?
Apart from medications, one option is scalp micropigmentation (SMP). This is a procedure more commonly associated with men, who use it to create the impression of a shaven head, but can work just as well in women to mask areas of thinning hair.
The procedure involves injecting pigment into the scalp to mimic hair follicles, and the end result is highly effective.