Hair has enormous cultural significance and can play an outsized role in people’s self-confidence and how they feel about their appearance. Those who are suffering from thinning hair or the onset of baldness may be wondering why this is happening to them, and what they can do about it.
The first step in understanding why hair loss happens is to know a little bit about how hair follicles work. Follicles are one of the most interesting parts of the body because of their natural ability to regenerate themselves. When they receive a certain set of chemical signals, these self-renewing cells divide.
As hair follicles cycle through their normal process of growth and replacement, it’s typical for people to shed about 100 hairs per day. But sometimes things go awry, and lost hair fails to grow back.
Why Do Men Lose Their Hair?
When most of us think of hair loss, we picture male pattern baldness, which results from both genetic influence and hormonal changes in adulthood.
You may remember learning in school that men’s odds of hair loss are determined by genes inherited from their maternal grandfather, but that’s not the full picture. In fact, there are approximately 200 different genes that regulate hair growth. You can inherit hair-loss genes from either your mother’s or father’s side of the family, or a combination of both.
Genetics and Hormones
Baldness in men is linked with the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes hairs on the scalp to be replaced by progressively shorter, thinner hairs in the familiar receding M-shaped pattern, beginning at the temples and crown of the head.
Your inherited sensitivity to DHT determines when you will begin losing your hair. Those with higher sensitivity will be the first to experience weakening follicles. Balding can start as early as the late teens for some men.
It’s difficult to accurately predict how long the process of going bald will take. It typically takes 15-25 years to go bald; however, some men lose their hair in less than five years.
The Evolution of Hair Transplant Technology
Baldness is a natural process, but if you’ve decided to seek out treatment, there’s good news – hair transplant technology is evolving all the time.
You may be surprised to learn that the groundwork of modern-day surgical hair restoration was laid in Japan in the 1930s. In 1939, Japanese dermatologist Dr. Shoji Okuda documented his groundbreaking work in surgical hair restoration. Working with burn victims, he used a punch technique to extract small, round sections of hair and skin, which he then implanted into slightly smaller holes on the scarred or burned areas of his patients’ scalps. After the skin grafts healed, they continued to produce hair in the previously bald areas of scalp.
Unfortunately, Okuda’s innovative work was completely unknown to Western medicine at the time, due to Japan’s role as an Axis power in World War II. Lost in the aftermath of war, these scientific findings didn’t come to light until more than a decade later.
In 1952, a New York dermatologist, Dr. Norman Orentreich, performed the first known hair transplant in the United States on a patient with male pattern baldness. Orentrieich effectively became the father of modern-day hair transplant technique technology with his “Donor Dominance” hypothesis, which essentially stated what we now know today: The hair follicles on the back and the sides of the head aren’t affected by DHT, so they usually stay healthy. Scientists are still unsure why these follicles are immune to DHT, but this does explain why they’re usually available for transplants to increase hair coverage on top of the head.
The ‘60s and ‘70s ushered in a surge in popularity in hair transplants. However, in these early days, doctors used larger hair grafts for the transplants. That technique is outdated today because many patients lack the donor hair necessary to complete the full course of hair transplant treatments. The smaller “micro-graft” technique developed in the ‘80s resulted in improved hair density and a more natural-looking result.
The mid-1990s saw the introduction of the most refined surgical hair transplant procedure, follicular unit extraction (FUE). As the FUE technique has evolved, it is now widely accepted as the gold standard for hair restoration.
How Is Follicular Unit Extraction Different?
FUE is a powerful hair restoration technique wherein patients can hope to achieve an increase in hair density even after a single surgical session.
In follicular unit extraction, the surgeon will remove small groups of hair follicles from the donor site and reinsert them into receptor sites at the sides and on the top of the head. Because the grafts are so small, they produce more natural-looking results. In fact, after the receptor site is fully healed, it is virtually undetectable.
There are several key differences that make FUE superior to older methods of transplantation.
● Less painful: The FUE procedure is quicker and less painful than any other hair restoration technique. FUE relies on a punch-like scalpel that shallowly cuts the skin around the follicle, removing about one to four follicles from the donor area at the same time.
● Quicker recovery: Older methods of hair restoration had a long and painful recovery process that included the need for sutures and bandages. However, the recovery process with FUE is much faster and results in less discomfort. In most patients, the grafts become fully secure in about eight days after surgery, and the surgical wound in the donor area usually heals within one to two weeks.
● Available to 100 percent of patients: In the past, hair restoration was less accessible than it is today. Some patients were ineligible for the procedure due to criteria such as age, hair texture, complexion and amount of donor hair. However, because FUE is such a superior technique, 100 percent of hair loss sufferers are candidates for FUE. For example, the amount of donor hair on the head isn’t a concern because the procedure can extract hair from other parts of the body.
● No visible scars: Unlike previous methods of hair loss treatments, FUE does not result in visible scars in the donor or recipient area. Instead, new hair growth hides the tiny cuts in the recipient area.
As the innovative FUE technique continues to advance and become more refined, many experts in the field of hair loss technology predict it will become the preferred technique for every hair restoration surgeon and patient.
Are you ready to restore a seamless, natural, healthy-looking head of hair? Contact us today with all your hair-loss concerns and schedule a consultation.