Don’t lose your head over hair loss; there ways to restore your crowning glory both surgically and non-surgically.

Male or female pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia (AGA), affects 73% of Asian men and women.

Male pattern hair loss begins above the temples, with the hairline receding over time to form the characteristic “M” shape. On the other hand, female AGA begins with gradual thinning of the partline and at the top of the head.

Many people experiencing hair loss are willing to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on restorative shampoos, ointments, and treatments. So, it’s no surprise that the value of the global hair restoration services market is expected to reach $12.1 billion by 2026.

What causes hair loss?

It is normal to lose about 50 to 150 strands of hair a day. However, one should be concerned when there is unusual thinning of hair, receding of the hairline or if hair starts to fall out in clumps.

According to Dr Angeline Yong, of Angeline Yong Dermatology in Singapore, hair loss can be caused by many factors which may be present simultaneously such as fungal infection, hormonal changes, genetics, exposure to radiation, medications and supplements, extreme changes in diet and/or physical activity, significant weight gain or weight loss, inflammatory disorders, and autoimmune diseases.

A thorough consultation and examination is necessary before undergoing any type of procedure or treatment plan. There are two broad categories of hair restoration for AGA, depending on severity of symptoms: invasive or surgical techniques, and non-invasive therapies.

Non-invasive Therapies

Prior to undergoing hair transplant surgery, Dr Yong advises patients to stabilise the symptoms of AGA with non-invasive therapies.

“In male patients I prescribe minoxidil, finasteride, and low-level light therapy, which decrease DHT levels, enlarge and stimulate hair follicles, extend the hair growth phase and induce hair growth.

“The same treatments are prescribed to female patients, but I replace finasteride with spironolactone or cyprotetone acetate to reduce the body’s androgen production,” says Dr Yong.

Patients are advised to undergo these therapies for a minimum of three months to reduce if not stabilize their hair loss.

“While hair transplants may improve one’s cosmetic appearance, their results may be short-lived if the root cause of hair loss are not adequately managed,” adds Dr Yong.

Dr Angeline Yong of Angeline Yong Dermatology

Surgical treatments

There are two types of hair transplant surgeries: follicular unit transplantation (FUT) and follicular unit extraction (FUE). Both are full-day outpatient treatments performed under local anaesthesia and mild oral sedation if required.

“FUT, also known as ‘strip’ surgery, requires the removal of a strip of hair-bearing scalp usually from the back of the head. The scalp is then stitched together to close the wound. Under high-powered microscopes, the surgical team divides the strip up into tiny grafts of individual follicular units comprising of one to four hairs per graft. These are placed in a chilled tissue storage solution until they are transplanted into the bald or thinning areas of the head.

“The FUE method requires individual harvesting of hair follicles from the donor site. To ensure they continue to be viable, the hair follicles are stored in a holding solution at controlled temperatures. As hair follicles are cut off from oxygen and blood supply after they are harvested, they must be replanted into the scalp as soon as possible for the treatment to be effective,” explains Dr Yong.

FUT is usually the preferred choice among women as it does not require them to shave the scalp. FUE on the other hand, heals more quickly, and is suited for those who keep their hair short because there is no linear scar but rather small scattered scars.

A good surgeon should be able to offer both procedures at their practice and recommend them according to the patient’s needs.

Main photo by Dreamstime
Dr Angeline Yong photo courtesy of Dr Angeline Yong

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