Hair transplantation in women
Hair transplants can sometimes be a good option for women with androgenetic alopecia alopecia, but much less commonly than for men. I don't think this is well understood, even among the medical community. Here are the top 3 reasons why women are far less likely to be deemed good hair transplant candidates.
1. The patient has diffuse thinning making the donor area weak.
Many women have a pattern of hair loss whereby hair loss and thinning occurs at the top, dies and back. In other words, the hair thinning is affecting everywhere. We call this diffuse hair loss. Diffuse hair loss affects a large proportion of women with androgenetic alopecia. In contrast, men rarely have a diffuse pattern of hair loss.
The reason the diffuse pattern is important to identify is that hairs taken from a thinning area from the back of the scalp and transplanted into the front will thin out over time, making the hair transplant unsuccessful.
If the female patient does not have thinning in the back of the scalp and the physician predicts she will never have thinning in the back of the scalp.... then the patient may be a good candidate for hair restoration (provided point 2 and point 3 below are met).
2. The patient has more than one reason for their hair loss.
Hair loss in women is far more complex than for men and many men have two (and even three) reasons for their hair loss. Women with only one reason for the hair loss do better with hair restoration procedures. If there is a component of telogen effluvium or cicatricial alopecia, these individuals usually do not have good results with hair transplant procedures.
3. The recipient area is not thin enough making it possible for a hair transplant to cause hair damage and worsening of hair loss.
The recipient area (are to be transplanted) needs to be of a certain density to effectively accommodate new grafts. In the early stages of thinning, the patient appreciates their is a reduction in density in the area, but has not experienced sufficient hair loss to make a hair transplant a good option. In many of these cases, attempts to do a hair transplant can sometimes lead to worsening of hair loss, or no change in density. Of course, the transplant can also be a success sometimes - but decisions to proceed with surgery come with a risk.
Approximately 30,000 women undergo hair transplants every year in the world. Many have success but many do not. Overall, it is important to understand that not all women are good candidates for surgery. An experienced hair physician can help a patient understand her chances of getting an improvement with surgery before undergoing the procedure. If the patient has diffuse thinning, multiple types of hair loss and the hair loss is in too early of a stage ... one may not achieve expected results.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299