Platelet-rich plasma or PRP is obtained from the bloodstream and has been used for years to treat musculoskeletal disorders and more recently skin disorders. Popularly called “vampire” treatments.
Platelets and Hair Growth: What's the Connection?
Platelets are one of the four main components of blood (the other three being red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma). Platelets promote cell growth and regeneration. As the term "platelet-rich plasma" suggests, platelets, in general, are about five times more concentrated in PRP than in normal blood. This concentration of platelets is helpful because platelets secrete growth factors that are believed to aid in wound healing and tissue growth.
PRP for Hair Loss
When it comes to hair loss, the theory is that platelets, injected deep into the scalp to reach the bottom of the hair follicles, can stimulate a specialized population of cells called dermal papilla cells, which play an important role in hair growth.
Obtaining and Injecting Platelet Rich Plasma
The process to obtain PRP involves a blood draw and a centrifuge. To yield PRP, blood is drawn from your arm and then spun down into a centrifuge (a machine that spins at high speeds to help separate the blood components). After centrifugation, the plasma rises to the top and the lower part of the plasma is the PRP. Sometimes a second spin is performed to increase the platelet concentration of the plasma.
It's your own blood
Your own PRP is collected and then injected into multiple hair loss sections on your scalp. The usual treatment plan includes three sessions, about a month apart, followed by maintenance sessions every three to six months to track results.
A proven treatment?
Evidence for platelet-rich plasma is stronger for some types of hair loss than others. Most research on PRP for hair loss focuses on its use to treat androgenetic alopecia (AGA). Also known as hormone-related baldness, this is a condition that can affect both men and women. In men with AGA, hair loss usually occurs on the top and front of the head. In women, thinning occurs at the top and crown of the head and often begins with the broadening of the middle section of hair. There is some evidence that PRP works best in combination with other treatments for AGA, such as topical minoxidil, for men and women, or oral Finasteride (an anti-androgen drug). Finasteride is only for men.
Other forms of hair loss
There is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of PRP for other types of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium (stress-related hair loss), alopecia areata (autoimmune hair disease)
And then the costs
Platelet-rich plasma hair loss therapy is considered safe, but expensive
PRP injections are not for everyone. These injections can be painful, both for your scalp and your wallet. A session costs a few hundred Euros and several treatments are needed.
Medical treatment with side effects
PRP injections are considered safe when performed by a trained medical provider. Mild risks include pain, redness, headache, and temporary hair loss. PRP may not be appropriate for those with a history of bleeding disorders or autoimmune diseases.
More research is needed
More research is needed to understand the best process for obtaining and injecting PRP. Furthermore, more information is needed to understand how PRP helps with hair regrowth and how helpful it can be for less common types of hair loss.