(PRP) Therapy for Hair Loss

As hair thinning, recession, and balding affects millions of men and women worldwide, it’s no wonder there are always new treatment methods coming onto the market. One such method is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), and it’s being used with high success around the world.

In this post, I’ll introduce PRP and what it may mean for hair loss sufferers. This will include a look at how PRP is performed, how it works, as well as the scientific evidence behind it. I’ll also highlight a few alternatives.

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)?

There are two definitions of PRP which I’ll be digging into today. The first is the literal definition, and the second is the definition as it refers to the hair loss treatment method.

First, the literal definition.

Platelet-rich plasma is a ‘product’ derived from whole blood. It’s a concentrate of platelet-rich plasma protein where the plasma has been separated from the other blood products (including red blood cells) with a centrifuge. Essentially, plasma is the substance within your body that suspends the blood cells. Aside from suspension, however, it also acts as a protein reserve (storing protein until it’s needed elsewhere) and plays a role in electrolyte balancing.

Now, what does this all have to do with hair growth? Well, there’s a second definition of platelet-rich plasma, and that definition refers to a use as a treatment method for hairline recession and thinning. PRP is a non-surgical method that uses your own blood to generate growth. This is done with tiny injections into the affected areas of the scalp, and it can be used in conjunction with other treatment methods (such as hair transplantation) or alone.

How Does PRP Treatment Work?

It seems a bit odd to draw blood from your body only to then reinject a portion of that blood again. So, what’s the deal? It first helps to understand the proteins and other components present within the blood’s plasma. As mentioned above, plasma acts as a reserve for proteins. However, plasma also contains its own proteins, as well as Growth Factors (GFs). A few of the more important GFs include:

  • Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)
  • Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β)
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
  • Epidermal growth factor (EGF)
  • Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)

While each GF works differently, they all have a similar end goal: to promote cell proliferation and differentiation. This is believed to be done through stimulation of stem cells within the follicle giving rise to new hair.

Stem cells – undifferentiated cells that are capable of adapting into other cell types during development and growth – actually play a significant role in hair growth. They are located at the bulge of the follicle – the area where new follicular units are formed – and when activated, can contribute to the formation and elongation of new follicles and hair strands.

As discussed, the GFs present within plasma can stimulate these cells.

Additionally, PRP is believed to stimulate blood flow to the area. This provides the hair follicles with vital nutrients and oxygen and leaves them in a healthier, stronger state.

Are There Any Side Effects or Considerations?

While trials are still underway, there’s no definitive answer as to side effects. However, current studies show that the risk of side effects is minimal.

As the treatment involves the use of a patient’s own blood products, it makes sense that side effects commonly seen in hair loss treatments (such as hair transplants and Rogaine/Propecia) aren’t present. There are no foreign substances being injected into the body, and yet it still proves to be powerful enough to regrow hair.

You may experience minor irritation at the sites of injection, including itching, tingling, and redness. However, these irritations should go away within a day or so of treatment. While not a side effect, you should also consider that results will vary. Your surgeon may be able to give you a general idea of results, but even these are estimates. Overall, I recommend you go in with conservative expectations.