Hair transplant or medication: which is better for me?

March, 09 2020 | By Dr. Sangay Bhutia (Hair Transplant Specialist in Delhi)

It is easy to say that we know what is good for us. However, there are times when we all need expert opinion. Had that not been the case, why would professions such as counsellors, lawyers, or doctors exist?

When it comes to our well-being or the way we look, taking decisions can be very difficult. Imagine this situation – you are young, planning to get married, or in the dating game, applying for a new job, but are experiencing hair loss. The whole process can be very distressing. From thinning to eventual hair loss can be traumatic for people causing immense psychological stress. This can really impact the individual’s self-belief and confidence. In such a state, decision making is impaired.

When we confront hair loss - we stare in the face of multiple questions. Why is this happening? What can I do about it? Which medicines to take? Is there a home remedy? Should I consider a hair transplant? Will it work? What if it doesn't? etc. etc. And it is important that you get answers to all these as well as any other questions you might have.

Most people have a fairly vague idea about what to do when they experience hair loss. Let’s first break down the causes behind hair loss and the options available; once these are understood it can be easier to arrive at a decision on the right recourse for you.

Hair Transplant

Hair loss happens primarily because of a few reasons, namely: stress, illness, crash dieting, nutritional deficiency, constant tugging and pulling of hair because of some hairstyles, Trichotillomania or hair pulling disorder, or genetics.

Each cause of hair fall has to be treated differently. The first thing to do when you notice hair fall is to see a good trichologist. It is important that before hair fall is cured, it is diagnosed by an expert first. Now, if the hair fall is because of dieting, nutritional deficiencies, illness, it can be cured by targeting the root cause. In these cases, a nutritionist or a dietician can make you a diet chart to follow, and recommend supplements depending on your specific needs. In the case of Trichotillomania, seeking psychological help and therapy can help cure the root cause. Whereas, in the case of traction alopecia, which is triggered by certain hairstyles like corn rows or very tight buns and braids, changing your style can help.

The problem is slightly more difficult when the hair fall is genetic, which means that the hair you lose is not going to grow back. Now, there are medicines like Minoxidil and Finasteride, which both help in arresting hair fall or even in regrowth. Minoxidil is what is called a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes the walls of the blood vessels and helps increase the blood flow to various parts of the body, including the hair follicles. Minoxidil helps hair follicles in the telogen or resting phase to fall, and these are replaced by new hair. Minoxidil is not always helpful in bringing lost hair back but it can stop hair fall. It is beneficial for patients in the early stages of hair fall.

Finasteride, on the other hand, works differently. It is a 5α-reductase inhibitor. This means that it can stop the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone or DHT, the main culprit behind male pattern baldness or permanent hair fall in men. Various studies conducted on balding men have proven that these medications work. However, they cannot stop balding completely.

This is where hair transplant comes in. Hair transplant surgeries are the only permanent solution to hair loss. For the uninitiated, here’s how they work: healthy hair follicles from the hair-loss resistant zones of the scalp, the back and sides, are harvested and implanted on to the bald or balding spots. Since these are the person’s own hair follicles, they will adapt to the new spot on the scalp and continue to grow as they would in their original place. These follicles are also DHT-resistant, which means they will be impervious to hair fall.

Hair transplants are done using two techniques: FUE or Follicular Unit Extraction, or FUT or Follicular Unit transplantation. FUE involves extracting individual hair follicles and using them as implants. Whereas FUT involves extracting a strip of hair and dividing it into individual follicular units and using them as implants. Doctors can recommend the right technique for patients considering the extent of hair fall, the patient’s age, and their preferences in terms of outcome, time they have for recovery, or even the hairstyle they want to keep post the transplant.

Hair transplants are a great choice for patients who have enough donor hair and who want natural, and aesthetically-pleasing results. Even in younger patients who have just started experiencing hair fall, a transplant can be a better option than medication, as it is usually a one time thing. Being young and in the early stage of hair fall also means that there is enough donor hair to create a desired look. In late stages, a paucity of donor follicles can make the transplant difficult.

Medication is also something that the person will have to keep taking. Once the medication stops, the hair fall will start again. With hair transplants, the recovery time is barely one-two weeks, and the patient will see full growth within a year. Apart from post-surgery care, a hair transplant patient does not need to keep taking medicines or worry about hair loss or stress about how they will look with thin hair. It is a one-stop solution.

The bottom line is that although both the options are available to hair loss patients, if you want your mane back and peace of mind, and not have to worry about applying your medicine everyday, a hair transplant surgery is a great solution. However, a consultation with an experienced surgeon is of paramount importance before you choose what’s right for you.

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