“You’re not imagining it: the pandemic is making your hair fall out,” says the NY Times. And in our practice, we can confirm that observation. After covid-19 infection, many patients experience post-viral hair loss known as telogen effluvium, beginning a few months after infection. Telogen effluvium can occur after the body is stressed by a high fever, surgery or childbirth—and usually reverses itself. It’s not surprising that we see more viral related hair loss. What is unusual is that even hereditary thinning known as androgenetic alopecia seems to be worsening this year.
Many patients have inquired about PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) for hair loss. There are no studies examining its use in post-covid hair loss patients; however, it can be very effective for patients with hereditary thinning — and possibly other types of hair loss.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatments
Platelet-Rich Plasma is a type of regenerative medicine in which the injection stimulates or restores the body’s own repair mechanism. Physicians have used PRP injections to treat acute sports injuries, such as pulled hamstring muscles or knee sprains and after surgery to repair a torn tendon (such as a rotator cuff tendon in the shoulder) or ligaments (such as the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL).
Chronic wounds have also responded to PRP and multiple studies are currently examining the practice for the treatment of dermal atrophy, wound healing, and other conditions.
More recently, however, PRP has emerged as an effective therapy for hair loss, which can be a challenging dermatologic problem to treat.
PRP Treatment for Hair Loss
Understanding PRP begins with recognizing the function of platelets. Platelets are components of the blood that promote blood clotting as well as cell growth and healing. Normal concentrations of platelets in the bloodstream are between 150,000-450,000 per microliter of blood. However, when blood is spun down by a centrifuge machine, concentrations of platelets increase, leading to even greater benefits in wound healing and tissue regrowth.
While the exact mechanism is unknown, scientists theorize that PRP stimulates certain types of cells in the scalp that play an important role in hair growth. PRP also appears to keep hairs in the growing (anagen) phase of development longer than usual, resulting in a greater number of hairs on the scalp relative to shedding hairs.
How does it work?
First, a small amount of blood is drawn from a vein in your arm. This blood is spun down to separate the red blood cells from the plasma — where the highest concentration of platelets can be found. Using a small needle, the plasma is then injected into areas of the scalp where hair loss has occurred. For best results, a series of three-monthly treatments should be completed, followed by maintenance sessions every six months.
What are the risks?
First, PRP can be mildly painful. Small needles are used to insert PRP into specific areas of the scalp. Local numbing medicine, cold compresses and vibrational devices used to offset the sensation of pain can be helpful and may be utilized during treatment. Bruising may also occur, but typically resolves within one to two weeks. There is also a small risk of infection with the venipuncture used to obtain the sample.
What conditions can be treated with PRP?
Patients experiencing hair loss associated with genetics or age-related changes, known as androgenetic alopecia, are good candidates for PRP. This type of hair loss typically runs in families and presents with a widening part on the crown of the scalp. Additionally, new research suggests that PRP may have a role in other forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata (autoimmune disease resulting in patchy hair loss) and scarring forms of alopecia (lichen planopilaris and frontal fibrosing alopecia).
Interested in PRP for hair loss? Contact us to schedule a consultation with a dermatologist to discuss treatment options for you.
Butt G, Efficacy of platelet-rich plasma in androgenetic alopecia patients. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019 Aug;18(4):996-1001. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12810. Epub 2018 Nov 4. PMID: 30393988.
J Cosmet Dermatol
- 2020 May;19(5):1071-1077.
doi: 10.1111/jocd.13146. Epub 2019 Sep 18
- 2019 Aug;18(4):996-1001.