Older men with hair loss can be confident that age, in itself, does not exclude them from having hair transplantation. Men are seldom "too old" to consider hair transplantation as a treatment for hair loss.
Men 50 years old and older can usually expect excellent results from first-time hair transplantation. Excellent results are common in men age 70 and older who decide to have hair transplantation late in life.
When the Time is Right for Hair Transplantation
Male pattern hair loss can begin at any age from adolescence to the 40s and 50s. See About Hair Loss for more information about age and male pattern hair loss). Some men choose to seek treatment early and maintain a regimen of treatment for as long as progressive hair loss continues. Early and continued treatment by a physician hair restoration specialist helps a man maintain a cosmetically pleasing appearance.
Other men may decide to accept their hair loss as a fact of life and seek no treatment.
Hair loss that begins late in life, or changing circumstances in a man's life, may make hair restoration desirable or even a necessity after age 50. It is not unusual in today's globalized economy, for example, for a man to find it necessary to change employment or even careers at age 50 or older. Societal emphasis on youthfulness may encourage a man to maintain an appearance as youthful-looking as his wife's. Some men may decide they just want to lose the look of a balding man. In any of these instances, hair restoration will contribute to the appearance that a man wishes to present.
When the Older Man Decides to Seek Hair Transplantation
The 50+ man who seeks first-time hair transplantation should have a number of points to discuss with his physician hair restoration specialist. These include:
- Hair transplantation should aim to produce age-appropriate correction of hair loss. Most older men will have modest goals for hair restoration; they will not aim to achieve the full-hair look of a 20-year-old man but rather to improve the cosmetic deficiency of baldness. Goals for hair restoration must be frankly discussed and agreed upon between the patient and the physician hair restoration specialist.
- The amount of donor hair available on the patient's scalp will be an important factor in determining what hair-restoration goals are achievable. A limited amount of donor hair will necessarily limit the number of hair grafts available for transplantation to balding areas of the scalp. For some older men, first-time hair transplantation may be their only hair transplantation if progressive hair loss continues to diminish the patient's supply of donor hair; however, the patient may feel that results of a one-time hair transplantation will accomplish the goal he wishes to achieve. A very limited supply of donor hair may lead the physician hair restoration specialist to recommend against hair transplantation. If a good outcome is unlikely, the patient should accept the physician's recommendation against having the procedure. The patient should be confident that the physician believes a good result is possible.
- A modest but usually achievable hair transplantation goal for older men is restoration of a frontal hairline and strategic placement of a limited number of grafts behind the hairline to provide an aesthetic appearance of "fullness". This strategy takes advantage of the inability of the human eye to discern a difference between 50% density and 100% density in scalp hair. The "less is more" strategy is one used with a high rate of success by skilled physician hair restoration specialists. The patient and physician must discuss all options and agree on a mutually acceptable goal for hair transplantation.
Physical Limitations and Hair Transplantation in Older Men
A man age 55 or older may have some chronic medical conditions that need to be taken into account prior to a surgical procedure such as hair transplantation. Such conditions seldom pose a serious risk; taking account of them reduces potential risk. The physician hair restoration specialist is a fully trained physician who can take such conditions into account, and consult professionally with a patient's other physicians if necessary.
It is very important for the patient to tell the physician hair restoration specialist about any medical conditions, and about all medications the patient is currently taking or has recently taken.
Most medical conditions pose little risk if the conditions are recognized and appropriate precautions taken in the approach to hair transplantation. For a patient with a chronic heart condition, for example, hair transplantation may be carried out in two or more shorter sessions to avoid the potential stress of a longer single session. Medical conditions that may indicate the need for precautions include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and bleeding disorders.
Medications that may indicate the need for precautions include warfarin (Coumadin®) and aspirin that reduce the ability of blood to form clots.
Realistic Goals for Hair Transplantation in the Older Man
Physician hair restoration specialists have generally found older men to have realistic expectations for the outcome of hair transplantation. The man age 55 or older will rarely expect to reverse the effects of decades of hair loss. Hair restoration that relieves the cosmetic impairment of baldness is usually considered very satisfactory.
The older man with minimal hair loss may wish to achieve hair transplantation results comparable to those realized in younger men. Whether or not this goal is achievable should be discussed with the physician hair restoration specialist after the physician has the results of scalp examination and other tests as may be necessary. The degree of hair loss, the amount and quality of donor hair, and anticipated future hair loss are points to discuss with the physician hair restoration specialist in regard to achievable goals for hair transplantation.