Hair transplantation is not just for men with hair loss. It is a treatment for women, too. Modern techniques of hair transplantation are successful in treating typically diffuse female-pattern hair loss as well as the more familiar forms of male-pattern hair loss. A woman who becomes concerned about hair loss can discuss this option with her physician hair restoration specialist.
In general, hair transplantation is likely to result in a more satisfying outcome for a woman when there is adequate donor hair for successful transplantation. A less satisfying outcome is more likely when transplantation is a "last ditch" treatment for advanced hair loss when donor hair is in short supply. [Unger WP, Unger RH. Hair transplantation: an important but often forgotten treatment for female pattern hair loss. J Amer Acad Dermatol 2003; 49:853-860].
Realistic Expectations for Hair Transplantation
Whenever hair transplants are considered, a woman and her physician should agree prior to treatment on realistic expectations for treatment outcome. A realistic expectation is to achieve a significant increase in hair density, satisfactory for hair styling and overall cosmetic appearance. An unrealistic expectation is refusal to be satisfied with any result less than complete restoration of pre-thinning hair density. Female-pattern hair loss, like male-pattern hair loss, is progressive and relentless. A woman with female-pattern hair loss who wants to maintain the same hair density throughout her life may consult her physician hair restoration specialist about wigs or hair additions.
No currently available surgical or non-surgical treatment can cure female-pattern hair loss. There is no treatment that cures pattern hair loss in the way that antibiotics cure infection (Click on Hair Loss-Why? for more information about male and female-pattern hair loss). The purpose of surgical and non-surgical treatments is to mitigate the cosmetic effects of progressive pattern hair loss.
Female-pattern hair loss can begin at any age from the 20s onward. The most common ages of onset are the 30s and 50s. Onset is often insidious--a few more hairs than usual in the comb or hair brush, recognition of places where hair is no longer dense enough to conceal bare scalp. Over time the loss of hair will evolve into one of the typical patterns of female-pattern hair loss (Click on Patterns of Female Hair Loss in the Hair Loss-Why? chapter).
A woman who is concerned about thinning hair should first find out if female-pattern hair loss in the cause. Examination by a physician hair restoration specialist will assure a correct diagnosis and confirm or rule out any causes that may require medical treatment. Establishing the cause of a woman's hair loss should not be a guessing game. The physician hair restoration specialist will present options for treatment based upon (1) the correct diagnosis, and (2) the woman's wishes regarding time, cost and desired outcome of treatment.
Hair transplantation may or may not be an acceptable option recommended by the physician hair restoration specialist. It is important, however, that hair transplantation is now considered an option available to a woman. It should not be overlooked as a treatment only for men. It should not be dismissed because "pluggy" hair grafts were often produced by older transplantation techniques. Modern hair transplantation techniques using mini-grafts, micro-grafts, single-hair grafts and follicular unit grafts produce results that meet the most stringent standards for naturalness of appearance.
Hair transplantation may be reserved as an option to consider later, after a trial of minoxidil (Rogaine®) to slow hair loss and stimulate hair regrowth. Minoxidil is also frequently used in conjunction with hair transplantation to enhance hair density in transplanted areas of the scalp.