If you’re dealing with alopecia, chances are good you’ve tried just about every treatment option from pills to topical treatments—but have you tried your own blood?
A treatment called PRP, more commonly known as a “vampire facial”, is an alopecia treatment that involves having your own blood injected into your scalp. If your dark brown hair is looking a little sparse, this just may be the treatment for you. It’s rapidly making waves in the medical and beauty world and we just had to know more. We sat down with Dr. Michelle Green, a New York-based registered dermatologist and Hair.com consultant, to learn more about how PRP works and if it can benefit those suffering from alopecia.
What is PRP?
Let’s start with the basics: PRP stands for “platelet-rich plasma.” Your blood is made up of red blood cells and plasma that contains both platelets and white blood cells. To harvest the platelet-rich plasma, a doctor will draw your blood and place a vial of it in a machine that spins at breakneck speeds to separate the red blood cells from the platelet-rich plasma. Doctors can then inject that plasma and depending on where it’s injected, the whole procedure takes about 20 minutes.
If this procedure sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard of it before. Medical professionals have been using PRP as a treatment in plastic surgery and the treatment gained popularity when it was used to create the “vampire facial.” The celebrity-endorsed facial involves injecting the platelet-rich plasma into your face and creates a shocking red-faced selfie opportunity.
Good hair day by @benhards and @dani.loulou.
Can PRP regrow hair?
This is where things begin to get a bit tricky. According to Dr. Green, scientists do not yet have a conclusive understanding of precisely how PRP helps to regrow hair—but they’ve got some educated ideas.
“It is hypothesized that PRP contains cells called platelets that cause the growth of the hair follicles by stimulating the stem cells and the microenvironment of the hair follicles,” she says. “These special platelet cells basically promote healing and they accelerate the degree of regeneration and form new cellular growth.”
PRP essentially uses your own white blood cells and platelets to help rejuvenate your hair follicles, thereby encouraging new hair growth. While doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how PRP rejuvenates hair follicles, PRP has had great success in treating other parts of the body. Dr. Green recalls working with a dermatologist who used PRP to help treat atopic dermatitis, eczema, and joint pain.
Who is a good candidate for PRP?
If you’re dealing with hair loss, PRP must sound like a miracle treatment. All you need to regrow your hair is your own blood—where do you sign up? Unfortunately, not everyone dealing with hair loss is a great candidate for PRP.
“I’ve had patients come in that were bald or mostly bald, and I tell them the truth, ‘You’re not a good candidate,’” Dr. Green says. “It won’t regrow hair where there is no hair follicle, where it’s completely bald.
The sooner you diagnose the hair loss and begin to treat it, the better chances you’ll have that the treatment will work—just like most other hair loss treatments. If you’re curious about whether PRP is an appropriate treatment for you, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist who specializes in hair loss.
Good hair day by @powerofastylist.
How long does it take for PRP to work on hair?
Unlike a vampire facial, PRP treatments for hair loss aren’t a one-time deal. The doctor says in her experience it takes at least four months for a hair follicle to grow, so she recommends her clients get one treatment a month for four months and then she gauges whether or not the treatment is working.
The commitment doesn’t end there, however. If the treatment does produce the results you desire, Dr. Green recommends returning for maintenance injections every three to six months. While there are no studies following the long-term effectiveness of PRP, the doctor suspects you’ll need annual maintenance shots forever.
How much is PRP?
If you’re possibly signing yourself up for a lifetime of injections, you’ll probably want to know how much they cost. Like most things in life, the cost varies.
Dr. Green says she’s seen PRP treatments advertised for as much as $3,000 per session and as little as $800 per session. To make matters even trickier, PRP is rarely covered by insurance, so the bill will likely have to come out of pocket. Give your insurance provider a call before scheduling a PRP treatment to understand the costs you'll be responsible for.
Good hair day by @sindiarifi.
Is PRP treatment for hair painful?
Everyone has a different threshold for pain, so what may feel painful to you may not feel painful to your BFF. That being said, to complete the procedure, you’ll have to have your blood drawn and then have the platelets from your blood injected into your scalp. Having your blood drawn will feel the same way it does when you go to the doctor for a routine check-up, but scalp injections are likely something new. Expect some level of pain or discomfort, but the feeling should last no longer than the injection itself. Afterward, your scalp may feel sore for a few hours. If you’d like to manage the potential pain, ask your doctor if they recommend a numbing cream.
What are the side effects of a PRP injection?
At this time, the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of PRP for the treatment of androgenic alopecia are not fully realized. However, according to the latest study, the side effects after PRP injections were minimal pain, redness at the time of injections, and pinpoint bleeding. Note that the treatment is not FDA approved, so there could be risks if you are considering this treatment option.
Preliminary studies of PRP injections seems to indicate that it’s a simple and feasible treatment option for hair loss.
“They're not a lot of studies, but I can tell you anecdotally from the patients I’ve done, they’re really some of my happiest patients,” Dr. Green says.
If you’re interested in learning more about PRP and whether it’s the right treatment for you, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist that specializes in hair loss.
Interested in learning more about hair thinning? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.