Stem cell therapy for hair loss feature
Ageless Beauty

Does Stem Cell Therapy For Hair Loss Really Work?

Are you struggling with hair loss? You’re not alone. According to Harvard Health Publishing, about 30% of women experience hair loss. The most common time for women’s hair to start thinning is when they go through hormonal changes, including pregnancy and childbirth, but most notably during menopause. 

The main form of hair loss that women experience is the same as men – androgenetic alopecia – more commonly known as female (or male) pattern hair loss. However, there is a difference in where the balding starts for a woman versus a man. A woman will likely experience the beginning of her balding as a thinning where her hair part line is, and then it continues from there. It is very rare for a woman’s hairline to recede in the same way that a man’s does, and it is also very rare that women go bald like men. 

One of the hardest parts when facing hair loss or trying to generate regrowth is finding an option that will work well for you. There are products galore on the market and a number of treatments and procedures, but one that caught our attention recently was the use of stem cells. I suspect we’ve all heard about the use of stem cells for various treatment methods; it’s a controversial topic that can cause debate while shining a spotlight on the issues that it can potentially treat. Because it’s shown promise as a treatment for hair loss, we wanted to dive a little deeper to see if it’s safe and truly a viable option.

The 411 on Hair Growth and Hair Loss

Receding hair line

Hair loss, especially in women, can be deeply distressing, which can cause people to try almost anything to get results. We connected with Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a Triple Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, the founder and surgical director of California Hair MD, and a “superspecialist” in hair restoration. We discussed the effects of hair loss on women, especially since the issue is one that he works with closely. According to Dr. Chaffoo, “Hair loss for women is devastating. I see a lot of women that are desperate for a treatment.”

When your hair stops growing, that likely means that the follicles on your head no longer get the message from the growth factors to continue growing. This, in turn, causes the follicles to shrink and close up, which keeps new hair from growing. 

Since you’re born with all of the hair follicles you’ll ever have, once those hair follicles start closing up, they won’t start growing again without some sort of aid. But what causes hair loss in women?

Causes of Hair Loss

Doctor using a Dermascope for a Trichoscopy

According to Dr. Chaffoo, there are a variety of reasons that women experience hair loss. “In women, around 40-45%, or roughly half of women, have androgenic alopecia. The other half has something else. But what is that something else? It could be an autoimmune disorder, an iron deficiency, a thyroid disorder, Lupus, or another reason.”

He continued, “For women with hair loss that we see at our practice, we do a really exhaustive workup – a very detailed history.  I look at their scalp with a Dermascope, which magnifies their scalp, looking at the scalp’s surface for what could be the cause or causes. We also get laboratory tests done to rule in or rule out possible causes. And doing a scalp biopsy can really tell us what’s going on.”

Stem Cell Treatment for Hair Loss

So, after determining that the appropriate treatment for hair loss typically depends on the cause, is stem cell therapy even something you should pursue? Let’s start by looking at what the procedure entails.

What is Stem Cell Therapy?

First, the stem cells in your body are what heal and repair tissue, and sitting right under the layer of fat below your skin sits mesenchymal stem cells. The idea is that, when harvested, these stem cells filled with regenerative properties can be used to regenerate hair follicles to bring your hair back. 

The process of using stem cells to regenerate hair growth is a painless one that involves the following steps:

  1. Biopsy to get stem cells
  2. Stems cells are separated from your body’s tissue using a centrifuge
  3. The remaining cell suspension is injected back into the area where the hair loss is occurring

The procedure takes about 3 hours and is an outpatient one that is performed in a doctor’s office. You may experience some pain for up to a week following the procedure, but it shouldn’t be anything that hinders your ability to live your life normally. 

Should You Try Stem Cell Therapy?

While some studies seem to show there are potential benefits to stem cell therapy for hair loss, Dr. Chaffoo does not support its use. “There’s a lot of controversy surrounding stem cell therapy in general, and specifically for hair loss.”  He continued, “There is not a standardized stem cell treatment protocol for patients. By that, I mean some practices utilize a patient’s own stem cells, which are harvested from the fat. It’s what we call a micro liposuction, where fat is removed and processed, and within that fat, there are stem cells. Other people do not use the patient’s stem cells but obtain stem cells from someone else – like embryonic cord blood – and use that instead. So, the real issue is: what is the patient really getting when they’re getting a “stem cell” treatment?” 

Because of the lack of oversight or a standardized protocol, the procedure is not FDA-approved. Dr. Chaffoo finds that to be a major stop sign when considering any treatment. “I’m very cautious and protective of patients, and I base my decisions when treating patients upon science. I’ve made recommendations based on the evidence that’s available in scientific literature.” He concluded, “If stem cell therapy was approved for use and I had seen the benefit of it, for sure we would be utilizing it.” However, the lack of credible studies and FDA approvals means this treatment option isn’t one he’ll offer any time in the near future.

Conclusion

Jada Pinkett Smith Alopecia

When men lose their hair, they can shave their head Bruce Willis-style, buy a Harley, and basically just look like a tough guy. For women, though, the options are more limited. Yes, we can shave our heads and own it, and some of us will even look amazing without hair (Jada Pinkett Smith looks as beautiful as ever). However, for many of us, hair loss can be devastating, and when a treatment option comes along that looks promising, it’s hard to accept that it might not be the miracle option we were hoping for.

If you are experiencing hair loss, the best advice you can take is to do some research and see a professional. Dr. Chaffoo encourages a ‘team dynamic’ approach, which is a comprehensive evaluation by two or more doctors. Getting to the root of the matter will be the key to stopping or slowing the shed, and they might even have some treatment methods that will stimulate regrowth and get you back on track.

Read Next:

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Does steam cell therapy for hair loss work?

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