Several years ago, I considered writing a post on artificial hair implants (also known as synthetic hair implants or prosthetic hair transplants).
However, upon initial research, I read some major horror stories about adverse reactions to artificial hair implants. In several instances, the adverse reactions and side effects happened months after the procedure. This gave me some doubts and I put the subject on the back burner.
I reconsidered writing about this topic several times during the past couple of years, but each time I was dissuaded by the fact that most people who have had this procedure do not seem to post about their experiences on online hair loss forums. A lot of forum members also seemed to ridicule artificial hair transplants, with no solid counterarguments from people who have undergone the procedure successfully.
For hair transplants involving real hair, you can see thousands of online testimonials and reviews with short- and long-term before and after photos. The same cannot be said for synthetic hair implants. However, one sudden realization on my part (see next section) and two new studies finally pushed me into writing this post.
US Ban on Artificial Hair Implants
Until researching for this subject matter earlier this week, I did not realize that artificial hair implant procedures were banned in the US by the FDA all the way back in 1983. This ban on “prosthetic hair fibers” was reviewed again in 2017 with no changes in the decision. This situation seems to have continued to this day, despite appeals and petitions to the FDA by synthetic hair fiber manufacturers.
This decision to ban artificial hair implants stemmed from numerous consumer complaints in the 1970s and 1980s. It seems like inexperienced clinics at the time were using improper techniques and dangerous materials in a highly unregulated market. This was leading to numerous side effects from the synthetic hair implant material, including:
- Scalp inflammation.
- Allergic reactions and fiber rejection.
- Scalp scarring.
- Damage to native original existing hair.
- Wig-like odd appearance.
- Other harmful skin reactions.
So now it finally makes sense why we have seen very few online testimonials and stories about artificial hair implants here in the US.
Earlier generation fibres (US spelling = fibers) tended to be made with material such as modacrylic, polyacrylic and polyester, which resulted in many undesirable reactions and side effects. Newer generation fibres are made with polyamide based materials, which are supposedly much safer because of the inert nature of the material. The implantation procedure itself is an outpatient one performed under local anesthesia.
Biofibre® (Italy): Two New Studies
While doing by searches on newer alopecia related studies, I noticed that there were two new ones in the past several months concerning synthetic hair. Interestingly, both studies involved a company name Biofibre (Italy). Moreover, both articles speak favorably about modern day artificial hair implants.
The first of these studies provides a summary of Biofibre and its success in the EU, where it obtained CE approval for use on human scalps in 1996. It also obtained TGE approval in Australia in 1996. The Biofibre product is biocompatible with a person’s existing scalp. It is available for use in both men and women suffering from androgenetic alopecia or other forms of hair loss. It is manufactured by an Italian company named Medicap.
The second of these studies analyzes the results of a recent 5-country multicenter clinical trial on 194 patients who underwent the Automatic Biofibre® Hair Implant System procedure. Almost all of these patients got satisfying results and great psychological satisfaction. About 10 percent of the patients obtained some side effects that were “easily controlled by either topical or systemic treatment in 8 to 10 days”.
Perhaps this second study has some biases that I am unaware of, but the fact that 5 countries were involved in the findings does add a bit more credence to Biofibre. It seems like this company is the most important player in the global synthetic hair transplant market. They have also been covered in other older studies that I did not include here.
Biofibre hair strands are available in 13 different colors and with different lengths (15, 30 or 45 cm). Hair type selections include straight, wavy, curly and afro.
According to most sources that I read online, the only other major competitor to Biofibre seems to be Japan based Nido. The company has close to three decades of presence in the artificial hair sector.
On Nido’s dated site, it states that the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) recognized its technology in 2003. However, that statement is a bit surprising, considering that this procedure is banned in the US where the ISHRS is headquartered. Moreover, the artificial hair implantation procedure is a direct competitor to the hair restoration procedure.
Update: In November 2020, the ISHRS contacted me to say that they are formally notifying Nido to remove the above mentioned statement from the company’s website.
Note: I contacted the ISHRS when writing this post, and they pointed me towards their official position on prosthetic hair fibers document. It was first published in 2004.
Artificial Hair Implants Cost
The typical artificial artificial hair implantation session involves attaching around 1,000 fibres to the scalp. Most balding people will require around 2,500 fibres according to Biofibre’s FAQ section. Each fibre equates to 3 hairs, and there are between 90,000 to 150,000 hairs on the average human head before any balding.
There is little online data about the cost of each fibre in an artificial hair fixing procedure. Some anecdotal reports I read suggest the price to be around 2 Euros per fibre, but I am sure this will vary depending on country and clinic.
Keep in mind that around 10-20 percent of the fibers need to be replaced every year due to irreparable damage. Moreover, even with the latest technology, many patients will have unforeseen scalp reactions that will need to be tackled each time they occur.
Since the fibres are exposed to dirt, heat, moisture, wind and other elements of the environment, the possibility of damage and infection is always present. Your existing original hair will also be growing all the time while the prosthetic fibers maintain the same length.
Thoughts on Synthetic Hair Transplants
Have you ever had an artificial hair transplant or known someone who has had one? It would be interesting to get some first hand in-person accounts of those who have gone through the implantation procedure. How satisfied are you in the long term?
I would definitely prefer a hair transplant to getting artificial hair implants. However, perhaps the latter really does have its place in the hair replacement world despite the high level of online criticism? A majority of the complaints also seem to arise from people who have never had the procedure themselves.
Biofibre or Nido
On YouTube, you can find a bunch of videos from doctors offering Biofibre and/or Nido synthetic hair implants. Surgeons in developing countries are especially keep to use biocompatible fibers. However, the below video is worth a watch as it outlines the serious potential side effects when it comes to artificial hair transplants.