I first published this post on PRP and hair loss in March 2014. I am now updating it in April 2018 due to the publication of many new clinical studies supporting PRP as a secondary hair loss treatment.
Scroll down all the way to the bottom of this post in order to see the full list of these platelet-rich plasma (PRP) hair loss studies. Most of them have detailed patient statistics on success rates that are worth a glance.
Do note that PRP will not regrow hair in completely bald areas of the scalp. At best, it will thicken existing hair and density, and perhaps make recently miniaturized hair grow back stronger in those who are lucky. If you ever decide to get this procedure, you should go in with no expectations. Even if effective, PRP is definitely not a permanent solution to your hair loss problems.
Numerous people on online hair loss forums have been disappointed with their PRP treatment results. In stark contrast, on local TV programs in every corner of the US, doctors have presented real life patients who claim to be very pleased with their PRP and hair growth results. They always show impressive before and after photos and videos as evidence, and are most likely presenting their absolute best case outcomes.
On realself, 70 percent of patients have thus far voted their PRP hair growth results to be worth it, although I have not done any research of the reliability and accuracy of these reviews (on sites such as yelp, you can find numerous fake reviews). Some great before and after photos in those realself reviews. Also make sure to read my post on PRP possibly darkening grey hair in rare instances.
PRP Therapy for Hair Loss
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is the concentration of platelets that are derived from the plasma portion of one’s own blood. PRP contains various growth factors, cytokines and other bioactive factors. Because the plasma is autologous (i.e., extracted from a patient’s own blood), there is minimal possibility of any significant adverse side effects.
To obtain PRP, a small amount of blood is first extracted from a patient. This blood is then spun in a centrifuge that leads to separation into three layers: platelet-poor plasma (PPP), platelet-rich plasma and red blood cells. The whole procedure typically requires one or two spins of the centrifuge and takes less than 15 minutes. The concentration of platelets in PRP is usually around five times as much as in normal blood. This PRP is then injected into a patient’s scalp in order to try and improve his or her hair.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Growth Factors
The key benefit from platelet-rich plasma seems to arise from various growth factors. The main growth factors in PRP that are relevant to hair growth include:
- Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF)
- Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF)
- Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1)
- Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)
- Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)
- Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)
- Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-β)
Interestingly, a number of other hair loss treatments that I have read about over the years have also target one or more of the above growth factors. Among these include Shiseido’s Adenosine based products and Follicept’s product to deliver IGF-1 to the scalp. Unfortunately, the latter mentioned company seems to have ceased operations in 2016 after the demise of one its main researchers.
On an important note, it is interesting that one of the ways in which Minoxidil benefits scalp hair growth is via the upregulation of VEGF.
Related to this subject matter, a recent small-scale study from Spain looked at something called plasma rich in growth factors (PRGFs), and found it to have significant benefits towards hair growth.
PRP for Hair Loss Clinical Studies
A number of recent studies on platelet-rich plasma have shown favorable outcomes (often when used in conjunction with ACell) on hair growth. I really like the fact that these studies are coming from all over the world rather than from just one country such as the US, limiting potential for any kind of sponsor- or self-interest-driven fraudulent “findings”.
Spain, 2017 — A Proposal of an Effective Platelet-rich Plasma Protocol for the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia. Image on the right is one of several included in this paper, and shows the patient’s scalp as well as a closeup view of the hair via magnification.
Thailand, 2015 — At the 9th Congress for Hair Research, Dr. Ratchathorn Panchaprateep from Thailand presented favorable findings regarding combination therapy treatment of hair loss using PRP and Non-Ablative 1,550 nm Erbium Glass Fractional Laser in 9 patients
Among the reasons that PRP results can vary so much include the significant variance in techniques, equipment used, and concentrations of platelets in the final product. Centrifuge quality, in particular, differs substantially depending on manufacturer.
If you are contemplating getting a platelet-rich plasma treatment on your scalp, it is imperative to choose a reputable hair restoration surgeon with significant experience in the use of PRP for hair growth purposes. In my city of residence, there are a large number of clinics that specialize in cosmetic procedure as well as numerous plastic surgeons who all offer PRP treatments for hair growth. None of these clinics and surgeons are specialized whatsoever in treating hair loss.
Note that initial shedding after platelet-rich plasma treatment is a common side effect. The bald truth talk forum section on PRP is worth a visit to read about patient experiences and reviews.
PRP and Hair Transplants
If I was undergoing a hair transplant procedure today, I would seriously consider the addition of PRP to the procedure even if the benefits are not always guaranteed. An increasing number of hair transplant surgeons are adding PRP to the procedure in the belief that the growth factors improve yields and donor area healing. Some are certain about the benefits, but it remains to be seen if this is just a revenue making scheme or a scientifically sound add-on.
The cost of PRP for hair loss varies drastically. In the US, the lowest price that I have read about is $500 per treatment. The highest has been $2,500 per visit, which seems ridiculous since most people will require a few sessions for optimal results. On the realself website, the average price of treatment per patient feedback is currently $1,700.