Hair Transplants Not Just for Men
Vin Diesel, Shaquille O'Neal, Mr. Clean -- the bald male is accepted, even celebrated, in todays society. But a bald woman? Hardly. Double standard aside, help is on the horizon.
No More "Pluggy" Look continued...
Laurie was nervous when she had her first transplant in 1997
but was pleasantly surprised to find the procedure quite painless. "I was
given a local anesthetic. It was no worse than the dentist's office. I hardly
felt a thing," she says.
Next, her surgeon removed a tiny strip of skin (1 x 1.5 x 12
centimeters) from the back of her scalp, an area of relatively dense hair for
even the baldest people called the "donor site." In one session, she
was able to have about 400 grafts of skin -- containing two to four hairs each
-- redistributed from the back of her head to the front and top. "It took
awhile for regrowth, " Laurie says. (Typically, transplanted hair sheds
within the first weeks or months and has to grow back). "But within four to
six months, I saw a huge difference."
Losing Hair Differently
The best candidates for hair transplants are those who have
common male-pattern or female-pattern baldness, a genetic condition. Hair loss
also can be caused by variety of factors, including thyroid abnormalities, iron
deficiencies, and autoimmune diseases. Childbirth can cause hair loss as well.
But the most common reason people lose their hair is heredity. And, contrary to
common myth, the trait is not passed from your maternal grandfather. Nor does
it skip a generation. The propensity is passed down from all your
"The more bald people in your family, the greater your
chances of going bald. If you look at a family of ten siblings -- there will be
variations in amount of hair and its distribution," says James Arnold, MD,
a dermatologist and hair transplant specialist in San Jose, California.
Women lose hair differently than men. Where men have bald spots
in the front or back of their heads, women tend more toward diffuse thinning.
They lose hair gradually, and after awhile, they get that "see-through"
scalp of which Laurie complained.
Arnold, who limits his practice exclusively to hair
transplants, also treats women. But he has not seen such dramatic increases.
Partly, he says, because he hasn't advertised to women. "Women are more
challenging to treat than men. Their expectations are higher. You treat a man,
he sees he has a little more on top -- maybe he looks a few years younger --
and he's satisfied. Women want thick hair."
Laurie agrees that women may be tougher clients. After all,
she's had three transplants. But she says hair transplants may be actually
simpler for women because they're better able to hide them. "A woman can
easily wear a scarf, and because women's hair is generally longer, it's harder
to see the incision." Plus, when new hair comes in, the effect on a woman's
scalp is more subtle. "People notice your hair looks better but they're not
quite sure why."