Yes, hair transplant surgery for women with hair loss can provide noticeable improvements. But it’s not the same thing as treatment for male baldness.
There are a variety of means for women to combat hair loss – which, it should be noted, is far more common than people realize.
Part of the reason women who are losing their hair feel alone is because other women do a good job of concealing their hair loss. A recent famous example is Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who ran successful for the US House of Representatives in 2018 wearing wigs styled into Senegalese twists. Only in early 2020 did she appear in her natural state with a completely shaved head.
“I think it’s important that I’m transparent of this new normal and living with alopecia,” she told NBC News. Her condition is known as alopecia areata, which affects body hair as well as leaving random, asymmetrical bald patches on the scalp.
Pressley seems to have settled into a shaved head look – the attractive representative has the bone structure for it – but that, and wigs, don’t work for everyone. For the woman considering hair transplant surgery, a few points should be considered:
Treat underlying health issues first. In some cases, conditions such as anemia and thyroid problems lead to temporary hair loss because they affect the scalp itself. If resolved, natural hair growth most often resumes.
Women have different types of hair loss. Most women do not lose their hair in the way that men do. There is some variation in male pattern baldness, but with women the differences are significant and come in five general types:
- Generalized thinning with some patches of alopecia
- Global diffuse thinning without patches
- Frontal temporal recession (forehead rising)
- Scarring alopecia, which often is the result of infections caused by abuse of some kind (tight braids, compulsive hair pulling, traumatic injury)
- Medical and hormonal causes
How each is treated requires different approaches, best evaluated by a hair loss specialty dermatologist.
Transplanted hair should be strong and healthy. “Donor scalp” is the hair harvested from the back of the head just above the neck (the occipital region, under the nuchal ridge, to be technical). This can be done by different techniques, with a multi-blade knife or via “strip harvesting.” But the transplanted hair will not increase in thickness once moved; this is why the quality of the hair selected will affect the outcome.
Manage expectations. As one patient who had a successful transplant said in a New York Times interview, “There are people who think they’ll look like Cinderella when they are finished,” she said. “Help is here, but it’s not going to make them look like they did before they started to lose their hair.”
That said, the most advanced techniques have been around for more than a dozen years and the skills of the medical people performing hair restoration surgery make for the best, appreciated outcomes.