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Dr. Bernstein answers frequently asked questions about hair transplantation, hair loss, and medical treatment for hair loss.

Hair Restoration Answers

Does Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) Affect Hair Loss in Men and Women Differently?

Q: Have there been any studies showing the difference between men and women in their response to laser treatments for hair loss?

A: In the International Journal of Cosmetic Surgery and Aesthetic Dermatology (Vol. 5, Number 2; 2003), a study on low level laser therapy (LLLT) was conducted which indicated that there was a 55% increase of growth (hair count) in the temporal area as well as 64% in the vertex of the female subjects who were treated with LLLT for hair loss. The study also indicated a 74% increase in the hair counts of the male subjects in the temporal area and 120% in the vertex region. These results would initially indicate that LLLT works better in men than in women, but there were four times as many men in this study so the results might be different in a larger test group.

However, even in this notably smaller female group, the tensile strength of the hair increased dramatically over the tensile strength observed in the male subjects after treatment. This would indicate that, at least in this study, there was not only an increased hair count in women, but the tensile strength of that hair was greatly improved as well. This would be initially indicative that LLLT may be found to be more beneficial to women than to men.

It is important to note that this study was published in 2003. Further studies need to be conducted to confirm the initial results and to further elucidate the possible mechanisms of low level laser light therapy in both men and women with alopecia. As important, long term data needs to be accumulated to show the continued efficacy of this treatment. It had been our clinical experience that LLLT is not as effective as one would assume from the results of the initial studies.

Visit the page on Laser Therapy for more information, or read more answers to questions about laser therapy.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Is Genetic Test for Hair Loss Worthwhile?

Q: Is it worth getting the genetic test for balding?

A: You’re referring to Hair DX (hairdx.com), which costs about $150 and came to market in January of 2008 as the first test for androgenetic alopecia, aka male pattern baldness.

The test screens for variations in the androgen receptor gene on the X chromosome, the gene that is associated with male pattern hair loss. The purpose of the test is to identify persons at increased risk of developing hair loss before it is clinically apparent – so that medical intervention can be started early, when it is most effective.

It is important to realize that, at this point, there is just an association with this gene and hair loss; the cause and effect has not been proven and the association is not anywhere near 100%. A danger is that patients may overreact to the relatively incomplete information that the test provides. It is best to have the test performed under a doctor’s supervision, so that it can be put in the context of other information that the physician gleans through a careful history, physical and a densitometry hair evaluation. As of this posting, genetic testing for hair loss is not permitted in New York State.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Areas of Unethical Behavior Practiced Today

Note from Dr. Bernstein: This article, by my colleague Dr. Rassman, is such important reading for anyone considering a hair transplant, that I felt it should be posted here in its entirety.

Areas of Unethical Behavior Practiced Today
William Rassman, MD, Los Angeles, California

I am disturbed that there is a rise in unethical practices in the hair transplant community. Although many of these practices have been around amongst a small handful of physicians, the recent recession has clearly increased their numbers. Each of us can see evidence of these practices as patients come into our offices and tell us about their experiences. When a patient comes to me and is clearly the victim of unethical behavior I can only react by telling the patient the truth about what my fellow physician has done to them. We have no obligation to protect those doctors in our ranks who practice unethically, so maybe the way we respond is to become a patient advocate, one on one, for each patient so victimized. The following reflects a list of the practices I find so abhorrent:

1. Selling hair transplants to patients who do not need it, just to make money. I have met with an increasing number of very young patients getting hair transplants for changes in the frontal hairline that reflect a maturing hairline, not balding. Also, performing surgery on very young men (18-22) with early miniaturization is in my opinion outside the “Standard of Care”. Treating these young men with a course of approved medications for a full year should be the Standard of Care for all of us.

2. Selling and delivering more grafts than the patient needs. Doctors are tapping the well of the patient’s graft account by adding hundreds or thousands of grafts into areas of the scalp where the miniaturization is minimal and balding is not grossly evident. I have even seen patients that had grafts placed into areas of the scalp where there was no clinically significant miniaturization present. Can you imagine 3,000-4,000 grafts in an early Class 3 balding pattern? Unwise depletion of a patient’s finite donor hair goes on far more frequently than I can say.

3. Putting grafts into areas of normal hair under the guise of preventing hair loss. There are many patients who have balding in the family and watch their own “hair fall” thinking that most of their hair will eventually fall out. A few doctors prey on these patients and actually offer hair transplantation on a preventive basis. This is far more common in women who may not be as familiar with what causes baldness and do not have targeted support systems like this forum. They become more and more desperate over time and are willing to do “anything” to get hair. They are a set-up for physicians with predatory practice styles.

4. Pushing the number of grafts that are not within the skill set of surgeon and/or staff. The push to large megasessions and gigasessions are driven by a limited number of doctors who can safely perform these large sessions. Competitive forces in the marketplace make doctors feel that they must offer the large sessions, even if they can not do them effectively. A small set of doctors promote large sessions of hair transplants, but really do not deliver them, fraudulently collecting fees for services not received by the patient. Fraud is a criminal offense and when we see these patients in consultation, I ask you to consider your obligation under our oaths and our respective state medical board license agencies to report these doctors.

5. Some doctors are coloring the truth with regard to their results, using inflated graft counts, misleading photos, or inaccurate balding classifications. False representation occurs not only to patients while the doctor is selling his skills, but also to professionals in the field when the doctor presents his results. Rigging patient results and testimonials are not uncommon. Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company settled a claim by the State of New York over its attempts to produce positive consumer reviews publishing statements on Web sites faking the voices of satisfied customers. Employee of this company reportedly produced substantial content for the web.

The hair transplant physician community has developed wonderful technology that could never have been imagined 20 years ago. The results of modern hair transplantation have produced many satisfied patients and the connection between what we represent to our patient and what we can realistically do is impressive today. Unfortunately, a small handful of physicians have developed predatory behavior that is negatively impacting all of us and each of us sees this almost daily in our practices. Writing an opinion piece like this is not a pleasant process, but what I have said here needs to be said. According to the American Medical Association Opinion 9.031- “Physicians have an ethical obligation to report impaired, incompetent, and/or unethical colleagues in accordance with the legal requirements in each state……”

Rassman, WR: Areas of unethical behavior practiced today. Hair Transplant Forum Intl. Sep/Oct 2009; 19(5) 1,153.


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Hair Restoration Answers

What are Options for Fixing Wide Donor Scars?

Q: I would like to have the donor area from an old hair transplant repaired so it does not show the scar when I cut my hair shorter. What are my options?

A: Widened scars can be improved in two ways: they can be re-excised to make the scar finer, or hair can be placed into the scar to make it less visible.

Excising a scar works best when the original incision was closed with poor surgical techniques. In this case, using better closure methods can improve the scar. When the scar is the result of a person being a naturally “poor healer,” a wide scar will be the result – regardless of how the incision was closed.

I often approach the problem by excising a small area first, to see if I can decrease the width of the scar. If so, I would then proceed to excise the rest of the scar. If not, I would obtain hair using follicular unit extraction (FUE) — extracting hair in follicular units directly form the scalp — and place this hair into the scar. The hair placed in the scar can also be obtained from the edges of a partially excised scar.

If a wide scar that is thickened (called a hypertrophic scar) is also excised, it will usually reoccur and may result in an even worse scar. Because of this, thick scars should be flattened with injections of cortisone prior to removing. This will decrease the chance of a recurrence.

Flattening the scar is also important to permit the growth of newly transplanted follicular unit grafts.

For more on this topic, please see the page on Fixing Scars.


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Hair Restoration Answers

After an FUE Hair Transplant at the Hairline, Will Bumps Go Away?

Q: I have had a hair transplant done in the hairline of 1,000 or so FUE grafts. However, as the hair sheds, under natural light the recipient skin seems bumpy with incisions and holes that are noticeable. Do these tend to go away with time once they have healed? — S.S., Glencoe, I.L.

A: If a follicular unit transplant is performed properly (using either extraction or a strip) there should be no bumps or surface irregularities. When the hair restoration is totally healed, the recipient area should be appear as normal looking skin.

With FUE it is important to sort out the grafts under a microscope, to make sure that all of the grafts placed at the hairline are 1-hair grafts and that the larger grafts are place behind the hairline. They should not be planted without first being sorted under a microscope.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Finasteride Change the Consistency of My Ejaculate?

Q: I’ve now been taking finasteride for just over 5 months. I have noticed that my semen quality has changed just in the last 3 months, and it seems now much less in quantity and is quite watery and clear in color. I think the current problems are due to the finasteride, what do you think? — S.F., Rolling Hills, California

A: Finasteride, the active drug in Propecia, can change the quality of the semen, since it is decreasing the component of seminal fluid that is secreted by the prostate. You may want to consider having your sperm counts checked, as finasteride can lower this. If the symptoms are not bothering you, and your sperm counts are normal, it should be OK to continue the medication. If you were having difficulty conceiving, then I would stop the medication.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Hair Loss be Treated by Taking Vitamin Supplements?

Q: I have pretty significant hair loss. Should I take vitamins to help grow my hair back?

A: Although vitamin deficiencies are known to cause hair loss, there is little scientific evidence that shows that vitamin supplementation, in an otherwise healthy individual eating a well balanced diet, can prevent hair loss or improve the quality of one’s existing hair.

In addition, taking too many vitamins can actually contribute to hair loss. Excess Vitamin A can cause hair shedding in a reversible process referred to as telogen effluvium.

Accutane, a medication used for cystic acne, is a derivative of vitamin A and can cause hair loss that may be permanent.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Is a Hair Transplant to Recreate a Dense Hairline Too Good to be True?

Q: It’s a question that greatly concerns me because I’m investigating getting a transplant sometime next year. I’m 28 and thought I started balding at 26, but photographic evidence suggests it had started somewhere around age 24. I’m roughly a Class 2 now, and thanks to finasteride, I’ve stayed almost exactly where I was at 26 with some improvement (not really cosmetically significant though). However, I am convinced I have some crown and top of the scalp thinning too, but not to a visible degree.

These people getting these miraculous jobs from Canada – it is a trick, right? They can’t honestly expect to be able to get away with what they’ve done over the course of their entire lives, can they? — L.M., Great Falls, V.A.

A: I think you have better insights into hair loss than many hair transplant surgeons. Patient ABI was the “rare” patient who seems to be a stable Class 3. I made that judgment due to: almost no miniaturization at the border of his Class 3 recession, no crown miniaturization, and his unusual family history. He had several older family members who stayed at Class 3 their whole lives.

Since we only have about 6,000 movable follicular units on average in our donor area, placing 3,000 at the hairline is obviously a joke and/or the doctor is playing “Russian Roulette” with the patient’s future.

As you point out, in most patients the hair loss will progress and the person will be out of luck. It is similar to the way flap patients were stuck without additional donor hair as their hair loss progressed. An additional problem was that the flaps were low on the forehead and very dense. The situation is analogous to placing 100 grafts per sq cm2 to create a low, broad hairline in a young person.

If you do the math you can see how ridiculous this tactic is. A person’s original density is only 90-100 follicular units cm2. Patient with Class 6 hair loss lose hair over an area of about 300 cm2.

This consists of:

  • 50cm2 in the front (including a 15cm2 hairline)
  • 150 cm2 for the mid-scalp
  • 100 cm2 for the crown

Therefore, 6000 FUs transplanted to this area = 6000/300 = 20 FU per cm2. This is the number we often work with. We put up to 50cm2 at the very most in the mid-frontal forelock area and then proportionately less in other areas.

However, if you put 3,000 FUs at the hairline, in a density of 100/cm2, then you have covered only 30cm. This leaves only 3,000 FUs for the remaining 270cm2 of balding scalp for a density of a little over 11 FU/cm2.

Now, transplanting 11FU cm2 over the back part of the scalp is not a disaster EXCEPT if the front was transplanted at 100 per cm2. In this situation (as you have accurately pointed out) the patient will look very, very front heavy, with an aggressively placed, dense, broad, hairline and little hair to support it towards the back.

The gamble is that the patient’s baldness doesn’t progress, that finasteride or dutasteride can halt the process if it does progress, or that hair cloning methods will be available to save the day.

In my opinion, elective surgery should not be performed when its success depends upon these uncertainties – and particularly since a cosmetically disfiguring hair transplant can be so debilitating (and avoidable).

The reality is that doctors who claim to perform these procedures may not even be performing follicular unit transplantation. In FUT, the surgeon transplants naturally occurring intact FUs of 1-4 hairs. The extreme dense packing techniques preclude the use of 4- and sometimes even 3-hair grafts. What happens is that the larger FU are spit up. This doubles the graft counts (and the cost to the patient) without giving the patient any more hair. It also increases the risk of follicular damage and poor growth.

Patients in whom 10,000 follicular units are available to transplant are very rare and when they are shown on the internet, should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule.


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Will Propecia Work Better if Taken at Night or with Food?

Q: What time should I take the Propecia? Does it work better if I take it at night as opposed to the morning and should I take it with meals? — B.J., Garden City, N.Y.

A: It doesn’t matter what time of day you take Propecia and the time can very each day.

The absorption of Propecia (finasteride) is not affected by food, so it can be taken without regard to meals.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can an FUE Hair Transplant Repair a Scar on My Scalp?

Q: I wanted you to determine if I would be a candidate for FUE (to camouflage a scar). After reading through your vastly informative website, I had become aware that the Fox test is necessary to determine patient viability for FUE. When I mentioned the test, I believe I heard you say it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think there was miscommunication between us, as your letter states that I should schedule a Fox test if I am considering FUE. Please confirm if a Fox test is, in fact, necessary. — N.S., Garden City, N.Y.

A: I perform FOX tests on all patients when I am considering a FUE hair transplant. I do not routinely perform FOX tests before repairs (or on eyebrow transplants) where the number of grafts is relatively small.

The purpose of FUE is to identify those patients in whom FUE is inefficient — i.e. there is a greater than average risk of damage during the harvest. If this is the case, I would not perform the hair transplant since even slight inefficiencies create a significant problem when thousands of grafts are transplanted.

Remember, compared to Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT), FUE is a relatively inefficient procedure. Even when a small FUE hair transplant is performed (i.e., in a Norwood Class 3) we have to anticipate that eventually the person will need a large amount of grafts, so a FOX test is still important.

However, when the total number of grafts is small, such as in scar revisions or eyebrow restoration, small inefficiencies are not as important.

In addition, with repairs, the donor area is altered so that extraction in different areas may be very be different, rendering a FOX test in scar revisions far less useful.

Finally, if a FUE hair transplant is started, but then aborted due to extraction difficulties, the patient must either be reverted to a strip (which was not the preferred means of harvesting or a FUT would have been planned to begin with) or the patient will be left with a partial procedure – both less than ideal situations. However, if a FUE repair has to be aborted due to the inability to efficiently harvest hair, no harm was done; we just won’t be able to achieve our goal.


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What Scalp Exercises are Most Beneficial for Scalp Laxity?

Q: I have been told a number of different ways to massage my scalp. What do you suggest? — H.H., Pidemont, C.A.

A: We have found that the most successful technique is to perform the exercises: once a day, for at least 15 minutes, and using three different hand positions.

For more information on this topic, please see the “scalp laxity exercises” section about half-way down the Donor Area in Follicular Unit Hair Transplantation page.


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What is Hair Transplant Graft Depth and How Long After Transplant can Grafts be Dislodged?

Q: How far into the scalp are the grafts placed and is the follicle far enough into the scalp that it will not be damaged? I have heard that the critical time to not touch your scalp is the first 2-3 weeks after the procedure. — M.G., Hillsborough, C.A.

A: The growth part of the follicle is 3-4mm into the scalp. Grafts can be dislodged the first 10 days, so you need to be careful not to scrub your scalp during this period. After that, the grafts are permanent. At 2-3 weeks they can’t be dislodged, even by vigorous scrubbing.


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What are the Most Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women?

Q: What are the most common causes of hair loss in women other than genes?

A: The most common causes for localized hair loss in women are traction (due to tight braiding) and alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that produces smooth round patches of hair loss).

Other than genetic (hereditary) thinning; generalized hair loss is most commonly caused by medications, anemia, and thyroid disease.


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Is Female Pattern Hair Loss Common?

Q: How common is female pattern hair loss?

A: It is very common. It affects about 40% of women.


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After Hair Transplant, When Can I Resume Physical Training Or Exercise Regimen?

Q: When can patients resume physical training? — T.M., Mineola, N.Y.

A: Moderate exercise may be resumed two days after the hair transplant.

The main limitation is to avoid putting direct pressure on the donor area and to avoid stretching the back of the scalp (neck flexion) as this will increase the chance of stretching the donor scar after a strip procedure.

There is no such limitation with follicular unit extraction (FUE). However, in general, contact sports should be avoided for at least 10 days with FUE and a month after a strip procedure.


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Updated: 2019-11-15 | Published: 2009-07-02


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