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

Hair Restoration Answers

Dr. Bernstein Answers Questions On HairDX Genetic Test To Predict Hair Loss

Most medical conditions can best be addressed with early diagnosis. Genetic hair loss is no different. A test now has the ability to identify whether or not you may be genetically predisposed to hereditary male pattern baldness (Androgenetic Alopecia).

The HairDX genetic test offers information that can aid you and your doctor in making an informed decision about the treatment of your hair loss.

This test is not a substitute for an examination by a physician experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of hair loss. It offers one more bit of information that, in the context of other data (such as hair loss pattern, scalp miniaturization and family history) can help guide you and your doctor to formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

How does this test work?

This new genetic test examines genetic variables (SNP) which are responsible for recognizing Androgen hormones in our bodies. These specific genetic variants of the X chromosome (the Androgen Receptor or AR gene) are found in 95-98% of bald men.

These genetic differences are associated with Male Pattern Baldness (MPB) and by identifying them; the onset of MPB might be better predicted. If a person is predisposed genetically to these chromosomal variations, they may be more likely to develop male pattern baldness prior to age forty.

The test consists of a simple swab of the inside of your mouth. The skin cells are then sent to the HairDX clinical laboratory for a confidential analysis.

How accurate is the test in predicting baldness?

HairDX tests for a genetic variant of a gene (the androgen receptor gene) found on the X-chromosome that is present in more than 95% of bald men. Sixty percent of patients with this variant experience male pattern baldness before the age of 40. Therefore, if a person has this gene, they would have an increased risk of significant pattern baldness.

Another, less common genetic variant of the same gene (present in about 1 in 6 men) indicates a greater then 85% likelihood that a person will not experience early onset pattern baldness. If a person is found to have this gene, they are unlikely to become very bald.

Why is the genetic test not 100%?

The androgen receptor gene identified thus far is only one of a number of genes that affect hair loss.

How does the test compare to information obtained from a history and physical exam by your physician?

An assessment of scalp miniaturization by an experienced physician using a densitometer, combined with a history and physical, appears to be a far more reliable way of predicting future hair loss. The genetic test can complement this information, but does not replace it.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Do Genes Cause Male Pattern Baldness And, If So, Which Ones?

Q: What are the genes that cause male pattern baldness?

A: At this time the genes that actually cause hair loss are still unknown. However, there are two gene loci, recently identified, that appear to be associated with common baldness. The first is on the Androgen Receptor (AR) gene carried on the x-chromosome and the second is a non-sex chromosome 20p11.


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Hair Restoration Answers

What Happened with Joe Biden’s “Pluggy” Hair Transplant and What Repair Strategy Do You Suggest?

Q: What’s the story with Joe Biden’s hair? — R.B., Inwood, N.Y.

A: Joe Biden — former Senator from Delaware and now the Vice President of the United States — apparently had a hair transplant many years ago using the older hair restoration techniques. This included not only transplanting hair in large plugs (corn rows), but using them to create a broad frontal hairline; a design that generally does not look natural as a person ages.

Also, the older grafts were transplanted in a vertical orientation giving a sprout-like, unnatural appearance.

The use of large plugs and the inefficiencies of the older procedures waste a considerable amount of donor hair, leaving Senator Biden with a dense rim of hair in the front part of his scalp and little coverage behind that.

The repair strategy would consist of removing the larger plugs, microscopically dividing them into smaller grafts (individual follicular units of 1 to 3 hairs each), and then placing the smaller grafts in a more forward direction and in a more natural distribution. This involves using the 1-hair units to soften the frontal hair line and the 2- and 3-hair units to extend the transplant further back on the scalp.

In addition to the hair transplant repair, Biden received significant cosmetic improvement from the natural graying of his hair over the years, as this tends to make the hair appear fuller and any irregularities less noticeable.

Read about Hair Transplant Repair techniques

View Before and After Hair Transplant Repair photos


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Hair Restoration Answers

Did Dr. Bernstein Explain Hair Transplantation on the Oprah Winfrey Show?

Q: Heard you were on Oprah with a hair transplant patient of yours. Is this true? — V.B., Chappaqua, N.Y.

A: Yes. Oprah wanted to know if hair transplants really worked, so I was asked to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show to explain the latest in hair restoration techniques.

They showed a film of me performing a follicular unit hair transplant and then brought the actual patient in the video on stage for a look at the results of his procedure.

Watch a video clip of Dr. Bernstein discussing hair restoration with Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Mehmet Oz in our Hair Transplant Video section.

For more information on Dr. Bernstein’s appearance, read the press release, “Pioneering Hair Transplant Doctor Explains Procedure on Oprah Winfrey Show“.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Are Scalp Exercises Before a Hair Transplant Necessary?

Q: I am scheduled to have a hair transplant next month and wonder if I should do scalp exercises before the procedure? — G.F., Providence, R.I.

A: For the majority of patients, scalp exercises are not necessary.

The scalp in the donor area has a fair amount of redundancy. With a properly planned hair transplant, the donor area will close relatively easily.

If a patient’s scalp is particularly tight, or if a very large session is planned (even in the face of an average scalp), vigorous scalp exercises are useful in increasing laxity.

The advantage of stretching one’s scalp prior to surgery is that it allows the doctor to remove a slightly wider strip and it decreases tension on the closure so the person will heal with a potentially finer scar.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Can a Hair Transplant Repair Scarring from Scalp Reduction Surgery?

Q: What’s the best way to camouflage a scar left behind from a scalp reduction that I had in 2001? I am currently wearing DermMatch to cover the area, but the hair parts like the “Red Sea” on top around the scar so the makeup does not look so good. I would like to fill in the area with hair but I am not sure if a hair transplant will grow into scar tissue.

A: Hair will grow in the scar but, as you allude to, the problem is often the abnormal hair direction rather than the scar itself.

Besides adding hair to the scar, if one transplants hair adjacent to the scar in a direction that causes it to lie over the scarred area, the visual affect of the “Red Sea” effect can be lessened.

How much improvement you achieve with the hair restoration will, in part, depend upon the amount of hair available to be transplanted (and the skill of the surgeon).


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Which Causes Bigger Cosmetic Change: First Hair Transplant or Second Transplant?

Q: In which procedure do you generally see more of a change, the first or the second? — N.N., Flatiron, N.Y.

A: The answer depends upon the patient’s baldness. If they are very bald, the first session will be the most noticeable, since going from no hair to hair is much more dramatic than going from some hair to more hair. In addition, if someone is very bald, the first session is generally the largest, with less hair being transplanted in the second.

The situation is different if someone has had a hair transplant with only a limited amount of hair loss. In this case, the first session may be small (since that is all they need at the time) and the second session, performed after the person has lost additional hair, may be significantly larger.

In addition, while the impact of the first session was lessened by the progression of the person’s hair loss, the second session was superimposed on existing, permanently transplanted hair and may be more dramatic.


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Hair Restoration Answers

After a Hair Transplant Can I Replace Hair Loss Medication with Laser Therapy or Herbs?

Q: I am interested in a hair transplant, but am turned off by the apparent side effects of follow up Propecia. Could herbs serve the purpose of Propecia? Regarding laser treatments, do they work on their own, or do you need drugs to supplement? Can laser damage in some cases, rather than benefit? It seems odd that laser therapy has been undertaken in Europe for 10 years, yet there are no published studies on the results. Might this be because it doesn’t work in the longer term? — D.D., Richmond, U.K.

A: Finasteride is the best medication. Herbs are not particularly effective for hair loss. You should consider trying finasteride.

If you are in the 2% group that has side effects with Propecia, just stop taking the medication. If you do not experience side effects, then there is no problem taking the medication long-term. Hair transplant surgery doesn’t prevent the progression of hair loss. That is why it is used in conjunction with medication.

Laser therapy can cause shedding initially (as can Propecia and Rogaine), but this means it is working. It does not cause actual hair loss. Your skepticism of the value of Laser therapy long term is one we have as well. Keep in mind, however, that while long-term studies are extremely important, they are very hard and costly to run and there is little incentive for companies to do this.

It is interesting that the FDA does not require longer term data on medications or devices that need to be used on a continued basis.


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Will Intermittent Use of Rogaine Stop My Hair Loss?

Q: Medical information suggests that Rogaine works for about 50% of the men who try it. Does Rogaine actually worsen hair loss in some men? The Rogaine website states that during the first three weeks of use Rogaine causes increased shedding. If true, would intermittent use of Rogaine make hair loss worse even in men for whom Rogaine would work if applied daily as directed? — V.C. Greenpoint, Brooklyn

A: Rogaine, the brand name for the drug Minoxidil, does not worsen hair loss, but can cause initial shedding (which actually shows that the drug is working).

The medication should be used on a continuous basis for the long-haul. Intermittent use of the drug, or pulsing, makes no medical sense.


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Hair Restoration Answers

Which Laser Comb Works Best to Regrow Hair?

Q: I have been trying to find some evaluation of which laser combs work best for “hair restoration”. I have seen some dermatologists speak about the Hair Max laser comb and its effectiveness (considering patient compliance, the amount of time the patient has been losing hair, the amount of total hair loss at time of treatment, etc.). I have also seen reference to the Sunetic laser comb which claims to have a superior technology to the Hair Max and offers a changeable head to allow treatment of the skin for healing, wrinkles, etc. A company in Michigan also offers a laser comb called the Hair Rejuvenator which it claims is superior to either of the other combs but I have not heard of any dermatologist who recommends this comb. A firm in Australia also offers a laser comb (Aculas) which it claims is the most effective; however, the makers of the Hair Rejuvenator comb say it is too powerful and dangerous and could cause blindness. Amidst all these claims, the consumer (patient) is left wondering which best option is and which is merely hype or fraud. What do you suggest?

A: There are no comparative studies thus far. For a hand-held device, I would stick with the Laser comb for now since it is the only one that has cleared the FDA.

Some others may work as well (and are less expensive) but we just don’t know at this time – and how useful any of them are long-term is also still not known.


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Hair Transplant Using Shedded Hair?

Q: Can a hair transplant be done using the hair which has fallen out? — G.O., Gramercy, N.Y.

A: A hair transplant is really a misnomer, since it is the follicle (or root) that is transplanted not the hair itself – although the transplanted follicle usually contains a hair.

Hair, like fingernails, are dead and cannot grow once detached from the root.


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After a Hair Transplant, Should I Use Propecia or Rogaine or Both?

Q: I recently had a hair transplant about a month ago. Currently I’m on Propecia and I am a stickler to taking it at the same time every day. I don’t, however, use Rogaine namely because I fear the irritation it can possibly cause will halt graft growth and because I’ve heard that the grafts and post-surgical shock loss hair will return without its use. Is it ok to use only Propecia post-surgically? Or would adding Rogaine be of any significant benefit? — L.B., Rye, NY

A: I would definitely stay on Propecia (finasteride) and, if you like, you can add Rogaine (minoxidil) – it may have a little additional benefit. The 5% foam formulation is less irritating and can be started a week after the hair transplant.

The only problem with Rogaine is compliance. If you think that you will use it long-term, it is worth using. If, however, you think that you will get tired of it and stop, then it is not worth starting.

Any shedding with either medication is temporary and usually indicates that the drug is working.

Read about Rogaine (minoxidil)
Read about Propecia (finasteride)


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How Can I Tell if Hair Transplant Doctor is Trustworthy if They Charge by the Graft?

Q: I had a follicular unit hair transplant performed by another doctor that was scheduled for 2,500 grafts and I ended up paying for exactly that amount. I was supposed to be paying per graft, so it seems strange that it came out to be exactly 2,500? How do I know what I really got? — J.R., Westport, C.T.

A: This is a question that should be addressed to the doctor that operated on you.

If a doctor is charging by the graft, then you should know exactly how many grafts you are receiving. It is possible that he/she hit the number (2500) exactly on the head, but statistically that is extremely unlikely. In a Follicular Unit Hair Transplant (FUT) procedure, a strip is removed from the donor area and then dissected into individual follicular units, so although an experienced surgeon can remove a strip that contains close to the desired number of follicular units, it would be very rare to hit that number precisely.

More importantly, it is impossible to perform follicular unit transplantation properly without knowing both the exact number of follicular units harvested from the donor area and the exact number of hairs in each unit (i.e. the number of 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-hair follicular unit grafts). This information is essential in determining both the distribution and density of the hair transplant and in creating transitional zones such as the frontal hairline, where single-hair follicular units are required.

In all hair transplants, the number of grafts harvested should equal the number of recipient sites, so the doctor must know the exact number of grafts so that he can make the appropriate number of recipient sites. An exception to this rule is the stick and place technique, where each graft is inserted as soon as the site is made, but this technique is much less common than first making the recipient sites. The surgeon also needs to know the number of grafts so that he can make the sites in the appropriate distribution. For example, if the number of grafts harvested was less than anticipated, the doctor can space the sites further apart, cover less of an area (for example, not extend the restoration as far back into the crown) or harvest additional donor tissue – each option having advantages and disadvantages.

It is equally important to know the exact composition of follicular units, so that different densities can be created in different areas, producing the most natural appearance. For example, the 3- and 4- hair follicular units should be placed in the central forelock area as this area normally has the most density. On the other hand, if these larger units are placed near the hairline, they will look distinctly unnatural.

So how can the patient really know? Obviously, trust in your doctor is the most important insurance. If you are skeptical about the way the doctor conducted the consult (i.e. used a salesman to encourage a sale), if he or she skipped over important options such as medication, or if you felt pressured or rushed into making a decision to have surgery; you should be skeptical about other aspects of your care as well – such as an accurate graft count.

Although just a very general guide, here are some things you can do at your consult when trying to decide if a doctor can be trusted to give you accurate information regarding the number of grafts you receive.

  1. Ask to see the operating room – see if there are plenty of microscopes (the larger the session, the more are needed).
  2. Ask the doctor how he keeps count of the grafts that are dissected and how does he record how many hairs in each follicular unit graft.
  3. Ask the doctor how he keeps track of the number of recipient sites that are made.
  4. Ask to see how all this information is documented in the patient’s medical record.
  5. Ask the doctor if he refunds money to the patient if he transplants less grafts than scheduled.
  6. Speak with other staff members to confirm the use of dissecting microscopes for the entire surgery and confirm the procedure for tracking grafts.

In sum, knowing the exact number of grafts and their composition is extremely important, not only to ensure that you are being charged fairly, but in maximizing the aesthetic results of your follicular unit transplant procedure.

Be certain that this information will be available to you (and of course your surgeon) before scheduling a procedure.


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After an FUT Hair Transplant, When Do Staples Come Out?

Q: How soon after the hair transplant procedure do I have to get them out? — T.J., Fort Lee, NJ

A: We remove every other staple at 10 days post-op. The remaining staples are generally removed at 20 days post-op. This varies based upon the patients scalp laxity and the width of the donor strip.


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


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