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Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration
Hair Restoration Answers

If I Am Starting to Thin, Should I Have A Hair Transplant Or Try Medication First?

Q: My hair is starting to thin in the front, but it is not yet bald. I have been going back and forth about whether to get a hair transplant or use Propecia. I’m not sure what my first step should be. What do you think? — N.K. ~ Pleasantville, N.Y.

A: In general, patients who are thinning, but not actually bald, should begin with combined medical therapy (finasteride and minoxidil) for at least a year prior to considering surgery. In many cases, with this regiment, surgery can postponed or even avoided completely. Unfortunately, some patients cannot tolerate finasteride or choose not to take it due to concern about potential side effects. Minoxidil, although useful, does not significantly alter the long-term course of hair loss when used alone.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Propecia Work in Older Patients?

Q: Hi. I am 52 years old and wish to know if Propecia will work for my age. I have started losing some hair a couple of years ago and it’s thinning out. Thank you very much for your help. — K.E., Boca Raton, FL

A: Propecia (Finasteride 1 mg) can hold on to hair at any age, but works best to re-grow hair in those who are younger. Occasionally we see patients in their 50s re-grow some hair with Propecia, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

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Hair Restoration Research

Dr. Christiano at Columbia University Identifies APCDD1, A Newly Discovered Gene Associated With Hair Loss

Dr. Angela Christiano of Columbia University in New York and a team of scientific researchers, have identified a new gene involved in hair growth. Their discovery may affect the direction of future research for hair loss and the diagnosis and ultimate prevention of male pattern baldness.

The condition, which leads to thinning hair, is called hereditary hypotrichosis simplex. Through the study of families in Pakistan and Italy who suffer from this condition, the team was able to identify a mutation of the APCDD1 gene located in chromosome 18. This chromosome has been linked to other causes of hair loss.

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Bernstein Medical In The News

O, The Oprah Magazine Discusses Hair Loss In Women, Female Hair Transplants With Dr. Bernstein

O, The Oprah Magazine - March 2010O, The Oprah Magazine has a feature on hair loss in women in their March 2010 issue. Dr. Bernstein was consulted for the article and discussed female hair transplantation.

“Since female hair loss is often diffuse, only about 20 percent of female patients with thinning hair are candidates, says Robert Bernstein, MD, a New York City dermatologist who specializes in these surgeries.”

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Hair Restoration Answers

Which is More Effective: Rogaine or Propecia?

Q: Will Propecia and Minoxidil reverse some of the miniaturization going on with someone with thinning hair? If I do need a hair transplant will I have to stay on these medications? — C.C., — Fairfield County, Connecticut

A: Yes, both minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) affect the miniaturization of the hair follicles and help restore the shrunken follicles to cosmetically viable hair.

Minoxidil works by directly simulating miniaturized follicles to grow, whereas finasteride blocks DHT, the hormone that causes hair to miniaturize and eventually fall out.

Finasteride is much more effective than minoxidil in preventing or reversing the miniaturization process and it is so much more convenient to use that we generally suggest finasteride after a hair transplant procedure, but rarely recommend minoxidil.

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Hair Restoration Answers

What are Styling Tips for Thinning Hair?

Q: I am a 45 year old women and I am beginning to thin on the top of my scalp. I don’t want to use medications and I don’t think that I am quite ready for surgery. Is there anything else I can do? — E.H., Rye, NY

A: There are a number of things that you can do that can make you hair look more full and help disguise the thinning. Lightening ones hair will allow the hair to reflect more light and appear thicker. In lighter-skinned races it will have the additional advantage of decreasing the contrast between the hair and skin and thus the skin will essentially act as a filler between the strands of hair.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Instead of Hair Transplant, Can You Treat Early Hair Loss with Once a Day Minoxidil?

Q: I have some early thinning in my crown and the doctor said I am too early for a hair transplant. I don’t want to take Propecia, but using Rogaine twice a day is a big nuisance. Can I use Rogaine once a day? — L.B., Cleveland, Ohio

A: The tissue half-life of minoxidil is 22 hours.

This means that 22 hours after it is applied, about 1/2 of the compound is still bound to the skin and exerting some effect. Because of this, once a day dosing is probably OK.

Please note that this is hypothetical and that there have been no controlled studies to confirm this.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Hair Transplant Thicken Thinning Hair in Person with Early Hair Loss?

Q: I am 22 and losing my hair all across the top of my head. How can I thicken my hair to its level a few years previously? — I.L., Kentfield, CA

A: If medication, such as finasteride, is successful it can thicken hair by increasing the diameter of the existing hair shafts. Although the cosmetic benefits can be dramatic in a person with significant hair loss, a hair transplant can not restore hair to its original density, since it only moves the existing hair around and does create new hair.

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Hair Restoration Answers

How Do You Treat Diffuse Hair Loss in Donor Area?

Q: I underwent hair transplant surgery several years ago and was pleased with the results. However, over the last 2-3 years I’ve lost hair in the donor area with subsequent loss of hair in the transplanted area. Is this type of hair loss especially difficult to treat? What accounts for hair loss from the back of the head that is typically considered “permanent”? — F.D., Laude, Missouri

A: Less than 5% of patients have unstable donor areas, i.e. where the back and sides thin along with the front and top. We call this condition Diffuse Unpatterned Alopecia or DUPA. It is best to identify this condition before hair transplant surgery is contemplated as people with DUPA are not good candidates for hair transplantation. The diagnosis is made using densitometry by noting high degrees of miniaturized hair in the donor area.

At this point, I would use medications such as finasteride. I would not do further hair restoration surgery.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Why is Propecia Not Stopping My Hair Loss?

Q: I have been on Propecia for a year and my hair loss has not stopped or slowed down. How much longer should I give the drug? Can Propecia speed up hair loss in some patients? — N.V., East Hills, N.Y.

A: If you have not responded to Propecia in one year, it is unlikely that you will.

Finasteride may cause shedding in the first 6 months of treatment, but should not accelerate hair loss long-term. It is most likely that you have progression of your hair loss.

In addition, be sure that you have a correct diagnosis i.e. that you actually have androgenetic alopecia.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Is Asymmetrical Hair Loss from Telogen Effluvium or Androgenetic Alopecia?

Q: Over the past three months, my hair seems to be thinning more on one side. Is it common in male pattern hair loss for it to be more on one side? I had a lot of stress about three months ago and have heard that this could be the cause. Is this possible? Should I use Rogaine to treat it? — B.R., Landover, MD

A: Regardless of the cause, hair loss is usually not perfectly symmetric. This applies to male pattern hair loss as well.

In your case, it is important to distinguish between telogen effluvium (shedding that can be due to stress) and hereditary or common baldness. The three month interval from the stressful period to the onset of hair loss is characteristic telogen effluvium, but you may have androgenetic alopecia as an underlying problem.

The two conditions are differentiated by identifying club hairs in telogen effluvium and miniaturized hair in androgenetic alopecia. In addition, a hair pull will be positive in telogen effluvium (when a clump of hair is grasped with the fingers, more than five hairs pull out of the scalp at one time) and will be negative in common baldness. The hair loss diagnosis can be made by a dermatologist.

Hair cuts do not affect either condition.

Rogaine (Minoxidil) is only effective in androgenetic hair loss and only marginally so. Finasteride is the preferred treatment if your hair loss is genetic when it is early and a hair transplant may be indicated if the hair loss progresses.

Shedding from telogen effluvium is reversible and does not require specific treatment.

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Hair Restoration Answers

How is Rogaine for Women Different from Men’s Formula?

Q: What is the difference between Rogaine for men and Rogaine for women? — G.K., Hawthorne, N.Y.

A: Rogaine for men is 5% minoxidil and Rogaine for women is 2%. Another difference is that the 5% solution has propylene glycol in it whereas the 2% is alcohol based. The propylene glycol helps the minoxidil penetrate the skin better and makes the medication more effective. Although both the alcohol and propylene glycol based preparations can irritate the scalp, propylene glycol can cause actual allergic reactions in those who are sensitive.

Propylene glycol is greasier to have on the scalp than the alcohol based formulation. For patients who complain of the greasiness, we advise Minoxidil 5% at bedtime and 2% in the AM.

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Hair Restoration Answers

What is Best Hair Transplant Density and do You Measure Maximum or Overall Hair Density?

Q: Dear Dr. Bernstein, a full head of hair averages ~100 FU/cm2. To achieve the appearance of fullness with a hair transplant 50% is required. In one of your articles you say that you recommend 25 FU / cm2 to your patients. Is that the density per one session or the final one? If that is final density, then it is far below the 50%. Please explain as I am profoundly confused. — W.N., Easton, C.T.

A: If a person is to become a Norwood Class 6, the hair that we have available for us to transplant is only about 12% of what was there originally. This, of course, will vary from patient to patient depending upon one’s donor density and scalp laxity and a host of other factors.

We make the hair restoration look good by restoring 25-50% in the front, and proportionately less in the back. Logically one cannot restore 1/2 of ones original density to an entire bald scalp with only a thin strip of donor hair – there is just not enough hair, even with multiple sessions.

I transplant 25-35 FU/mm2 in one session, but this is the density created in the front, not overall.

Due to follicular unit graft sorting (placing the larger follicular units in the forelock area) this provides even more density than the actual numbers suggest. If someone is relatively certain to have more limited hair loss, then the numbers can be increased, but it is risky if you underestimate the degree of eventual hair loss.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can I Treat Hair Loss Using Rogaine and Propecia Together?

Q Do Rogaine and Propecia work synergistically? — N.W., Chappaqua, N.Y.

A: They are synergistic, since the mechanisms of action are different.

Rogaine directly stimulates hair growth, while Propecia is permissive for hair growth by blocking DHT, the byproduct of testosterone that causes hair to miniaturize and eventually disappear.

The important thing to remember, however, is that for most people, Propecia is far more effective.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Can Hair Loss Camouflage Products Damage My Hair?

Q: I have a question about one of the products referenced under the Camouflage section of your website. As you suggested, I have begun to use DermMatch as an alternative to a hair transplant as I have diffuse thinning and been told that hair restoration is not an option right now. I have been very impressed with the results of DermMatch. However, I am concerned that the product might be damaging my existing hair or impeding future growth. Should I have any concerns about this product?

A: None of the well-known cosmetic camouflage products will damage hair or inhibit its growth.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Should I Have Hair Transplant and Use Hairpiece?

Q: What is your opinion on having a hair transplant to restore the hairline and then wearing a hair system behind it to regain the appearance of a full head of hair? K.Y. – Hackensack, New Jersey

A: It is my personal feeling that one should not use a hair transplant to supplement a hair system, especially at a young age. We have occasionally performed this procedure in older men and women.

In my view, a main purpose of a hair transplant is for it to be low maintenance. The combination of a hair transplant and a hairpiece is extremely fussy.

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