Hair loss aids: What works and what doesn't

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News mfarris@wwltv.com

wwltv.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 21 at 5:24 PM

NEW ORLEANS It is normal to shed around 100-150 hairs a day. But when genetics, illness or over processing causes hair loss, it can be psychologically painful to live with every day.

Video: Watch the Story

Butdoctors canhelp.

Deidre Phillips was with her sister recently and that's when reality hit her.

"She was walking behind me and I had gotten a hair cut and she says, 'what's wrong with your head?' and I go, 'what do you mean what's wrong with it?' So, I went home looked in the mirror and I go, 'Aah what's that?' "Phillips said.

Afew things had gone wrong. She had inherited pattern baldness which causes baldness in men and thinning in women, but she also had Scarring Alopecia,caused when chemical processes on the hair permanently destroy the hair follicle.

She turned to dermatologist and hair restoration surgeon Dr. Nicole Rogers for hair transplants.

"I really feel good about the process and I think that once everything grows and comes back I'm going to be able to do more with my hair and I'm just going to feel much better about myself," Phillips said.

Under local anesthesia,a team offour goes to work.

Rogers surgically removes a thin strip of hair from the back of Phillips' scalp and staples it closed. Then each hair follicle is separated.

Tiny holes are made in the skin on the head and the transplants are inserted in the same direction and growing pattern of the original hair.

Within days she back to her normal routine and by next year they will be fully grown and permanent.

"Women are excellent candidates for the procedure," Rogers said.

These are not the old oversized unnatural looking plugs from the 1960s, 70sand 80s. In fact, this newer way can fix the look of those old plugs.

"Hair grows in individual groupings of one tofour hairs and that's what we try to do when we do the surgery is preserve the size of those grafts in their natural anatomy," Rogers said.

Hair transplants are all that will work for Phillips, but for others with chemical damage, dermatologists said sometimes with quick medical treatment the hair can be saved.

"If the inflammation is caught very early on the aggressive use of oral antibiotics combined withintralesional injections with mild cortisone can arrest and reverse some of the Alopecia, so I think that the most important thing is to see a qualified dermatologist who understands the scalp," said Dr. Mary Lupo, a dermatologist.

For hair transplants, men are good candidates, too.

"I balded ungracefully. I had this one little tuft of hair right here and so it was like a horn, like a unicorn sticking out of the middle of my head and so it was just hard to groom your hair," Kevin Brown said.

Several years ago,Brown also had hair transplants with family medicine and hair restoration surgeon Dr. William Woessner.

"The transplanted hair is always stronger than your regular hair because we make a point of taking the strongest hair and in a man, we can say that it's permanent," said Woessner, a family medicine doctor and hair restorationsurgeon.

Woessner was balding before he got his own hair done.

Before and after picturesfrom doctors with the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery tell the story of how much and how natural the surgery looks.Doctors are unsure why nearly half of the population has genetic male and female pattern baldness. It's caused by many factors and doctors are unsure what all the causes are.

The only things on the market to help are Minoxidil,the active ingredient in Rogaine for men and women, best used early on to keep your hair.

And there's the prescription pill Propecia for men only. It works 90 percent of the time.

Doctors also recommend Toppik daily shake on microfibers that make you hair look thicker. It is for cosmetic use only.

With lasers, doctors said there is not enough science to support the hype by the manufacturers. Scalp massage andshampoos do not work.

Tight braids,glue on weaves and frequent chemical use of relaxers can permanently damage the hair follicle. Straighteners should only be used an inch away from the roots.

Some things can also cause temporary hair loss - medications, an abnormal thyroid, iron deficiencies, child birth, general anesthesia for surgery, fever, crash diets or a trauma. But it will regrow.

Normal every day stress will not cause hair loss.

In humans and animals, hair is a sign to others of good health and the ability to have healthy offspring. Losing it for illness or genetic reasons is traumatic and emotionally painful.

Still, people are teased or told they are vain for undergoing the procedure.

"I personally don't see it as a sign of weakness," Woessner said. "I'm just delighted that there's something I can do. It wasn't dangerous, it wasn't particularly expensive and it works and it's permanent."

Hair transplants can run from a few to several thousand dollars.

On Monday night at 5 o'clock,we will airpart 2 of Meg'shair restoration story. She will take a look at non-medical ways to get help for men, women and children who are losing their hair.

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