What is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy, and Can PRP Help Treat Hair Loss?

Hereditary hair loss is extremely common — it affects about 80 million people in the United States alone — but that doesn’t make it any less distressing. Many men and women battling sudden balding or thinning hair turn to doctors for help.

Historically, doctors have been able to stall or reverse hair loss by prescribing medicine or performing a hair transplant procedure, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Yet many of these options come with negative side effects, such as sexual dysfunction, an itchy scalp, or a long recovery period, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

Minimal side effects are one reason a new treatment called platelet-rich plasma therapy (also known as PRP) has been growing in popularity.

Here, learn what PRP is, who it’s best suited for, and the potential risks to be aware of.

What Is the Definition of Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy?

According to the FDA, “off label” means that while the drug or therapy is approved, it’s not approved for the use or diagnosis that your doctor may be recommending. In these cases, the FDA has determined that the drug’s potential benefits may outweigh its risks. Your doctor may recommend an approved drug for an unapproved use if he or she thinks it may be helpful to you, and if you’ve exhausted all other treatment options.

Who Might Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Help?

Rapaport says PRP has been shown to help both men and women, mainly those with androgenetic alopecia, which is known among men as male-pattern baldness and among women for leading to thin hair all over the head, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Here are some people who may benefit from PRP:

  • Balding men
  • Women who’ve experienced hair loss or thinning hair as a result of menopause
  • People who began losing hair within the last five years (Any longer than that and the hair follicles likely have become so small and thin that promoting growth won’t make a difference, Khetarpal says.)

There are also some groups for which PRP may not be good, including those with:

  • Health conditions that come with hair loss, including lupus or thyroid diseases, like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (People with thyroid problems are not great candidates because hair loss is a result of not only the disease but the medication as well, Rapaport says. In these cases, the hair loss would likely continue even after PRP, according to the Cleveland Clinic.)
  • A history of bleeding disorders, clotting disorders, blood thinners, or hepatitis (These conditions can affect the quality of the platelets, Khetarpal says.)
  • Skin cancer or an active infection on the scalp (Since PRP promotes growth, it could add fuel to the fire if there’s a pre-existing condition, Khetarpal says.)

A Final Word Before You Try PRP for Hair Loss Treatment

PRP is an increasingly popular way to treat hair loss. It involves taking plasma from your blood and injecting it into your scalp to stimulate hair growth. The procedure is relatively painless and requires zero recovery time. But it takes a few months to see results and it can be expensive, costing as much as $1,500 per treatment.

Khetarpal and Rapaport have both seen positive results among patients they’ve treated, but they stress it’s important to have realistic expectations about what PRP can do. “If [a patient is] in their sixties and wants hair like they had in their twenties, it’s just not realistic,” Khetarpal says. “It’s not going to be perfection. We’re looking for improvement.”

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