Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment has been around for a while, but it’s only in recent years that it’s been used in the hair restoration business. Before that, it was used by doctors to aid healing, most frequently in the sports injury field. But what exactly is PRP, and are the rave reviews it has been receiving for hair restoration justified or not?
This article will look at just exactly what PRP does and assess how effective it is in promoting hair growth. Keep scrolling to find out more!
What is PRP?
Before you can make any assessment of how effective PRP is, you need to have a rudimentary understanding of how platelets function. Platelets are blood cells that work with proteins in the plasma to stop you from bleeding by forming blood clots over the wound when you are injured. That healing capacity has been harnessed by scientists who use concentrated platelets to enable faster healing in a variety of medical contexts.
The concentration of platelets is obtained by separating them from other parts of the blood using a centrifuge. (If you never encountered a centrifuge in your schooldays, it’s a machine that spins things around at a very fast speed). The platelets are then extracted by a doctor and the solution is injected into the injured area.
How PRP actually works isn’t yet fully understood, but the evidence gathered by researchers suggests that the growth factors found in the concentrated solution stimulate the healing process.
Because the treatment uses a client’s own blood as the source of PRP, the solution causes no side effects. There may be some tenderness around the area of the injections, but this is mild and passes quickly.
PRP has been used to help speed healing in rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendon injuries and tendonitis. At some point, doctors hypothesised that PRP could be equally effective in the treatment of some types of hair loss such as androgenetic alopecia, better known as pattern baldness, which is caused by damage to the hair follicles. So, how effective is it?
A study carried out in Ohio in 2018 produced positive results, concluding that ‘the use of PRP to treat androgenetic alopecia is promising based on the results of the reviewed clinical studies.’ However, researchers sounded a note of caution, pointing out that a lack of standardisation in how PRP is prepared made direct comparisons difficult to make. They called for more work to enable better assessment of PRP’s clinical efficacy.
The following year, a meta-analysis study exploring the effectiveness of PRP treatment for androgenic alopecia was carried out by Chinese researchers. Their analysis moved them to conclude that ‘PRP is likely to reduce hair loss, increase hair diameter and density in patients with androgenic alopecia.’ However, these researchers too advised that their results should be viewed with caution because of the small sample sizes in the studies they sampled, together with the different treatment regimens involved. The team recommended more work to confirm their conclusions.
In 2020, researchers from Michigan and Baltimore in the United States published work concluding that ‘platelet-rich plasma produced successful hair growth in androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata.’ They argued for three or four monthly sessions of PRP to treat alopecia. Once again, the researchers called for more work in this area. In particular, they called for greater standardisation of the process and protocols across the industry to allow for direct comparisons to be made.
Is PRP a Permanent Treatment?
So far, so promising. However, despite all this evidence showing that PRP can slow down hair loss and stimulate regrowth, it’s important to stress that it is not a cure for the underlying cause or causes of hair loss. That’s one reason why it’s often used alongside a permanent treatment like a hair transplant or other hair loss treatments.
The PRP process takes about one hour in total, although several sessions are usually required. These may have to be repeated to maintain the effect in the future. This kind of repetition is not unusual; it also applies to medicated solutions like topical minoxidil and oral finasteride. The PRP process involves little downtime, in that the individual receiving treatment can usually go about their regular activities without worry shortly afterwards.
The research work that has been carried out to date suggests that PRP can be effective in stimulating hair growth. That statement comes with the important qualification that the research undertaken so far has been small-scale stuff. Results may be promising, but more work is needed to firm up the evidence.
If you’re worried about hair loss or hair thinning, Vinci Hair Clinic can help. We are one of the leading hair restoration organisations in the world, boasting a worldwide network of clinics and an unrivalled range of treatments. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to all our new clients. Get in touch and book your appointment today!