Joseph Greco, Ms. Telford’s practitioner, who shares a patent for a process to remove growth factors from platelets, said he gets results in 80 percent of patients, more than half of whom are female. Roughly half of them fly in and out, often on the same day, he said, because the procedure doesn’t require downtime and has minimal side effects. (Small clinical studies suggest further research is necessary but acknowledge the procedure’s “excellent safety profile.”)
P.R.P. is one of a number of new hair-loss treatments being marketed to women, who suffer hair loss in fewer numbers but often more acutely than men because, for them, hair loss is less socially acceptable, and historically they have had fewer and less potent medical solutions.
Go beyond the headlines.
Some 30 million women in the United States have hereditary hair loss (compared with 50 million men), according to the American Academy of Dermatology, though that figure does not include the millions more who struggle with thinning hair because of pregnancy, menopause, stress and other health conditions. Barely 5 percent of women are said to be good candidates for hair transplant surgery because women lose hair everywhere, meaning that, unlike with men, there is rarely a luxuriant spot on the back of the head from which to harvest hairs unobtrusively.
Dr. Carlos Wesley, a hair restoration surgeon in Manhattan, said that women in his practice respond better to P.R.P. than men do, which may have something to do with the fact that women with genetic hair loss tend to have more inflammatory cells around the follicles. From 2013 to 2014, he said, he had an 83 percent increase in female patients, in part because of P.R.P.
P.R.P., considered a nonsurgical treatment, is not covered by insurance, and clinical studies about its effectiveness (and longevity of results) are not conclusive because different doctors use different mixes. But P.R.P. has a long (though also inconclusive) history of use elsewhere in the body. Athletes like Kobe Bryant have received the treatment in an attempt to heal injuries.
“It’s extremely promising,” said Spencer Kobren, founder of the independent American Hair Loss Association, “but I don’t want to say it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Because P.R.P. varies so much, it can be hard to know what one is getting, and some doctors “ride on the vulnerability of women,” he said.
Drugs for hair loss have been slow in coming because researchers are unable to grow hairs in petri dishes to use for screening. Hair drugs approved so far were serendipitous finds: side effects of compounds used to treat other conditions.
Drugs for female hair problems are even slower to develop, in part because it’s easier to do measurements and hair counts on men in clinical trials.
Finasteride, better known by the brand name Propecia, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for women. (Because it works on hormones, it is also controversial for them.)