Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Can a little modern medicine vampirism help to stave off male pattern baldness and make your hair immortal? Maybe.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a form of treatment that involves using your own blood to accelerate healing. It’s mostly used to treat wounds and other injuries, and there’s also reason to believe that PRP could help you regrow and reverse the effects of pattern hair loss.
But you don’t have to go all in on vampire mode to make use of PRP -- in fact, there’s no biting necessary. Today, PRP therapy is available from many healthcare providers, with experts busily looking into its effects with some promising results.
So does PRP work for hair loss? Below, we’ve covered what PRP is, as well as how it works as a form of treatment for wounds and other injuries.
We’ve also looked at the current scientific evidence on PRP for hair loss to help you understand if PRP deserves a place alongside other hair loss treatments in your routine.
Platelet-rich plasma is a form of medical treatment that’s used to support proper wound healing and help with recovery from trauma and joint injuries. It involves using your own blood cells to support the body’s natural healing process.
Your blood consists of several major elements, including platelets -- blood cells that assist in the healing process. Platelets contain growth factors that are important for producing healthy tissue and allowing for effective wound healing.
PRP treatment involves extracting blood from your body, then placing it into a centrifuge (a type of device that produces centrifugal force) to separate the blood into separate components.
This process concentrates the platelets within the blood plasma, allowing for platelet-rich blood to be injected directly into targeted areas of your body.
This use of your own blood has earned PRP-based treatments a variety of amusing nicknames, such as the “vampire facial” cosmetic treatment.
PRP has grown significantly in popularity over the last decade, with uses in fields as diverse as dermatology, plastic surgery, dentistry and acute trauma treatment.
But what actually happens once the platelets are injected? Well, that part is currently less clear, and scientists are actively trying to understand exactly what the mechanism is that makes PRP effective.
According to an article in the Iowa Orthopedic Journal, “there is a general consensus in PRP research that the injection of concentrated platelets, once activated, results in an exponential increase in numerous growth factors at the sight of injection.”
Growth factors and other compounds in the platelet-rich plasma can have rejuvenating effects on tissues, which have been shown to encourage cellular regeneration and healing in a variety of conditions, including sports injuries and, yes, hair regrowth.
However, by far the most common type of hair loss that affects men is male pattern baldness -- a form of hair loss that develops due to a combination of genetic factors and the effects of male sex hormones, or androgens.
The key culprit behind male pattern baldness is a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which the body produces as a byproduct of testosterone.
DHT can attach to receptors throughout your scalp and cause your hair follicles to go through a process called miniaturization, in which each hair follicle gradually loses its ability to create new hairs.
Because it’s caused by androgen hormones like DHT, male pattern baldness is often referred to as androgenetic alopecia.
So, how does PRP help with hair loss? PRP doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on DHT levels, meaning it’s unlikely to slow down or stop the biological process through which your hair gradually falls out over time.
However, there is some evidence that PRP may improve hair growth by increasing blood flow in your scalp and prolonging certain stages of your hair’s natural growth cycle.
In a 2019 review of clinical studies, researchers noted that PRP treatment prolongs the anagen phase, or growth phase, of the hair growth cycle -- a multi-year stage during which hair grows to its full length before resting and shedding.
The researchers also stated that PRP improves follicle vascularization -- the process of growing blood vessels to improve local blood supply -- and by speeding up the process by which follicles move from inactivity to active hair growth.
The authors concluded that PRP is a promising treatment for male pattern baldness, but a lack of standardization across different types of PRP treatment makes it more challenging to assess its efficacy.
Still, these questions don’t undermine the promise of PRP as an effective treatment for hair loss, and there are noteworthy results within the body of research to date.
A 2019 clinical trial of 30 patients with androgenetic alopecia showed that PRP was “an effective treatment option” for male pattern baldness, as indicated by improvements in hair density, global assessment scores from patients and ratings from physicians.
A separate randomized controlled trial found that regular PRP injections produced a measurable increase in hair thickness and total hair count in men with pattern hair loss, although changes in hair thickness only occurred until the second injection.
It should be noted that both of these clinical trials used small pools of participants, and that all of the studies and reviews thus far have universally called for more research to be performed.
Additionally, there isn’t yet a scientific consensus on how many PRP treatments should be used to treat hair loss, or how frequently treatments should be performed.
Considering the substantial cost of receiving PRP treatments for hair loss, this could potentially be a problem. However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association “most patients return once a month for [three] months and then once every [three] to [six] months.”
So, what does it cost? The cost of PRP for hair loss is going to depend on several major factors, including the severity of the hair loss (the area of affected skin), your location and the healthcare professional administering the treatment. But there are some guideline prices.
A systematic review published in 2020 found that PRP treatment for osteoarthritis in the knee is typically priced at $1,200 over 12 months, which included the procedure, the PRP injections and clinical visits.
Knees and osteoarthritis are, of course, different from heads and hair loss. But a search reveals that the prices are similar enough with three-treatment cycles of PRP for hair loss costing about $1,000, on average.
But it can also be more expensive, with sessions of PRP treatment priced at up to $1,000 each, according to the Harvard Medical School blog.
Perhaps those numbers aren’t going to damage your wallet, but it should be noted that insurers tend to see this as a cosmetic procedure, and -- like other hair loss treatments -- they generally decline to pay for cosmetic treatments unless they’re for an underlying health condition.
Because of this, you’ll generally want to check with your insurance provider before making any financial assumptions about PRP treatments for hair loss.
Aside from insurance and payment issues, there are some things that may screen you out of a PRP procedure before you ever see a needle. These include your general health, whether you smoke and issues such as diabetes.
Because PRP involves drawing blood, it’s important to be hydrated before the procedure. Your healthcare provider may instruct you to eat a normal diet on the day your blood is drawn and to expect some minor soreness and discomfort during and after the procedure.
PRP injections can potentially cause bleeding, damage to your tissue or injuries to your nerves, although these issues are uncommon. As with all injections, there’s also a risk of infection.
It’s important to discuss these risks with your healthcare provider before getting PRP injections for hair loss or any other issue.
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PRP is generally a safe procedure. However, like with any medical treatment, there is a risk of side effects. Some of these may be caused by local anesthesia that may be applied to the target area before drawing blood or injecting the platelet-rich plasma.
Potential side effects of PRP include:
Irritation and/or inflammation
Scar tissue at the injection site
Tiredness and/or confusion
Bladder control issues
Luckily, research suggests that side effects from PRP therapy are very limited. As always, if you have worries about potential side effects from PRP treatment, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before the procedure.
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Does PRP for hair work? Research suggests that PRP provides real benefits for stimulating hair growth, although there isn’t any evidence that it reduces levels of DHT, the hormone that causes male pattern baldness.
Like many other new treatments for hair loss, we’ll likely see more research about the effects of PRP over the next decade.
If you’re considering PRP as a treatment for hair loss, there may be other treatment options that may work as well or better, including medications that can be taken alongside PRP treatments.
These include finasteride (the generic version of Propecia®), which works by reducing levels of DHT, and minoxidil (the generic form of Rogaine®), which stimulates hair growth by moving hair follicles into the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle.
If you’re starting to notice signs of hair loss, it’s important to take action. You can do this with our range of hair loss treatment products for men, which are available after an online consultation to learn more about your options for stopping hair loss and stimulating new hair growth.