What Your Need to Know About Non-Surgical Hair Replacement
As we get older, thinning hair and even balding may be an irreversible reality. Male-pattern baldness is the leading cause of hair loss in men. By age 50, around 85% of all men will have significantly thinner hair than they did when they were younger. For many, this process begins before even reaching age 21.
Women also experience the equivalent of male-pattern baldness. Whereas male-pattern baldness tends to lead to actual bald patches, age-related hair loss in women is usually a diffuse thinning across the entire scalp.
Whether you are a man or a woman, one thing is certain, and that is that losing hair is depressing. We associate hair with youth and vigor. When our hair starts falling out, it isn’t just an aesthetic change. It is a symbol in our minds of our progressing age and all the unpleasantness that comes hand in hand with getting older.
For some, losing hair is just an annoyance. For others, it is detrimental to self-image. Many people have actually quit jobs or relationships because they felt like others no longer looked at them the same way.
There is such a thing as surgical hair replacement, but a hair transplant is no small financial commitment. Assuming you only have a relatively small number of hairs you need to transplant, you will be looking at around $4,000. And what if you need a large transplant procedure with a lot of grafts? You could be paying as much as $15,000, sometimes more. And all of that is out of pocket. Your insurance provider isn’t going to cover it.
For a lot of people, this just isn’t an option that is even on the table. If you cannot afford to fork out $4,000-$15,000 for a hair transplant, what are your non-surgical options for replacing your hair and getting back to feeling confident in your appearance?
If your hair is thinning out and you just want to boost the volume of your existing hair in a seamless way, hair extensions are one great option to consider. There are a number of different types of hair extensions, and learning your options can be a bit confusing if you are new to this world. Here are the main types:
- Fusion: These extensions are literally fused to your existing hair using a keratin protein bond. They last for up to four months before needing maintenance, and you can treat them like you would your own hair. These extensions are very popular and an excellent choice if you’re looking for a low-maintenance option that you can forget about from day today.
- Micro-link or micro-cylinder: These extensions are attached using micro-links, sometimes known as micro-cylinders, beads, or locks. The links are easy to conceal in your hair, and there are no glues or chemicals involved. You can go about four months without maintenance. The strands can be re-used.
- Braidless sew-in: This is exactly what it sounds like. New strands of hair are sewn into a base made out of your existing hair. This is a relatively new technique, and can last for about four months before you need to do maintenance.
- Skin weft: Hair extensions are attached with the help of a polyurethane strip. You can go about six to eight weeks before you need to replace them. The extensions themselves can be re-used, but you need to replace the tape. The less often you shampoo, the longer you can go.
- Clip-on extensions: These are temporary hair extensions you literally clip into place. You can re-use them anytime. They are however inconvenient for long-term wear. They are best just to add a little extra volume or color on days when you want to jazz up your look.
For most people looking for hair replacement, the first three types of extensions are the best to consider. Fusion, braidless sew-in, and micro-link extensions are low-maintenance solutions. You only need to replace them about three times a year. The rest of the time, so long as you do not abuse your hair, you can usually just forget about them. You can even brush at your scalp.
Hair extensions are a good non-surgical replacement solution for a lot of people, but what if you do not have enough hair to actually wear them? And what if you just don’t want to deal with that kind of maintenance? You might consider a full wig.
If you are interested in buying a wig, here is what you should pay attention to while you are shopping:
- Cut: Consider length, texture, and hairstyle when buying a wig. One nice thing about getting a wig is that you can actually get the hair you always dreamed of. If you always had thin, flat hair and wanted curly hair that’s full of volume, you can have it. If you always hated your natural curls and wanted loose beachy waves or a straight perm, you can get exactly what you want.
- Cap size: You will find wigs available in petit, large, and “average” sizes. “Average” size wigs actually fit around 95% of people, according to Wigs.com. If you have a particularly large or small bone structure, however, you may need to get a large or small size. Many wigs come with adjustable straps which you can use to customize the fit. To figure out your size, measure the circumference of your head. Start at the hairline, then behind your ears, then around back to the nape of your neck.
- Color – You can find wigs in literally every color of the rainbow. You will find every natural shade you can imagine, plus plenty of unnatural hair colors as well. Many people transitioning to a wig for the first time find it helpful to choose a color which is close to their own natural hair color, but once again, you can go wild here. Pick the hair color you always wanted if you never liked your natural color. Consider picking a color that will make a nice complement to your skin tone if you’re not sure where to begin. The nice thing about wigs is that it is easy to experiment and try different looks until you find what you like.
- Composition: Natural or synthetic? There are pros and cons to each. If you go with real human hair, it will look and feel real, and it will be easiest to style. It can last up to a year or even longer if you take care of it. While that may not sound like long, consider that wigs are relatively inexpensive when you divide by twelve months and consider the monthly cost. Synthetic hair will only last four to six months. It usually is less expensive, however, and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. It’s not as easy to style, but it does look and feel quite close to real human hair.
- Attachment styles: There are four main attachment styles. This refers to how the cap is constructed and the hairs are attached to it. You can choose from 100% hand-tied, monofilament, lace front, or a basic cap. Each type of attachment style has different advantages and disadvantages. Some types will give you a more natural look in the front or across the top of your head where the hair parts. Others will give an appearance of freedom of movement to each individual hair. That way the hair in the wig behaves more like natural hair would. This helps to create the illusion that you are not wearing a wig at all.
What will a wig cost you? The cost can range quite a bit, but on average, you can expect to pay around $50-$200 for a high-quality wig. The synthetic ones cost less, but last a shorter time, so in essence, over time, the cost evens out. You can feel free to pick based on your actual preference, without worrying too much about price.
As previously mentioned, a natural hair wig will last you around a year if you care for it. So the cost of wearing a wig comes out to around $100-$200 a year for most people. As this is potentially less than $10 a month, it really is not all that much to pay for the privilege of having a full head of hair again!
What if you do not want to artificially replace your hair, but would rather find a way that you can get your own hair to grow back? One of the first avenues to try is Minoxidil, better known by the trade name Rogaine. Rogaine is available for both men and women. You’ve probably seen the advertisements for it on television, and may be wondering whether it actually works.
Minoxidil has garnered great results in clinical trials, and has a long successful history of use now. It’s received the FDA’s approval, and can make a major difference for many of its users. Around 20% of those who try it say they see no benefits, but the remaining 80% do. Forty percent are able to halt hair loss, even though they are not able to grow any hair back. Another 40% actually do manage to replace some of the hair they’ve lost. They see excellent improvements to their density.
What is great about Rogaine is that you do not need a prescription if you want to try it. How much will it cost you? You can probably expect to pay around $15 a month. This is only marginally more expensive than wearing a wig, and you might actually get to wear your own hair! Of course, the drawback here is that you do not know for sure if it will work until you have tried it, and you may need to take it for some time before you can be sure of the results.
Other Steps You Can Take
While Rogaine, wigs, and hair extensions are basically your main options for replacing your hair without surgery, there are a few other things you can try. None of these will have dramatic results on their own, but they may work well in conjunction with each other to boost the density of your hair.
Laser Hair Growth
Laser hair growth technology is something relatively new. It isn’t a hair replacement method if you have gone bald. It will only help if you have active hair follicles on your head right now. But if you are experiencing thinning hair, it may be able to help you get subtle but promising improvements in density.
What is laser hair growth? It’s a type of technology where you use low-intensity lasers on your scalp to stimulate hair growth. This is a form of consumer technology; you do not need to go to a salon or a spa to get this done. You can purchase a device for home use.
Laser hair growth technology usually takes one of two forms. Either you have a laser hair “comb” which you run across your scalp, or you have a laser hair helmet that you place on your head. The helmet is hands-off, which can be nice, but the comb is more comfortable for those who would rather not have something sitting on their heads. You apply the treatment for 10 to 15 minutes per day three times a week.
It sounds bizarre and unbelievable, but a couple of research trials (here and here) do back this up. Again, the results you achieve with these products will be subtle, if you get them at all (some customers experience no improvements). So you cannot try this expecting a dramatic change. If however you stick with it diligently for around six to nine months, and you improve your nutrition simultaneously, you may very well be able to non-surgically replace some of your thinning hair.
Try New Hairstyles and Hair Products
This again is obviously no use if you are pretty much going bald, but if you have thinning hair or even bald patches, it may make a huge difference. This is not a hair replacement method, but it can enhance the appearance of the hair that you already have.
Consider investing in new shampoo and conditioner designed to improve volume and body. These products were formulated specifically to help improve the appearance of thinning hair. You might also consider a haircut if you have long hair now. Longer hair weighs more and lies flat. Shorter hair weighs less and it is easier to give it a boost. The more body your hair has, the more hair you appear to have. Finally, how you comb your hair can make some difference in its appearance.
Sometimes depending on where your bald patch is located, you can hide it. Many bald patches are on top of the scalp, and a small one can be hidden by switching to a side part.
Repair Damaged Hair
If your hair is thinning and damaged, you may have double the problem. Damaged hair can break easily and this can reduce the volume of your hair even more. If you have damaged hair, take steps to restore it. Switching to a healthier shampoo and conditioner may help. So may changing the way you brush your hair. You also can start rubbing coconut oil onto your hair. Coconut oil can reduce the protein loss in your hair. This includes both damaged and undamaged hairs! Here is the study.
Improve Your Diet and Start Taking a Multivitamin for Hair Growth
One more really good thing you can do to improve the appearance of your hair and promote healthy hair growth is to get more nutrition in your diet. Your body needs healthy vitamins and herbs in order to build keratin, the protein in your hair shafts. Without that healthy nutrition, your hair follicles have a hard time producing new hair.
How can you improve your diet? The best recommendations are to start eating more fruits and vegetables as well as foods which are high in protein. You can then start taking a multivitamin as well. While you can take a generic multivitamin, you will get the best effects from a multivitamin formulated for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Look for one which includes vitamins A, C, D, E, and B complex, minerals such as copper, zinc, iodine and selenium, and herbal extracts like horsetail, saw palmetto, stinging nettle, and MSM. A formula which includes BioPerine will have the best bioavailability (that translates to more bang for your buck).
This is yet another method which on its own will probably not produce the most dramatic change overnight, but if you combine it with other methods from this list, may have excellent long-term results. In particular, many customers who try laser hair growth technology report that they get the best results from the lasers if they also are taking a multivitamin for hair.
So if you cannot afford surgical hair replacement, try not to despair. Most people cannot afford to drop $4,000-$15,000 on new hair. That does not mean you have to live with thinning or bald patches. There are options out there for you! Start by making lifestyle changes. Improve your diet, start taking a multivitamin for your hair, and invest in hair care products which increase volume and body. If that alone does not work, you can consider laser hair growth. If you do not get the results you want from that, then you might think about adding in hair extensions or purchasing a wig.
No matter what you decide to do, just remember that losing hair is something that happens to a lot of people as they grow older, men and women alike. You are not alone, and there is no shame in thinning hair or bald spots. With hair re-growth methods, you are unlikely to achieve perfection, but you may be able to slow down the progression and create some very real improvements. And if you need to start wearing extensions or a wig, it will take some getting used to, but eventually, you’ll adapt. And when other people complement you on your hair, not even realizing some or all of it is replacement hair, you’ll feel a lot better!