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Are Synthetic Hair Implants the Solution to Hair Loss?

7/20/2016 2:05:41 AM

Today's state-of-the-art surgical hair restoration offers balding men and women the opportunity to reverse the appearance of thinning hair, receding hairlines and even advanced hair loss. When performed by a skilled and experienced hair transplant surgeon, results are perfectly natural and undetectable. However, not everyone is a candidate for hair restoration surgery. 

The main factor limiting the success of hair transplant surgery for some patients is a finite donor supply. Donor hair is harvested from the "permanent" zone at the rear and sides of the head. Hair follicles in this zone are naturally resistant to the effects of androgenic alopecia (genetic hair loss). When these hairs are transplanted to bald areas of the scalp they continue to grow for a lifetime just as they did before. But, patients with higher Norwood Scale classifications may not have enough donor hair to obtain the appearance they hope for. After all, you can't get wall-to-wall carpeting from an area rug. To combat this donor supply issue, some clinics offer the option of implanting synthetic hair strands directly into the scalp. But, how effective is this procedure and what are the potential side effects?

Since its inception, synthetic hair implantation has had its share of controversy. In 1983 the FDA banned the practice in the United States. The following reasons were cited for the ban:

  1. The fibers presented risks of illness or injury due to nonbiocompatibility of the fibers and nonmedical performance of the implant.
  2. The fibers presented fraud due to:
    • spreading of deceptive information on the efficacy of result
    • inadequate information on risks deriving from implant
    • they did not show any benefit for public health

In addition, patients reported the following serious side effects:

  • recurrent infections
  • rejection and periodic loss of fibers needing frequent replacement
  • frequent allergic reactions leading to severe contact dermatitis, irritant effects
  • fears about possible carcinogenicity
  • cicatricial alopecia
  • granulomatous hypersensitivity
  • cyst formation

Since their debut, refinements have been made to the materials used to create the synthetic fibers. Companies that offer the procedure today claim that many of the previous issues have been resolved and that the procedure is safer than ever. But, does that make them a good idea?

For more information on artificial hair implantation see the following article by the International Journal of Trichology, "Controversy: Synthetic Hairs and their Role in Hair Restoration?"

Conclusion

There is no substitute for your own, natural hair. Many hair loss sufferers are candidates for surgical hair restoration. To find out if you are one of them, consult with a skilled and experienced hair transplant surgeon

If you are not a candidate for surgery, consider alternatives like temporary scalp-micropigmentation (SMP) or shaving your head.

Have you had synthetic hair implants or just have questions about the procedure? Share your experience on our hair restoration discussion forum.

All Articles by David Contributing author and hair transplant patient.