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Trying PRP For Hair Loss Changed How I Felt About My Curly Hair

I remember the moment I realized it was happening. I was in my first apartment post-college and noticed an unusual amount of hair coming out in my hands after showering one evening. I knew that hair loss in the shower was normal, but this amount was not.
At first, I chalked it up to the products I was using: Maybe the trendy shampoo and conditioner I was influenced into buying from Instagram wasn’t the right move for my hair. It would’ve been so much easier to accept that as the reason for this sudden hair thinning. Perhaps I could turn this hair loss ship around simply by swapping out the products. Unfortunately, the repercussions of my pursuit of straight hair said otherwise. The moment has arrived, no matter what I put in my hair.
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My relationship with my hair has always been a tricky one. Being biracial, hair was at the root of my never-ending identity crisis growing up. While everyone around me in my very white Texas suburb had tamed, straight locks, I had unruly curls that put a target on my back. I was bullied for having 'poofy' hair. Every day I wore my hair down, a kid would ask to touch it. I remember one girl asking to touch my curls (which looked great that day) only to run her hands through them so much that they turned into a frizzy mess. I vividly remember crying in the bathroom during lunch.

Growing up, I never realized the magnitude of damage I did to my hair in pursuit of a straighter texture. My room reeked of burnt hair and I was addicted to my straightener.

As the years went on, I began to resent the hair I was born with. I got my first relaxer in the third grade, and the next day going to school with straight hair, I never felt happier. I believed I would finally fit in with the other girls because straight hair was the only hair that my small, impressionable mind chose to see growing up. But the high of being like the others wore off pretty quickly. I put it down to the Texas humidity (and not wanting to be the only girl who doesn’t get her hair wet at the pool).
As I grew up, I never realized the magnitude of damage I did to my hair in pursuit of a straighter texture. Even if I had my hair up in a ponytail or braids, my hair had to be straight. My room reeked of burnt hair each week and I was addicted to my straightener. I’d load up my hair with so much conditioner outside the shower that the weight of the products turned my tight curls into waves. I’d braid and braid and braid my hair until I was able to force my natural pattern out. By college, I was getting keratin and Brazilian treatments I could barely afford every few months. It was a relentless chase for something that would never naturally be mine — and soon I’d pay the price for it in the form of gradual hair loss.
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Aside from the damage I made on my own, hair loss was already a part of my destiny thanks to genetics. My aunt lost much of her hair in her mid to late 20s, and I always feared I’d follow in her footsteps. Add in the stress of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and it was the perfect storm.
The cursed year of 2020 was when the trouble really rolled in. Each night in the shower, the clumps became thicker. I could start to see my scalp in all of my updos and my braids started to look so thin, that I avoided the style altogether — though it's one I’ve always loved. I avoided haircuts because I didn’t want the stylist to mention my decreasing hair, remembering an unfortunate incident where I was refused the style I wanted because it would "only make my hair look thinner". I spent an excessive amount of money on hairsprays, colored powders, and texture sprays in hopes of defying gravity like Elphaba, and fooling people into thinking I had more hair than I did.
When the products didn’t seem like enough, I turned to expensive pills and vitamins. I tried every supplement I could find that was related to hair growth: prenatal vitamins and years of pills from a popular hair growth company. I tried oils, serums, and foams, despite how annoying they were to apply each night, not to mention any shampoo or conditioner that claimed could help with hair restoration. Then came the scalp massagers, scalp facials and scalp detox scrubs. I even tried any TikTok hack I could find that utilized items I had in my home, patiently waiting at least a year to show even a glimmer of hope. 
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Nothing worked. 
I had blood work done only to be told there was nothing abnormal going on beneath the surface. I felt defeated and resentful of anyone who didn’t spend every day thinking about their hair negatively. I spent so much time and money trying to bring back my hair — and for what? Was it the guilt of knowing I was the reason it got this far? Was it the societal expectation of women to have thick, voluminous hair? Was it about hair equating to a woman's beauty? I wasn’t sure at the time, nor did I care. The only thing I was sure of was that I wouldn’t stop until I got what I wanted no matter how much time, pain, and money it would cost.

While many people might run for the hills at the thought of having anything injected into their scalp, I was fascinated by the process of PRP, which uses your blood plasma to help restore hair.

For the past year and a half, I have been researching more intense solutions, like platelet-rich plasma injections (also known as PRP). PRP is an injectable therapy treatment, which consists of a concentration of the patient's own blood platelets to accelerate healing in the body. It is used primarily in relation to the muscles and tendons, but is more commonly a treatment for hair loss.
While many people might run for the hills at the thought of having anything injected into their scalp, I was fascinated by the process of using your plasma to help restore hair. Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist, whose practice specializes in hair restoration, told me that the platelets are a rich reservoir of nutrients. "What the PRP does is give you those great growth factors," said Henry. "They’re also anti-inflammatory agents, which perk up and restore those hair follicles."
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Heading into Dr. Henry’s office for the first time, I felt a mix of optimism and anxiety. I felt positive about the idea of a solution that could work, but worried at the thought of investing in something that could fail. Having never met before, we started with a consultation to address my concerns and answer any lingering questions. She then took a look at my scalp and the areas where the hair thinning had accelerated. Hearing her say I was a good candidate for the treatment made me feel better, as I worried that people — myself included — thought I was being dramatic about my hair loss. The curls can make it seem like I have a lot more strands than I do.
The entire process was quite seamless and efficient. After taking my blood, they used a special machine to spin it and quite literally turn it into liquid gold. Using a vibration tool as a distraction for the needles, Dr. Henry injected my plasma back into my scalp. Surprisingly, any pain was manageable. The only uncomfortable part was the headache afterwards and my scalp being tender as I brushed my hair over the following days. 
Post-treatment, there weren’t any guidelines I had to follow, which I loved. It is a wait-and-see procedure until you go back for your next round of injections. I’ll be heading back for my second visit soon, and I couldn’t be more excited.
According to Dr. Nilofer Farjo of the Farjo Hair Institute, women tend to be more of the typical patient for this kind of treatment. "Typically, 1-2 treatments a year would be needed," says Dr Nilofer. He adds, "Similar to low-level laser, PRP is of most benefit in thinning areas of hair," — but beyond a certain point of hair loss, it might be too late. That's why it pays to book in for a consultation beforehand.
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While I am keeping my expectations low throughout these next few sessions, I feel like I’m in good hands. Sure, this is a pricey way to find out if this is the hair restoration solution I’ve been waiting for. But even if it doesn’t work, I know we have options and can create a game plan tailored to what could potentially work for me. “I try to customize [the PRP treatment] because not everyone is a responder,” said Dr Henry, as she discussed treatment plans that include PRP, cortisone injections, topical treatments and oral medications. 

It took me years to finally love and appreciate my curls — only to see them become thinner and weaker. Investing in all these products and treatments is like a do-over.

While PRP might not work for everyone, it’s not the end-all be-all for non-surgical hair restoration. For women, Dr Nilofer recommends minoxidil, commonly known as Regaine, which is applied as a foam or lotion. It is one of a couple of FDA-approved medications to treat patterned hair loss. Low level light treatments have also proven to be successful in stimulating the cells beneath the scalp to produce more protein, which can strengthen the hair and lead to more bulk. “The light is beamed through small individual light sources within a band, helmet or cap or via a handheld device, such as a laser comb,” adds Dr. Bessam Farjo, the lead hair restoration surgeon of the Farjo Hair Institute. This technology best serves areas where hair is still present but thinning. Dr Bessam adds that the combination of both low-level laser and Minoxidil can be quite effective in women.
On the other hand, Dr. Bessam says that supplements (seen as a popular fix for hair growth) may be over-promising results. Dr. Nilofer explains, “There is a definite place for these non-prescription products as part of your hair loss treatment regimen, but as long as you appreciate it is more of a support role." Supplements could also be a suitable avenue if your hair loss is at a very early stage, "or the objective is to improve the quality of existing hairs," concludes Dr. Nilofer.
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In the days following my first PRP session, I started to ask myself some honest questions about why I was doing all this and how I would feel if the PRP treatments didn’t end up working. There’s no denying societal beauty standards had a part in all of this. How could it not? But digging deeper, I began to see what was at the core of this tireless pursuit to bring my hair back: I realized that I am trying to turn back the clock on years of resenting and burning away my natural hair. 
It took me years to finally love and appreciate my curls, only to see them become thinner and weaker. Investing in all these products and treatments is like a do-over. I'm finally embracing what I have, rather than trying to change it. I know my hair will never be what it used to be, and that’s a hard truth that can’t be wiped away by an expensive treatment. However, the emotional relationship and love I have for my natural hair has changed, and I see it as the reason why I’m doing the absolute most for my hair — despite the time, money and pain. Now, it’s just a matter of what will work for my hair and my lifestyle. 
There’s no denying that products on the market skew towards male hair loss, and while there are more products available today, it still isn’t enough. In my opinion, it’s bigger than magic pills and serums. Research suggests female pattern baldness is one of the most common forms of hair loss for women, and yet I rarely hear people talking about it or how we can combat it.
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There should be a bigger conversation about the connection hair has to our sense of identity when we begin to lose it. It can mean the loss of confidence, connection to our culture and femininity. Our hair doesn’t define who we are, and yet it’s a tough cord to cut when it comes to just accepting it, whatever condition it may be in. 
I wish I could sit here and tell you to just come to terms with your hair loss and hair thinning. I wish I could tell you to embrace it. I wish I could tell you to say fuck it and shave it all off because none of this matters in the grand scheme of things. Hell, I wish I could just tell myself all of these things. I’m not quite there yet, though. I spent my entire childhood watching movies with princesses who had full, luscious locks and my teen years wishing I had the hair of models in magazines. If you’re like me, you spend so much time obsessing over your hair, and what you don’t have, and that’s not something that can be easily erased overnight by some body-positivity quote.
I know I am lucky enough to still have hair on my head. I know that others are battling far worse, and I want to acknowledge that. But knowing someone else has it bad doesn’t always make it easier to accept your situation. What I am learning to internalise is that two things can be true at the same time: I can pursue hair growth options that have the power to enhance what I have, and make me feel more like myself. I can also forgive myself for the years I tried to burn my natural curls away, and instead, choose to love my hair in its current state and wherever it decides to go in the future.
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