A full head of hair is so interwoven with good health and femininity that the image of luscious hair is used to convey wealth, success, and desire in everything from pop culture to mythology. With self-worth and societal messaging tied up in your coif, it can be devastating to experience hair loss – whether due to a gradual lack of density and increased hair fall, having a baby, genetics, environmental stressors, or a sudden baring of the scalp after medical treatment. “Most women will experience some kind of hair thinning in their life, due to a combination of genetic factors and hormones,” says Lars Skjoth, founder and lead research scientist at Harklinikken, a Denmark-headquartered hair loss clinic with clients worldwide. “Certain hormones, namely more aggressive type androgens, begin to attack the hair follicles resulting in gradual shrinkage over time. Most women start thinning in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, but many do not pay attention to it until they have lost almost half of their hair because they are thinning in a more sporadic pattern compared to men.” This gradual shrinkage, says Skjoth, made female hair thinning misunderstood by earlier hair loss solutions that primarily targeted male pattern baldness.
Hair, particularly in the Middle East, is a source of pride, or in cases of loss, a cause for pain. Amy Meshkati, founder of luxury London clinic Meshkati, says that the role that healthy hair plays in how we perceive power, good looks, charm, and beauty is undeniable. “Middle Eastern women care a great deal about femininity,” she notes. “Hair loss may trigger social and emotional issues that can negatively impact healthy living and quality of life.” Dr Ahsen Farooque, specialist doctor at Dubai’s Maison Lutétia Clinic, says that stress-related hair loss is particularly common in the region, due to an emphasis on hairstyling and the use of headscarves. “When the hair is tightly bound, it can cause traction alopecia or a recession of the hairline,” he points out. “Traction alopecia is common in females and can gradually increase the hair loss from the front because of the constant pull leading to a bigger forehead as well as thinning of hair.” Another cause of hair loss that only impacts women, is the sudden reduction of strands following pregnancy and childbirth. “Due to fluctuations in hormones both during and post childbirth, women can experience an increase in shedding,” notes Skjoth. “However, while it often comes back on its own, many women experience that their hair comes back finer and thinner.”
Physical appearances aside, uncontrollable hair loss can trigger an emotional response that requires its own recovery. “Healthy hair is an important element of physical wellbeing. The psychological stress felt by women is usually more severe than in men and may impact their quality of life through emotional distress, depression, fatigue, anger, anxiety, or social withdrawal,” says Meshkati. Dr Farooque agrees, adding, “It’s almost a vicious cycle: they will suffer from emotional stress because of hair loss.”
Fortunately, as science makes gains in hair implant technology, the stigma of seeking treatment is dissipating. For those who need a proactive intervention, hair implants can make a notable improvement. At the Maison Lutétia Clinic, there are several treatment paths available. “When there is no hair or no hair root is present, the solution would be a direct hair implantation method,” says clinic manager Ayesha Munir. After years of finessing, it’s now evolved into a non-invasive and painless hair transplant technique, performed under local anesthesia in four to five hours. Given its medical nature, it’s crucial to choose a clinic with Direct Hair Implantation-certified physicians with a sole specialization in the technique. Instead of per follicle, pricing is dependent on the time required, but patients can expect a range from AED 15 000 to AED 22 500. Unlike male hair transplantation, the treatment doesn’t require a fully shaved head. Instead, small sections are harvested so the existing lengths completely cover the shaved donor area. “Our extraction method is carried out using very fine titanium punches,” explains Munir. “The grafts are then sorted one by one, classified, and placed in a specific preservation solution traditionally used during organ transplantation to ensure the longevity of your precious follicles, without the grafts ever being altered or cut.” The hairs are implanted using a tailor-made stylus, which does not cause any discomfort or pain. This also controls the angle of implantation, the depth of placement, and. most importantly, the direction, following the scalp’s natural growth pattern.Recovery time is a week to allow redness to subside, but with no major disruption to day-to-day life. The result is a subtle return of new and rejuvenated hair, without any telltale scarring and minimal aftercare – a favorite shampoo and conditioner is all that’s needed. For the long-term, implanted follicles will behave exactly like normal hair growth, settling into a lifecycle of natural shedding and re-emerging. So really, what’s to lose?
Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia