Sadly, we weren't all born with Olivia Palermo's glamorously glossy mane or David Beckham's cool coif, which perhaps is why the hair care industry is estimated to be worth $15 billion in the U.S. alone (and, no, that doesn't begin to include trips to the salon or cosmetic procedures).
While there are plenty of quick fixes (think: cut, color, and styling) to boost your 'do, certain hair concerns require a bit more attention. Hair restoration is a growing trend and specialty among dermatologists and plastic surgeons, and, in addition to treating hair loss and hair removal, the shape of the hairline can also be addressed.
Gone are the days of cutting bangs to conceal widow's peaks or wearing toupes to cover up a receding hairline. Instead, there are a variety of invasive and non-invasive procedures to change the hairline shape. Here, we break down the top three.
1. Laser Hair Removal
Not just for legs and underarms, laser hair removal is an ideal option if you wish to eliminate unwanted hair — in the form of baby hairs, widow’s peaks, or patches — from around the hairline. The procedure is permanent, which means you'll want to be 100 percent certain you don't pull a Kim Kardashian and regret your decision.
Back in 2016, the reality star shared on her website that she wished she hadn't lasered off the baby hair around her hairline, but, if you are ready to take the plunge, the non-invasive, in-office procedure is a relatively simple — though lengthy — process. While each laser hair removal session lasts no more than an hour, six to eight sessions spaced every four to six weeks may be required for optimal results. Sessions range from $600 to $900 each.
When it comes to the treatment itself, patients wear goggles to protect their eyes and a topical anesthetic is often applied to alleviate discomfort. Most liken the sensation from the handheld laser to the feeling of someone snapping rubber bands — slightly uncomfortable but not unbearable — and a cooling gel may also be used to protect the skin from burns and irritation.
2. Hair Transplants
If your desired hairline requires adding hair, transplants may be the solution. Unlike non-invasive laser hair removal, hair transplantation is a surgical procedure that has the ability to produce natural-looking results. But it’s not for everyone. “An ideal hair transplant candidate has richly populated donor hair and an area of open scalp in which to plant the hairs,” says Benjamin Paul, MD, a New York City-based board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in hair restoration.
A typical transplant procedure works by harvesting hair from the back of the head and transplanting the strands to the desired site to create a new hairline. There are two kinds of hair transplant surgeries:
Follicular Unit Extraction (a.k.a. FUE): Surgeons transfer individual hair follicles from the back of the scalp (where hair is most dense) to the thinning area.
Follicular Unit Transplantation (a.k.a. FUT or FUSS): Instead of removing hairs one at a time à la FUE, surgeons excise a so-called "donor strip" containing thousands of follicles and transplant them to the desired area.
Depending on which surgery is right for you, the operation can take anywhere from four to eight hours. Post-op, many patients are prescribed steroids and antibiotics to reduce swelling and prevent infection, and scalp sensitivity is common throughout the recovery process.
Speaking of recovery, patience is key in the aftermath of a hair transplant. Most people experience 60 percent of new hair growth in six to nine months with full results taking longer. Surgeons may even suggest using regrowth supplements (think: Rogaine) or other therapies to complement the procedure.
“In general, a hair transplant does not require oral or topical medicines to grow," says Dr. Paul. "But, as adjuncts to transplant, I often recommend oral, topical, and injectable therapy. Each patient has an individual treatment plan.”
Hair transplant surgeries can range from $4,000 to $15,000, and, because it is considered a cosmetic procedure, they are not covered by insurance.
3. Forehead Reduction
Another invasive procedure for those looking to correct a receding hairline is forehead reduction. The surgery, which is an alternative to transplants, lowers the hairline to decrease the size of the forehead and balance the proportion of the face.
During the procedure, surgeons remove an ellipse of skin from the front of the hairline to bring it forward. Marks are drawn to indicate the desired hairline and incisions mimicking the natural hairline are made. The excess skin is then removed to pull the forehead upwards. The surgery is most successful for patients who wish to advance their hairline by five centimeters or less. On average, the procedure costs between $7,500 and $10,00 and is not covered by insurance.
Unlike hair transplants, patients may experience scarring at the incision site in front of the hairline, and hair grafting may be needed after the forehead reduction is healed to fill in the new hairline. “In general, patients are choosing hair transplant to lower the hairline because the result is natural, permanent, and does not involve linear scars in front of the hair,” says Dr. Paul.
While non-invasive laser hair removal is a suitable option for patients looking to reshape the hairline by removing small areas of hair like widow’s peaks or baby hairs, more dramatic changes (think: filling in thinning hair or re-proportioning the face) require more invasive surgeries like hair transplants and forehead reductions.
Regardless of which route you choose, the procedures are all highly customizable. Consulting with a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon will ensure you get the treatment and result that is right for you.
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