Years of relaxer and hair straightening had started to take their toll on writer Amerley Ollennu’s hairline, Could needles be the answer? She tries PRP, micro-needling and vitamin injections in a bid to boost her hair growth.
As a child I had an abundance of hair. So much, in fact, that my parents had no idea what to do with it. Brushing was a nightmare for all involved and styling, well, that was practically non-existent.
As my teenage years arrived, the problem was that I, too, had no idea how to look after my hair. I scoured magazines for answers, but none truly catered for my mixed heritage, curly hair. Unlike today, I didn’t have the internet or Youtube to help me understand how to care for my curls, so can you really blame me for the subsequent straightening addiction that spanned a good 15 years?
By 17, I’d begun straightening my curls into submission using a two-pronged approach. Every six months I’d chemically straighten it with relaxer, and I ran my beloved GHDs over it daily.
Fast forward to my twenties and I became a beauty editor in order to offer women that look like me (as well as those that don’t, because that’s true inclusivity) the advice I wish I’d been privy to as a teen. I interviewed an untold number of hair stylists and trichologists, and wrote countless articles advising women on how to avoid long-term damage, thinning and hair loss.
So it’s more than slightly ironic to think that when I began to notice thinning around my hairline in my late twenties, I was still resistant to part with my straightening regime, opting to hide the loss with a fringe rather than exploring the root of the hair loss problem.
What’s important to note here, however, is that hair loss is really common. The NHS has estimated that 8 million women in the UK experience hair loss by the age of 50, which does go some way to normalising and de-stigmatising the condition. But many of us — myself included — make the personal decision to find a remedy for thinning hair. In fact, the global hair loss treatment market was valued at a whopping 2.8 billion dollars in 2017, and the volume of surgical hair restoration procedures increased from 252,002 in 2008 to around 397,048 in 2014.
I’ve tried just about every tip and trick in the book. And while scalp massage, silicone-free hair products and reducing heat styling can all be beneficial for preventing further hair loss and boosting hair health, I was ready to try something a little more extreme to coax back my thinning hairline. Cue the needles.
From PRP to micro-needling via vitamin injections, trichologists are increasingly ‘borrowing’ the innovations we’d usually associate with seriously hi-tech facials and using them on the scalp to spur on the growth of new, stronger hair. Could needle therapies be the hair thinning treatments I’ve been looking for?
I was certainly up for finding out. I tried three of the new-gen needle therapies in a bid to boost hair growth. Here’s exactly what happened…
Before needle therapy: the analysis
The first step of my new treatment plan began with a DNA analysis by trichologist Ricardo Vila Nova, a service offered by only three people in the world, FYI. “By magnifying and analysing a strand of hair, I can identify the emotional, nutritional, hormonal, environmental and genetic factors affecting the health and condition of your hair and scalp,” he explained. “First, I look to determine hydration and toxin levels to see if the scalp is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs. I also examine cellular activity, which is responsible for the production of cuticle cells.”
He also checks for cellular reproduction, which determines the thickness of the hair, as well as evaluating the condition of the scalp, looking for bacteria as well as measuring hydration and pH levels, which can all contribute to the thickness and strength of the hair.
My diagnosis? Extreme dryness and low cellular activity, which considering this is a precursor to thinning and breakage, it was hardly a surprise.
Teamed with recent blood test results, Vila Nova used this information to prescribe me a concoction of vitamins. But this was no quick swallow of a tablet — to ensure the nutrients are delivered to where you need them most, they need to be injected directly into the scalp.
Much more comfortable than it sounds, Vila Nova first massaged a blend of nourishing oils (including castor oil and rare Japanese Tsubuki oil) into my scalp to relax the nerve receptors (hopefully) reducing pain. Then, my scalp was washed in an anti-septic formula, while Vila Nova prepared my prescribed blend of vitamins B1, B5, B6 and B12.
Standing over me with a needle, Vila Nova began to part my hair and inject along each section and all the way around my hairline front to back. The procedure was done so quickly I barely felt a thing; it felt like little pin prick and was, quite frankly, a little anticlimactic.
The treatment was followed up with another blend of oils applied to my hair and scalp. While there’s no downtime, I couldn’t wash my hair for at least 24 hours. Results are expected around a month post-treatment, but multiple sessions are recommended and lifestyle changes are required, too.
The biggest takeaway for me? The importance of reducing stress. Turns out, this can exacerbate genetic hair loss, as the adrenal glands secrete male hormones into the body, which can cause us to burn through our energy stores, meaning our hair gets less than it needs. “Prolonged periods of late nights, early mornings, stress and poor nutrition see your secondary organs – hair, nails and skin – take the brunt,” says Vila Nova.
After a month, I noticed some growth in the sparse areas around my forehead, which was more than I’d ever experienced by taking oral supplements.
From £350, ricardovilanova.com
When performed on the face, micro-needling (rolling tiny needles over your face) is known to plump and firm, reduce acne scarring and help skin glow. The needles cause micro-injuries that force the skin to produce more collagen in a bid to repair. And now, the beauty world is beginning to recognise the benefits it can have on the scalp.
“The scalp also loses collagen with age, slowing down hair growth, while leaving some hair follicles dormant,” explains Vila Nova. “Compromised hair follicles can’t produce long, strong hair, micro-needling helps boost blood flow, and creates pathways for treatment serums as well as boosting follicle strengthening collagen.” I’m in.
Just as he did when I had my vitamin injections, we started with a head massage and hair wash. Having had monthly micro-needling sessions on my face for years, I thought this would be a breeze, but I was wrong. It was pretty uncomfortable, as the needles went back and forth multiple times unlike the quick pricks of an injection, but thankfully, it was bearable.
After rolling my scalp, Vila Nova massaged in a concoction of hair-boosting vitamins and peptides, and after, my head was placed under a LED light for 20 minutes. Vila Nova uses the same type of light used for hair removal, just in a reverse action, stimulating the follicle rather than destroying it. Another month later and while my hair was growing back steadily, it now felt stronger, and was far less dry too.
From £350, ricardovilanova.com
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections
You’ll probably know PRP as its more colloquial name: the vampire facial, made famous by Kim Kardashian, while sister Kourtney recently spoke out about having this treatment on her scalp after an uber tight pony left her with a bald spot.
“PRP is essentially blood taken from you, spun in a centrifuge to separate the blood cells, and then extracting the platelet rich plasma and re-injecting it back into specific areas,” explains aesthetic Dr, Maryam Zamani. PRP contains numerous growth factors which act in the bulge area of the follicle, stimulating activity and promoting new hair growth.
Vila Nova, notes that the quality of blood is important here: “If your immune system is weak, or you’re not eating well, or overly stressed this can impact the blood and make the treatment redundant.”
Numbing cream was used as without it this can be a pretty painful procedure. Once my plasma was ready to be reinjected, Zamani wasted no time, and I felt very little as she went along my hair line. There was some bruising and swelling post the 15-minute session, but that went down in a few days. I went back for two more sessions, leaving four to six weeks in between, and Zamani advised a booster six months after my last treatment. Again, my hair took to this treatment well, which could be because as Vila Nova pointed out, “most of the time non-genetic related hair loss is the fastest to regenerate.”
From £800, drmaryamzamani.com
After needle therapy: The final results
My hair hasn’t felt this strong, or looked this shiny in years, but most importantly for me the hair around my hairline has grown back. It’s not back to how it was, but the marked improvement is enough for me to want to carry on with these needle treatments.
With that said, I have had to make some major changes to my beloved straightening regime. While I refuse to ditch my Great Lengths extensions, I have ditched relaxing my hair and I wear it curly more often, too.
I exfoliate my scalp regularly as this reduces product build-up blocking my hair follicles, and I ensure my diet is varied and nutrient rich - I’ve started taking spirulina, biotin and iron supplements on Vila Nova’s recommendation, and I’ve started eating more greens, nuts and oily fish: all vital for keeping the scalp strong and healthy. I’m exercising more too, in a bid to increase blood flow, and because it’s a major stress reliever. Not only is that good for my mental health, but stress can have a real effect on the hair, forcing hair follicles into resting phase, which can lead to extra hair fallout in the coming months.
The treatments, which do take multiple sessions, have all had an impact on my hair growth, but all in all, working to boost my hairline has offered me an even greater benefit. By adding in these new rituals and taking better care of my body, my hair looks better than ever, but my mind feels great too.
And one word of advice: if you’re considering booking in for one of these treatments, be sure to consult a professional trichologist to find the most effective (and therefore value-for-money) treatment plan for you.
Images: courtesy of Amerley Ollennu.