Written by: Victoria Palmer

We’ve all seen the images that overshadowed this year’s Oscar’s ceremony. Will Smith slapping Chris Rock because of a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. Condone the slap or not, that’s up to you, but many saw Rock’s joke as a dig at Jada’s alopecia – a hair condition which is no laughing matter for those living with it. And the spat has certainly shone a bright light on the condition in the past few days.

To get the lowdown on alopecia, the impact it has on those living with it and the cosmetic treatment that she uses to help boost hair growth – mesotherapy – I spoke with Independent nurse prescriber Kornelia Hauk, founder and managing director of Perpetual Aesthetics Ltd.

Hi Kornelia! Let’s start with the big question. What is alopecia?

Alopecia is the overall name for hair loss, and then there are different types of alopecia. There’s the gradual thinning of hair on the head, which is mainly in men but can also be found in women and is known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. There’s also alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes patchy hair loss. Then there’s traction alopecia, which is where hair has been pulled in a specific way for long periods of time. And there’s frontal alopecia – where the hair at the front of the head comes out due to destroyed follicles. These are just a few examples.

Talk to me about alopecia causes. What causes hair loss?

There’s a whole range of contributing factors that can lead to hair loss and so it’s vital to start with the patient’s medical history and find out about any underlying conditions before any treatments are suggested. We look at the patient’s nails and see if there’s any more hair loss on other parts of the body first. Alopecia can be down to an autoimmune disorder, genetics, stress or a sudden trauma. In women, it can be down to thyroid dysfunction, which is the case for about 50% of the female patients I see. Hormonal change also plays a part and it can be common in men who are training very hard, due to the high level of testosterone, which converts to dihydrotestosterone in their bodies, triggering hair loss. Dihydrotestosterone also used to be found in body building supplements, causing alopecia in many men.

Poor diet can also play a part in hair loss – especially in high intakes of red meat and foods that are full of hormones. Or it can be a vitamin deficiency. Another factor can be a mechanical one. For instance, wearing a helmet all day for work. This can rub on and damage the hair, making it weak and causing it to fall out.

Wow! I didn’t realise there were so many reasons for hair loss. How does alopecia affect those living with it?

Hair loss can be a very distressing issue and often causes people to withdraw from social situations. It’s the cause of a lot of worry. For women in particular, our hair is often what makes us feel feminine and sexy, so to suddenly lose it can cause stress and make us feel extremely self conscious. They usually come to me when they notice that their hair has started to thin.

However, I also see male patients who have just had hair transplants. Mesotherapy or PRP is recommended after this type of procedure, as it really helps stimulate hair follicles and boost new hair growth.

I’ve heard you talk a lot about mesotherapy as an alopecia treatment. How does this work?

Mesotherapy works by injecting various substances into the affected area. For my male patients, I use aminexil, fenogreco, biotin, peptides, saw palmetto and azelaic acid. For my female patients, I use amino acids, sulphur amino acids, trace elements, enzymes, vitamins and peptides. I’ll often add TIGF – a growth factor that optimises skin repair and revitalisation. This contains proline, glycine, lysine, acetylcysteine, leucine, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.

I introduce the product on the hair follicle growth level. I inject with a 30 gauge needle, approximately 1 mm into the skin, and approximately 0.1-0.2 mm of the product in a space of 1-1.5 cm into the skin. On top of that, I use a technique called napage, which is where I use the syringe and needle, superficially, to just touch the skin in a frequent movement of my hand, gently piercing the skin while introducing the product on top of this. Then, I massage the affected area while the patient relaxes. It’s not a pleasant treatment, so a little bit of massage after helps them forget about the pain.

Speaking of pain, do you give patients pain relief when performing mesotherapy for hair loss?

It’s hard to use numbing cream on the scalp and areas where there’s existing hair because it’s slippery and can cause more trauma. There’s a freezing spray, but I find it’s quicker and easier to perform the treatment with no pain relief as it’s a straightforward procedure and the technique I use helps distract from the pain. I also help them coordinate their breathing in time with the injections, which really helps a lot.

How long does this kind of hair loss treatment take to work?

It depends on the individual. I always recommend vitamin supplements, or an intravenous drip containing vitamins, starting, ideally, up to three months before our first treatment, but I know that’s not always possible, so a few weeks before is ok. This helps make sure they are starting with hair that’s as nourished as possible. In the first month of treatment, I recommend seeing the patient every week. In the second month, every two weeks, and then every two to four weeks for any remaining treatments. It can take up to half a year, so it’s important to remain patient. It’s a stimulating treatment for the cells, but it’s important to understand what’s going on in the body too. That’s why vitamins such as B, C and D are so vital.

So, can people get significant hair regrowth with mesotherapy?

It all depends on the individual and what stage the patient’s hair loss is in. We can’t treat people who have no hair at all. This means the cells are dead, and it’s not possible to stimulate new growth here. But yes, it can be possible on an individual basis, as long as they are compliant with their practitioner and their recommendations, and we can determine the cause of their hair loss first. There are so many quick fix options online that promise hair growth, but you need to be patient with this type of issue, and you can see incredible results.

And what advice would you give to anyone thinking about getting mesotherapy treatment?

Be very patient because it can take a long time. Focus on your own well-being and health so we can get down to the real reason behind the hair loss.

Can mesotherapy be used alongside any other hair loss treatments?

Yes, PRP and mesotherapy can be used together to get a great result. The difference between mesotherapy and PRP is that PRP uses the patient’s own blood while mesotherapy uses a mixture of ingredients. However, the two are performed in a very similar way.

How can you look after your hair at home to help prevent hair loss?

Having a good diet, looking after our well-being, trying to eliminate as much stress as possible, and taking good care of our hair. Don’t wash your hair every day, and wash gently in lukewarm water rather than hot water. Nettle is also good for hair growth, so drinking nettle tea or rinsing hair in it can help. There are lots of natural products that we can use as home treatments. I’d suggest using a wide-tooth comb, and sleeping on a silk pillow, as it doesn’t cause the hair to rub overnight, and it doesn’t absorb sweat, so the moisture from your sweat goes back into the hair. It’s also very anti-ageing and is good for the skin as well as hair. Another thing I recommend is ginseng hairspray that can be used after the treatment.

Sounds great! Do you have any final recommendations when it comes to treating alopecia with mesotherapy?

I would suggest going to see a practitioner who is medically qualified and is experienced and knows what products to use and how to effectively treat the issue. It’s important to look at medical history, so the person treating alopecia needs to be able to understand what can lead to it and what can be done to improve hair growth without causing further problems. I always check for allergies first.

Thanks, Kornelia! That’s really good to know.