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What You Need to Know Before Starting Hair Loss Treatments, According to a Dermatologist

Thinking of starting a hair loss treatment? Have some questions you’d like addressed beforehand? We figured, which is why we reached out to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Julie Russak of Russak Dermatology Clinic. Dr. Russak shared everything one needs to know before embarking on their hair loss treatment journey, from how to tell they need it and whether or not they’d make a good candidate. Additionally, she walked us through her clinic’s revolutionary Hair Restoration Therapy program to learn all there is to know about the signature hair loss treatment. Keep scrolling to receive answers to your biggest hair loss treatment questions!

What Are Some Critical Things People Should Know Before Starting a Hair Loss Treatment?

Dr. Russak shares that “the first thing they should be mindful of is that by the time they really notice hair loss, they’ve already lost about 30% of their hair.” This means you shouldn’t just be mindful of hair loss, but also hair thinning. “The first sign is a change in diameter of the hair,” Dr. Russak notes. “Hair production will slow down and you won’t produce as robust hair as possible. This is when the hair starts thinning.”

There are a number of reasons for hair loss, notes Dr. Russak. Because of this, the type of hair loss that is experienced will differ from person to person. “Paying attention to the actual type of hair loss you’re experiencing is very important,” she says. One important distinction is notching whether it is hair loss or hair aging. “Hair ages similar to how our skin ages. When the skin of the scalp ages, the hair follicles are in the skin of the scalp so they’re not producing robust hair. Everything starts slowing down, which is a normal part of aging,” Dr. Russak mentions.

The pandemic has also ushered in a rise in hair loss. “I think we are having a boom in terms of people being more aware of their hair loss because of COVID,” starts Dr. Russak. “And COVID really has a dual effect on the hair. One is the stress—the whole stress of the pandemic. Stress in general is probably one of the biggest factors that lead to hair loss and hair thinning. What we are starting to notice is that in patients who had COVID, three to four months after contracting the virus, their hair starts falling out significantly. And it’s not what we call telogen effluvium (stress-related hair loss), it’s a direct attack of the virus on the hair follicles.”

What Are the Different Types of Hair Loss?

Given there are a number of ways to categorize hair loss, we had Dr. Russak walk us through some of them. She starts by noting that “dermatologists differentiated hair loss into scarring and non-scarring.” She shares that for scarring, “there are processes that lead to scars forming around the hair follicles, but there’s a lot of different medical conditions that can lead to that.” As far as non-scarring goes, many of those examples are what we previously discussed. Dr. Russak mentions that “there are a lot of factors that contribute to non-scarring hair loss. This can include medical deficiencies, problems with the thyroid, deficiencies in iron and different vitamins like B and T, and then aging for women.”

Women experiencing perimenopause and menopause “definitely show a slowing down in their hair cycle,” shares Dr. Russak. “This means they have shorter hair, the hair doesn’t grow the full length, and then the hair falls out, it doesn’t grow the same way. They’ll start noticing hair loss density, meaning not as many follicles are actually being produced.”

When Is Someone at the Point of Actual Hair Loss and Not Normal Hair Shedding?

Typically, this will be fairly easy to notice. Dr. Russak shares you’ll be seeing a lot more of your scalp if you’re experiencing hair loss and not hair shedding. “For men, it’s usually at the crown of the hair. For women, it’s actually more at the front. If you think about your palm, where the palm is the highest density of hair—if you put your palm to the front and the fingers to the back, that’s the pattern of female pattern hair loss. If you flip it and put your palm to the back with the fingers pointing forward, that’s going to be a male pattern hair loss.”

As Far as Stress-Related Hair Loss Goes, How Do You Recommend Someone Treats That?

It starts with mitigating the effects of stress. When it comes to Dr. Russak’s Hair Restoration Therapy, ashwagandha plays an important part. “We support the body’s immune system using ashwagandha,” she notes. “It’s an herbal supplement that decreases the effects of stress hormones on our hair follicles. Adding this to your daily ritual is incredibly helpful.”

But it doesn’t stop there. More critical than simply adding ashwagandha to your daily routine is creating a healthy lifestyle. “Peple don’t really associate good food and nutrition with hair loss, but improving hair loss is extremely dependent on that,” Dr. Russak stresses. “In general, hair loss is very multifaceted, even stress isn’t just mental stress. Very often, it’s metabolic stress. When the body is going through a stressful metabolic period, hair production is probably not the most essential biological function. It’s important for us now, but evolutionary wise, it’s not. So when your body is under metabolic stress, it’s not going to be putting all of its resources into hair production.”

With Dr. Russak’s signature hair loss treatment, the focus is on brining your body into an optimal metabolic state. This can be done through a change in your diet, healing your gut, and improving the microbiome. “We start patients on supplements that are specifically crafted for their unique needs.”

What Are Fixable Solutions Someone Should Try Before Starting a Hair Loss Treatment?

Dr. Russak highly recommends trying supplements, first and foremost. “If somebody is iron deficient, they’ll require a supplement, as a deficiency in iron can result in hair thinning and hair loss,” she says. “Production of hair is very much thyroid dependent, as any metabolic process in the body. Starting thyroid supplements could be a way to fix this.”

Who Is a Good Candidate for Hair Loss Treatments? Are There Any Individuals Who It Wouldn’t Work For?

Hair loss treatments are not for everyone. Not everyone will benefit from them the same and some won’t see results at all. Dr. Russak shares that “patients who have scarring alopecia, or scarring around the hair follicles, are difficult to treat.” This is why she stresses all of her patients pay close attention to their hair and scalp. “If you let it progress too far, where the hair follicle basically dies, we can’t bring it back,” she says. “But anybody who still has some hair follicles left, where even though they’re producing tiny hairs, we can still revitalize those hairs.”

When Someone Is Ready to Start a Hair Loss Treatment, Which Questions Should They Ask Their Dermatologist?

Dr. Russak notes it’s critical to share your full medical history with your dermatologist. “It’s extremely important to have this so we can rule out fixable causes or more medical causes of hair loss.” Additionally, she recommends you discuss your diet with your dermatologist so they can rule that out as a cause of the hair loss.

What Can Someone Expect From a Hair Loss Treatment?

For the Russak Dermatology Clinic’s hair loss treatment, the program will require six appointments every four weeks. “We start our patients on oral supplements and a proprietary topical cocktail to support the health of the scalp. Then, it’s either microneedling with PRP (platelet rich plasma). Sometimes, we’ll add exosomal boosters if there’s a more severe case.”

If you’re unfamiliar with PRP and exosomal boosters, fret not. We were too so we asked Dr. Russak to clarify. “PRP is an extract of microvesicles from a person’s own platelets. We isolate platelets and from those platelets, we active them and extract all the signaling molecule peptides (growth factors) that stimulate our body’s regeneration. Our platelets are chock-full of nutrients so they’re able to restimulate hair growth in the areas they’re injected.”

What Should Someone Do In Between Hair Loss Treatment Sessions?

Because the appointments occur every month for six months, Dr. Russak recommends you continue to take the supplements in between sessions. “Taking the supplements will help mitigate the effects of stress to continue making sure your microbiome is supported. We know there is a gut-brain connection, along with a gut-hair connection. Topically applying our proprietary blend of peptides, growth factors, and antixoidants will strengthen this connection.”

How Long Does It Take to See Results After Starting a Hair Loss Treatment?

A hair loss treatment is a long process. Dr. Russak’s notes her clinic’s program “is four weeks, four months straight, and then the fifth and six treatment is three months apart.” However, some patients see results almost immediately, while others won’t notice a difference until they’ve completed the entire program. All in all, Dr. Russak shares “it definitely depends on the patient and how well they respond to the treatment.”

What Sets the Russak Dermatology Clinic’s Signature Hair Restoration Therapy Apart From Other Hair Loss Treatments?

Dr. Russak shares that the first initial appointments are what differentiates her clinic’s hair loss treatment. “The first real appointment is actually more of a wellness consultation,” she shares. “We have a wellness coach and nutritionist on staff who are critical to the process. We delve very deep into the biological healthy of a person to help them optimize that. That’s what sets us apart. We don’t just start injecting or prescribing applications to the patients, we actually try to help them mitigate their cause of hair loss.”

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