A Moment of Science

Battling Baldness

Are you fighting baldness? "Battling Baldness" on today's Moment of Science.

Many of today’s listeners have probably experienced some degree of hair loss. Deeply ingrained in the American psyche is the stigma attached to going bald; many people go to great lengths to reclaim their hair.

One of the most popular treatments for baldness is a surgical procedure called hair transplantation. It involves removing pieces of hair-bearing scalp from the side or back of the head and transplanting them to the hairless area. As long as the transplanted pieces receive a steady supply of blood, they continue to grow hair. This process is called grafting, and the pieces of hairy scalp inserted into tiny holes in the bald area are called hair plugs. Hair replacement surgery occurs in stages, typically taking two years to create a full head of hair.

But what if you want to be an Elvis impersonator and the only thing standing in your way is a receding hairline? Then you might opt for scalp reduction, a series of surgeries involving the removal of hairless scalp and the stretching and stitching together of hair-covered scalp. The good news is that you won’t have to wait two years for a fuller head of hair. The bad news is the pain, and the fact that your scalp will feel uncomfortably tight for the foreseeable future.

Then there’s tissue expansion, which involves stretching an area of hair-bearing scalp by inserting a balloon under the skin and filling it with salt water. When the skin has stretched sufficiently, a plastic surgeon pulls the expanded, hairy skin over the bald area and stitches it into place. Of course, you could always try something that’s cheap, efficient, and virtually pain free–enjoy being bald.

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