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The Costs of Fighting Hair Loss

By Russ Klettke Subscribe to RSS | July 24th 2012 | Views:
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Learn the Price — and Value — of Fighting Hair Loss

Dealing with hair loss of course has a price, but there are many different hair loss treatment options.

It is neither advisable nor possible to tell people how much money they should spend on their hair. How much value, and the proportion of disposable income you put into your appearance -- hair, skin, fitness, clothing -- is entirely personal. Only you can know how your appearance makes you feel and how it might affect your work, relationships and overall sense of well being.

But everything has its price, of course. And few people choose to be uninformed consumers. Before deciding how to deal with hair loss, there are several layers to the economic questions: What will this cost, will I have the money necessary to bear that cost, and is there a chance I would qualify for a discount or free service?

This article looks at several hair loss solutions as objectively as possible, including the prices as offered by two prominent studios (in Baltimore, Md., and Phoenix, Ariz.) that offer a broad range of solutions for people who fall somewhere on the spectrum of hair loss, from early-stage thinning to full-out baldness.

What are you willing to spend on your hair?

Both our tastes and our hair change with time. The first is voluntary, the second not so much. To address hair loss at all is a conscious decision; therefore, it makes sense to go about it with a preliminary understanding of the options.

We spoke with people who manage two studios, both of which offer a range of services to individuals undergoing hair loss. Each sees hundreds of customers every year who variously have either vague or specific notions about what they can do about their thinning hair.

“You can’t make a generalization about what all customers want,” explains Marty Greenblatt, whose Eldorado Hair Replacement Center in Baltimore has offered a full line of hair loss treatment options for more than three decades. “Some people want a hair transplant and that’s all that they want. But often they do not know the cost.”

Dave McKenna, senior image consultant with the Phoenix-based National Hair Centers (NHC), welcomes new clients with a fairly open offering. “We first look at what options are available, pretending as if it’s free,” he says. “Then we determine what their expectations are and the best ways to go about it.”

McKenna and Greenblatt provided general price ranges for the most frequently provided services they offer, as follows:

The costs of hair loss treatments

Hair Replacement / Hair Systems. As Greenblatt explains, there are single-unit hair systems, which cost around $1,000, and nonsurgical hair replacement programs that run $2,500 to $4,000 per year whereby clients receive multiple hair systems. What’s the difference? A “program” allows the client to wear the hair replacement more often and under more punishing conditions. These hair systems are also lighter and more natural in appearance, but as such, they need to be replaced more frequently. In Phoenix, says McKenna, the prices range from $800 to $4,000, with the higher ranges more often applying to longer and more complex women’s hair. “It depends on which manufacturer is used and whether service is included.”

Hair Loss Concealers. Scalp shaders and hair loss concealers, applied to either the scalp or thin hair or by spraying or brushing, are recommended to some clients at the Phoenix studio but not supplied there. In Baltimore, some of Greenblatt’s clients purchase a product that costs approximately $30 for a three-month supply. “It serves as a nice bandage,” says McKenna, “often used as a stepping-stone to other forms of treatment.”

Hair Transplant Surgery. There are two procedures in greatest use in hair transplant surgery today. One is follicular unit transplantation (FUT), which involves harvesting a strip of hair from the back of the head, which is then divided into individual follicles before implantation elsewhere on the head. Depending on the number of grafts used (at about $4.00 per graft in Phoenix), the cost might range from $4,000 to $12,000 per patient (it is a medical procedure administered by a physician). A more sophisticated procedure is a follicular unit extraction (FUE), which involves selective harvesting of donor hair from a diffusion of locations on the back of the head, leaving no scar strip (which happens with the FUT procedure). Costs can range from $2,000 to $20,000. “It all depends on the number of grafts,” explains Greenblatt, whose experience in Baltimore caps off the cost at about $6,000.

Laser Hair Therapy. Laser hair therapy, the use of lasers to treat hair loss, can follow several paths: from an at-home laser comb ($400-$525), laser cap ($1,200) or laser hood ($2,000) to in-clinic treatments once or twice per week (all prices in Baltimore). In Phoenix, the cost of an in-studio treatment program will range from $1,000 to $4,000 per year, depending on how much clients choose to augment their program with mediceuticals, massages and other services.

Hair Loss Medications. There are two major hair loss medications being sold and marked to those suffering from hair loss. Both Rogaine (minoxidil; the product is also sold under other brand names by different manufacturers) and Propecia (finasteride) have proven to be effective. Rogaine is now sold over the counter (expect to pay between $20 and $40 per month, or $240-$480 per year), although online generic versions are advertised for as little as $32 for a six-month supply ($64 per year). Propecia must be purchased with a doctor’s prescription and costs about $60 per month; brands manufactured outside the United States, Finax and Finpecia can be purchased online as inexpensively as $12 per month, however. In some cases, users of Propecia will purchase a 5-mg tablet (typically prescribed for enlarged prostates), then quarter that tablet. This results in a per-milligram price of $0.66 versus $2.06, which over a year’s time would result in about $450 in savings over legitimate, U.S.-manufactured and -sold Propecia. Herbal treatments vary across the board, but Greenblatt says they too can cost in the range of $20-$40 per month.

Hair Replication (tattooing). Hair replication, the use of tattooing tiny dots into the scalp, is relatively new and works in a limited number of situations: on unusual patchy baldness (alopecia areata) where coloring in the scalp helps reduce the contrast with healthy hair surrounding it, and for men who prefer a shaved-head look but for whom the appearance of very closely cropped follicles completes their look. Neither studio we talked with offered the services itself (Greenblatt says he outsources it, and McKenna offers that his company’s research indicated insufficient market demand in Phoenix). A perusal of various blogs and websites indicates that tattoo artists who work in this method can charge $250 per hour, taking up to six or seven hours to complete their work on a single client ($1,500, more or less).

Wigs. Described as a full hair replacement (that is, unlike with hair replacement systems, no “live” hair growth is seen), synthetic wigs revolutionized hair replacement in the 1960s by making them affordable. Still coveted are natural, 100 percent human hair wigs, sold at much higher prices. The full range is about $150 to $5,000, not including extremely low-quality costume shop wigs used in theatrical productions and for Halloween.

How to pay for hair loss treatment (and when it might be free)

Given the current economic conditions, how are people prioritizing hair loss treatment?

Career counselors routinely coach their clients to make the most of their appearance when interviewing for promotions or when job hunting. That may be a factor in the recession, because the slowdown has been felt only minimally in the beauty business overall.

McKenna explains that how the NHC’s clients pay for more expensive hair loss mitigation has changed in the recession. “Five years ago people had cash and financing,” he says. “About 65 percent would qualify for a loan through a bank, but that dropped to about 25 percent of customers in 2009. Now that is back up to around 50 percent.”

But not all hair loss sufferers can afford hair replacement, even if they need it badly. Fortunately, both studios provide free services in special circumstances. “Anyone 16 years of age or younger gets his or her hair replacement for free,” says McKenna, who also works with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The NHC provides a blanket 25 percent discount to senior citizens, military (active and veterans) and all members of law enforcement. Greenblatt’s studio donates wigs to the American Cancer Society for individuals undergoing chemotherapy, as well as hair replacement systems for patients in special situations.

Russ Klettke - About Author:
Russ Klettke is a freelance health and nutrition writer. Russ is also a contributing writer for HairLossDotCom, where he writes about hairloss and hairloss conditions such as hair systems and hair replacements.

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