Leg hairs serve as novel way to restore thinning hairline
Redondo Beach, Calif. — Leg hairs can be a convenient and natural-looking donor source for hair transplantation when restoring a thinning hairline. This approach offers an aesthetic solution for select patients with male pattern baldness, according to one hair transplant specialist.
"One of the main challenges in hair restoration is donor supply. Using non-head hair in hair transplantation procedures in the scalp has several advantages, one of which is the natural aesthetic look when using leg hairs," says Sanusi Umar, M.D., FineTouch Dermatology, DermHair Clinic, Redondo Beach, Calif., and associate instructor of dermatology at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Leg hairs are an excellent source for restoring the receding hairline because of the multitude of available hairs as well as the physical attributes of the leg hairs, which allows for a softer appearance when used in the hairline, Dr. Umar says.
Compared to the mid-occipital area (traditional donor site) and other potential donor sites such as the beard, leg hair is ideal for hair replacement because the finer texture mixes well with the natural hairline hair, he explains.
"The hairline is an area where you need a finer quality of hair. Besides the advantages of a finer consistency compared with head hair, leg hairs do not grow as long. You can use them where you need those attributes to manifest, such as when attempting to advance a receding hairline," Dr. Umar says.
The uGraft Harvester
Dr. Umar has been performing hair transplantation using the leg hairs of patients with androgenic alopecia, and he recently described his technique in a case series published in the February issue of Archives of Dermatology (Umar S. Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(2):239-242).
He developed the uGraft Harvester, an advanced follicular unit extraction (FUE) technique that allows for in vivo extraction of single follicles from traditional donor sites (such as the occipital area) without causing cosmetically significant scarring. According to Dr. Umar, this patent-pending device allows for the acquisition of hairs from any donor site without damaging the hair shaft or follicle during extraction.
"The hair on the body is angled more acutely than the head hair. While head hair grows straight into the skin, leg hair tends to grow with a little bit of angulation in the skin before it grows into the subcutaneous tissue. One of the major advantages of the uGraft Harvester is that it allows you to better extract hairs from any body region without damaging them," Dr. Umar says.
The uGraft Harvester is a rotary tool mounted with modified hypodermic needles (19-20 gauge) and specialized tips that allow for customized follicular unit extraction. The wounds created by the customized needle tips of the device widen with depth, resulting in diminished injury to the targeted follicles, and in turn, accelerated wound closure.
The extracted follicular units are then grafted at the recipient transplant sites through custom-sized slits matching the dimensions of the extracted grafts. Dr. Umar says he removes the leg hairs in a diffuse pattern so as not to create bald spots on the leg. Approximately 1,000 grafts can be transplanted in five to six hours using the uGraft Harvester device, he says.
"In the patients in whom I have used leg hair transplants, the hairline was fully grown and natural-looking at nine months after the procedure. The aesthetic outcomes are sustained at least until the four-year follow-up, minimizing concerns that subsequent hair loss might result from leg hair cycle variations. My patients are extremely happy with the aesthetic outcome of the procedure," Dr. Umar says.
To date, Dr. Umar has performed the procedure in approximately 10 patients with androgenic alopecia, including female patients. Using the technique, approximately 75 to 80 percent of the transplanted leg hairs grow successfully on the patients' heads, he says.
For patients who have undergone FUS-FUT (follicular unit strip surgery-follicular unit transplantation) for their hairline, the use of leg hairs offers a viable option to other hair transplant surgery techniques, he adds.
Disclosures: Dr. Umar is the inventor of the uGraft Harvester, which is still patent-pending.