“The most emotional issue my patients have is hair loss,” says New York dermatologist Cheryl Karcher, MD below a jaw-dropping before-and-after photo shared to her Instagram page. On the left half of the photo shared is a young woman’s exposed hairline—the hair is so thin and sparse, the entire scalp is visible wherever your eye is drawn. On the right side of the photo, the same woman, but with an almost unbelievable amount of thicker hair, and, somehow, a sense of renewed confidence.
The secret? A little thing called nanofat.
“In the past we only had PRP to offer that had to be done three times or more. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it didn’t. Now we have nanofat hair restoration, which needs to be done just once, and is much more effective way to treat hair loss and grow hair,” explains Dr. Karcher.
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So what is nanofat? According to Dr. Karcher, it’s derived from our own adipose tissue, whereas the ever popular PRP is derived from our blood. “Nanofat includes adipose-derived stromal vascular fraction, which contains stem cells as well as growth factors. PRP contains the growth factors released from platelets in the blood,” she adds. The procedure itself involves extracting anywhere from 20 to 40 milliliters of fat, usually from the abdomen, then processing it through mechanical filters, before injecting.
Like PRP, the possibilities of what nanofat can help with doesn’t stop at the hairline. “After the nanofat is processed to the point where there is no fat left, only stem cells and growth factors, it is injected into the scalp, the face, the neck, the decollete, or to improve sun damage, skin pigmentation, decrease wrinkles, and of course grow hair,” says Dr. Karcher.
When nanofat is used for hair restoration, Dr. Karcher says she first injects the nanofat, then injects the patient’s PRP on top of it “to act as a fertilizer for the nanofat.” Perhaps the best part? There’s little to no pain—Dr. Karcher says the most pain patients feel is during the PRP injections, so the scalp is numbed topically—and no downtime. When nanofat is used on the face, chest or other areas, Dr. Karcher warns there may be some downtime of erythema and swelling or bruising. “If injected for [skin] rejuvenation via microneedling the downtime is only about 48 hours.”
While Dr. Karcher has seen unparalleled results from nanofat hair restoration, it is only ideal for patients who have some hair still present on the scalp—patients who are completely bald may not be ideal candidates for the procedure. “The only time I ever use PRP for hair restoration now is in a patient that doesn’t have enough fat to harvest. The nanofat is just one treatment and the results seem to be superior.” However, as La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD notes, there is no safety or efficacy data surrounding nanofat treatment as of press time.