Click here to read the quick summary of how increasing subcutaneous fat can promote hair growth.
- There’s a theory floating around the hair loss forums that there’s a link between subcutaneous fat in the scalp and hair loss. In other words, hair needs subcutaneous fat in order to grow.
- As men age we lose subcutaneous fat. The theory is the subcutaneous fat loss in the scalp is the primary cause of hair loss and that DHT actually causes the loss of subcutaneous fat in the scalp and that is why we lose their hair in the familiar pattern
- It is true that men tend to have less subcutaneous fat than women and members of the hair loss forums often report that their scalps feel tight, suggesting they have very little subcutaneous fat in their scalps. However, this tightness could be explained by fibrosis and/or inflammation
- The theory does make a lot of sense. I found a few quotes from some posters on regrowth.com:
The thickness of the dermis, hypodermis and galea capitis of the scalp skin varied with gender and age of subject. The thickness of the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis in a balding subject was significantly decreased by comparison with those in a normal subject. (Hori H, Moretti G, Rebora A, Crovato F. The thickness of human scalp: normal and bald. J Invest Dermatol. 1972 June; 58(6):396-9).
The enhancement of subcutaneous fat in areas associated with increased hair growth is highly significant. Male pattern baldness is intimately associated with a dramatic reduction in the amount of subcutaneous fat associated with hair follicles that are nonproductive. Conversely, during periods of rapid hair growth in mammals, the subcutaneous fat content increase two- to threefold.
- So the key question then is, how do we increase subcutaneous fat in the scalp?
- Paul Taylor from HairGrowthSOS suggests Omega 3s could help:
The omega 3 fish oils, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acids) have been associated with BAT activity. So, it may be that, by consuming a very high omega 3 diet, you can do something to help your hair grow.
Perhaps the best evidence for this idea comes from the Inuit people (Eskimos) who consume extremely high levels of omega 3 fish oils from their diet, and have a very low incidence of androgenetic alopecia.
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Something seemingly hugely significant has been noted in the hair loss community in recent years (yet seems to have remained quite under the radar) — that people who are losing their hair tend to have much less fatty tissue in the area of the scalp that is experiencing hair loss.
It’s believed the effects of DHT on the scalp can cause fat to shift to other locations. The result of this may be severe nutrient restriction to the hair.
A study from June 2017 by the title Hair follicle growth by stromal vascular fraction-enhanced adipose transplantation in baldness:
“This follicular regenerative approach is intriguing and raises the possibility that one can drive or restore the hair cycle in male and female pattern baldness by stimulating the niche with autologous fat enriched with SVF. In this first of a kind patient series, the authors report on the safety, tolerability, and quantitative, as well as photographic changes, in a group of patients with early genetic alopecia treated with subcutaneous scalp injection of enriched adipose tissue. The findings suggest that scalp stem cell-enriched fat grafting may represent a promising alternative approach to treating baldness in men and women.”
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This data suggests that injecting belly fat into the scalp can increase hair growth in patients suffering male or female pattern baldness.
But how can you increase subcutaneous fat in the scalp from home?
Many people want to know what they can do at home with this treatment option. Sad to say that really isn’t much one can do without going to a doctor/surgeon. The only way to effectively and safely increase the fat content in the scalp is to get fat injections.
Doctors can take fat from another part of the body and transplant that fat into the scalp. This is usually taken from the abdominal area due to the higher fat content and also because the fat cells belong to the patient, and are therefore more likely to be accepted in the scalp by the body’s immune system.
Adding stem cells to the fat
Before it is injected back into the scalp, the fat is generally foritified with stem cells. These cells are called Adipose-derived regenerative cells, also known as stromal vascular fraction, or SVF. It has been shown through testing that the fortified fat is more effective than fat alone. As the 2017 study as shown:
In this pilot case series, a mean increase of 31 hairs/cm2 of scalp (represents a 23% relative percentage increase) is documented in patients undergoing treatment of fat plus SVF. In comparison, the one subject who had fat alone documented a mean increase of 14 hairs/cm2 of scalp, suggesting that while fat alone may represent an approach for early baldness, addition of SVF may enhance this response.
Surely anyone could do this at home?
If you’re prepared to do a bit of DIY surgery it should be relatively easy to perform this operation on yourself. All it requires is a needle and some knowledge about locating subcutaneous fat for extraction and knowing where it needs to be injected into the scalp.
Essential Fatty Acids
A November 2012 study titled Unraveling hair follicle-adipocyte communication, mentioned that mice with lesser fat in their tissues experience hair loss.
“Mouse models with defects in intradermal adipocytes have been reported. For instance, transgenic mice overexpressing human apolipoprotein C-I in the skin, fatty acid transport protein (FATP)-4-deficient mice, and Dgat1−/− or Dgat2−/− mice21,22 have decreased intradermal adipose tissue due to defects in lipid accumulation in mature adipocytes. Interestingly, these mice also display abnormalities in skin structure and function such as hair loss”
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This shows that skin cells that are devoid of essential fatty acids results is hair loss in otherwise healthy mice. But this is not what we’re talking about here.
References and further reading