Groom­ing: A Dan­ish hair-care clinic says it can give you your fol­li­cles back

Does a Dan­ish clinic have a cure for the fol­lic­u­larly chal­lenged? By Jon Roth

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS -

Men and women deal­ing with bald­ing—40 per­cent of us by age 40—con­front the mir­ror with a clin­i­cian’s eye, vow to cut back on vices (more ex­er­cise! less booze!), and ap­praise the hair­lines of the fol­lic­u­larly blessed with envy. Hair loss is a re­minder that the hu­man body can’t stay young for­ever, even though we try. Preven­tion is a $3.5 bil­lion busi­ness in the U.S.

Re­lief-seek­ing suf­fer­ers have a few stan­dard op­tions. The Amer­i­can Hair Loss As­so­ci­a­tion rec­om­mends Prope­cia as the first line of de­fense and Ro­gaine, the in­dus­try’s sales leader, as the se­cond. Then there are easy-to-buy oral sup­ple­ments such as Bi­otin and Viviscal, pricey LED light combs that en­hance blood flow to the scalp, as well as pow­ders and sprays. All th­ese treat­ments have draw­backs: Ro­gaine may cause skin ir­ri­ta­tion, Prope­cia can lead to im­po­tence, sup­ple­ments and LED treat­ments are only marginally ef­fec­tive, and pow­ders and sprays rub off. Fol­li­cle trans­plants work, but they cost thou­sands of dol­lars and re­quire days of re­cov­ery.

Lars Skjoth thinks he has a bet­ter so­lu­tion. Skjoth is the hand­some, charis­matic, and well-coiffed founder and chief sci­en­tist at Harklinikken. (That’s “hair clinic” in Dan­ish, though that sounds less im­pres­sive than the hardto-pro­nounce for­eign name.) He’s got clin­ics in Den­mark, Dubai, Ger­many, and Nor­way. Af­ter open­ing a U.S. test fa­cil­ity in Tampa in 2013, he and his team re­cently be­gan tak­ing clients in— where else?—Bev­erly Hills, Calif., as well as through vir­tual con­sul­ta­tions.

Harklinikken is per­haps best de­scribed as a hair-loss fra­ter­nity, and the ex­clu­siv­ity is part of the draw. There’s a screen­ing process that weeds out po­ten­tial pledges with au­toim­mune ill­nesses such as alope­cia or bald­ness from scar­ring, or any­one un­likely to see a min­i­mum 30 per­cent in­crease in growth; Skjoth es­ti­mates he re­jects up to 30 per­cent of po­ten­tial cus­tomers. “Many of them we spend lots of time on be­fore we re­ject them,” he says. Those with wor­thy domes are quizzed on age, height, weight, heredi t ary his­tory, diet, ex­er­cise, stress lev­els, and smok­ing and drink­ing habits. Then things get tech­ni­cal: That in­for­ma­tion is en­tered into an al­go­rithm Skjoth has been tin­ker­ing with for 20 years, which de­ter­mines the for­mula of a pro­pri­etary tonic shipped to the client. The ex­tract is ap­plied top­i­cally—twice at half-hour in­ter­vals, usu­ally be­fore bed—then sham­pooed out two times the next morn­ing, which a con­sul­tant demon­strates via Skype. Af­ter a $50 con­sult, the treat­ment, in­clud­ing spe­cial sham­poos, costs as much as $120 a month. Skjoth will say only that the tonic is “based on cow milk and plant de­riv­a­tives.”

Pe­ri­odic Skype ses­sions are about com­pli­ance as much as cus­tomer ser­vice. Way­ward clients—those who aren’t religious about ap­ply­ing t he t onic or aren’t help­ing their cause with life­style choices—are shown graph­ics chart­ing the cor­re­la­tion be­tween stick­ing with the pro­gram and its ef­fi­cacy. The com­pany says that af­ter four months of treat­ment, most peo­ple re­gain at least 30 per­cent of lost den­sity and some as much as 60 per­cent. That’s far be­yond re­sults they’d get from ex­ist­ing treat­ments.

The be­fore-and-af­ter pho­tos are per­sua­sive: Imag­ine some­one who looks like Bruce Wil­lis sud­denly chan­nel­ing Owen Wil­son. Of course, it’s easy to cherry-pick re­sults, es­pe­cially when about a third of po­ten­tial clients whose pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions might weigh down those per­cent­ages are weeded out at the be­gin­ning. In Fe­bru­ary, Marie Claire pub­lished a first-per­son re­port on Harklinikken. “My per­sonal sign the treat­ment’s a suc­cess?” asked au­thor Ning Chao. “I’m no longer self-con­scious that my scalp is show­ing.” The clinic claims rock stars and roy­als as suc­cess sto­ries (it won’t di­vulge names or any par­tic­u­lars about its fi­nan­cials), in ad­di­tion to mag­a­zine writ­ers. I gave the treat­ment a try for this ar­ti­cle, but my com­pli­ance so far has been some­what ques­tion­able: I kept fall­ing asleep be­fore the se­cond nightly ap­pli­ca­tion. <BW>

A TREAT­MENT BASED ON AL­GO­RITHMS AND TON­ICS

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