Do the latest hair-loss treatments deliver?
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Ouronyx looks more like a gallery than a beauty clinic. Italian stone covers the 8,500sq ft interior, works by British artist Dominic Harris hang on the walls, and iPad-wielding staff lead clients down to underground treatment rooms. Where better to tackle the hairy question of female hair loss?
Despite the fact that 50 per cent of women are thought to experience hair loss on at least one occasion in their lifetime, treatments for thinning hair have historically focused on men. This has begun to change, as conversation about hormonal shifts in puberty and during the menopause have broadened our understanding of the condition, and with it a rise in the treatment options available to women. Among the key players are a number of biotech companies: We Are Paradoxx is heralded for its Growth Advanced Scalp Serum – which the results of an independent user trial suggest can improve thickness by as much as 75 per cent and lead to the growth of 47 per cent more new hairs – while clean science brand The Nue Co has launched the Supa_Thick Topical Scalp Supplement. The latter claims to increase hair health by balancing the scalp’s microbiome.
The causes of hair loss are as varied as the treatment options. It could be female pattern hair loss, very often owing to genetics; hormonal changes that occur pre- or post-pregnancy; or skin conditions such as psoriasis. Styling choices can also be a factor: Dr Sharon Wong, a dermatologist who specialises in hair loss, formerly ran a practice in Hackney and saw a huge amount of traction alopecia (caused by heat, braids, weaves, chemicals and pulling at the hair root) in her Afro-Caribbean clients. If stopped early enough, she says, traction alopecia can be reversed, but in more advanced cases it might be helped by anti-inflammatories and topical medicines.
“From an early age my hair was subject to myriad styles, from the ‘protective’, such as cornrows and braiding – which are inherent in my culture – to relaxers and weaves, much of which resulted in trauma to my scalp,” says Judy Koloko, a former fashion agent and black-haircare entrepreneur. “I had to completely rethink the way I cared for my hair and focus on new methods that would treat my scalp.” Her answer is The Steam Bar, a new beauty concept launching in 2023 that will focus on the care of afro and textured hair. “Steaming was and is an integral part of this as it helps to stimulate and nourish the scalp to support healthy hair growth.”
Seven hero hair products
Virtue Flourish Shampoo For Thinning Hair, £40 for 240ml
Kérastase Specifique Cure Anti-Chute Treatment, £52.50 for 10 applications
The Nue Co Supa_Thick Topical Scalp Supplement, £35 for 100ml
Beauty Pie Renewed Density Anti Hair-Loss Ampoules, £56 for 14
Philip Kingsley Density Preserving Scalp Drops, £45 for 85ml
Paradoxx Growth Advanced Scalp Serum, £30 for 50ml
Sisley Hair Rituel By Sisley Revitalizing Fortifying Serum for the Scalp, £160 for 60ml, allbeauty.com
Other developments in hair loss range from the medical procedures to non-invasive “tweakments”, the latest of which – autologous micrografting technology (AMT) – is now available at Ouronyx. The 45-minute treatment involves taking small skin grafts from the hairline, extracting the follicles’ stem cells and injecting them back into the scalp where the hair is thinning. AMT (£2,850 per session) can’t stimulate growth where there isn’t any, but it can thicken hair by up to 40 per cent. Ouronyx recommends a top-up treatment every 18 months.
The AMT on offer at Ouronyx is just one option available alongside fashionable but faddy procedures such as PRP, the injectable craze known as “the vampire treatment”, where the patient’s own platelets are injected into the scalp. “So much of my identity is connected to my hair,” says Caroline, a venture capitalist in her early 50s. “It was always long and abundant. When I became peri-menopausal, I noticed it was falling out. I started to see my scalp shining through my hair if I was in bright light and noticed that my parting was becoming wider. At first I thought it was because I was using too many products, hair dyes and hot dryers and that my hair could not handle it. I was devastated.” Caroline sought out AMT after finding that thickening shampoos and an endless intake of supplements made no visible difference. Six months after treatment she has seen a vast improvement: “It’s not twice as thick or anything radical, but it is definitely back to its former condition. I will continue with the top-ups.”
Like Caroline, many women suffer hair loss after the menopause, where a drop in oestrogen leaves them vulnerable to androgens such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), high levels of which can cause the hair follicles to shrink. (DHT is also a major cause of male pattern hair loss; the difference is that women tend to experience thinning rather than full balding.) Make-up artist Violette Serrat, who says she lost around 50 per cent of hair during pregnancy and postpartum, swears by Nutrafol hair supplements, which focus on stress, hormones, metabolism, ageing, nutrition and lifestyle.
Dr Sharon Wong, who now has a clinic on London’s Harley Street, believes it is possible to arrest hair loss with prescription strength applications of minoxidil, a topical medicine that helps to increase the size of hair follicles through blood circulation and which you can also buy at a lower strength over the counter in products such as Regaine. Wong recommends using it overnight – and bear in mind it’s a treatment that you need to use long-term. “Apply it directly onto the scalp for at least six months before any benefit will be seen.” Likewise, she warns, “If you stop you will lose the effects that you would have gained.” She also prescribes spironolactone, an anti-androgen traditionally used to treat high blood pressure: “It helps to oppose the testosterone in hair follicles.” (Particularly useful for women suffering hair loss during the menopause.)
If you like your treatments to look and smell like beauty products, mainstream brands are stepping up too: trichological shampoos from Philip Kingsley and Virtue both promise stronger and more abundant locks, as do hair-redensifying treatments such as Beauty Pie’s Renewed Density Anti-Hair Loss Ampoules and Kérastase’s Specifique Cure Anti-Chute Treatment. Those looking for a scalp-based treatment can try Sisley’s Revitalising Fortifying Serum, which can be applied during a head massage.
Even with the online treatments out there, results can be hugely varied. “It’s an incredibly emotive subject,” says Wong, who believes that the psychological impact of female hair loss is grossly underestimated. When only surgical intervention is able to restore the hair, Wong sends her clients to Dr Greg Williams at London’s Farjo Hair Institute, who offers transplants to men and women. “The marketing for hair loss is much more aimed at men,” says Wong. “But a good hair transplant can be just as effective for women.”
There are also encouraging new studies for the treatment of alopecia using the arthritis drug baricitinib. The hope is that treatments for hair loss – male or female – become more manageable, effective and akin to the kind of “maintenance” grooming treatments performed in, say, a dermatologist’s office. “The hair loss conversation should be out in the open,” says Judy Koloko. “I’m not the only one seeing a need for premium products with quality ingredients backed by science to care for my crown.”