That title got you, didn’t it? If you wish you could just wave a magic wand and get your hair back, read on to protect yourself from consumer fraud in the hair loss industry.
When your hair loss becomes apparent to you, it can suddenly become the focus of your life. You can feel desperate for any kind of cure or promise that will grow your hair back. But that’s not a realistic expectation, is it? When Roy Baxter, a 37-year-old businessman, began to notice the bald spot on the back of his head, it was almost too late. His scalp was showing through, and his hair had apparently been thinning for several years before he was aware of it. After going to the doctor, he learned that his male pattern baldness was permanent and progressive and that once the follicles were dead, they couldn’t be brought back to life. And that’s the truth Roy had to face.
While browsing around online, Roy found lots of “cures” and solutions to his hair loss, but he didn’t know which ones were proven treatments and which ones were not. So, how do you tell the difference? And how does the “un-approved” hair loss treatment industry make its billions of dollars each year? Well, millions of Americans experiencing hair loss are absolutely desperate for a cure, despite the facts. And many hair-loss-“cure” Web sites and products seem plausible — so, like Roy, you might be tempted to click the order button. But there are many ways to tell the real products from the fakes if you know where to look.
• Get the facts: The Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that education is power against fraud and can help you make well-informed decisions before you make a purchase. Get a medical diagnosis from a doctor for your hair loss; then read up on how your specific type of hair loss can be treated. Visit a hair loss treatment professional and talk to others who have your type of hair loss to see what works. Remember the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
• The truth about before-and-after photos on hair loss Web sites: It’s extremely difficult just by looking at a picture to know the circumstances of any particular client’s case or whether you would experience the same results, explains Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, M.D., F.A.A.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University and hair transplant surgeon and director of Bernstein Medical Hair Restoration in New York City. A better way to gauge results of a specific hair loss treatment studio or doctor who has before-and-after pictures on a Web site is to go in person for a consultation and ask for the phone numbers of current or past patients in order to speak with them. Many companies that use identical products or procedures may use that supplier’s before-and-after photos, and that’s why they are the same on different Web sites. Ask where the photos come from and who did the work.
• FDA approval: Approval by the Food and Drug Administration is a helpful benchmark because clinical studies that prove results must be completed before a company may make a treatment claim. Confusion arises because with the FDA approval of the generic drugs minoxidil and finasteride as being effective in halting the hair loss process, some companies will claim that any inclusion of these ingredients — in any form or amount — enables them to make the same effectiveness claims. Any other products (aside from the brand names Rogaine and Propecia) that do not have this exact FDA approval may not work and have not been tested or proven to produce the hair-restoration results they are claiming.
• Promises, statements and claims: The FTC advises that you steer clear of any products making all-encompassing “cure” claims, especially if they are not FDA-approved. Ultrascientific jargon or terminology is specifically designed to make you think the product will “cure” your hair loss. Ditto for testimonials and undocumented case histories. Watch out for these marketing tactics.
• Shady payment requirements: “Limited-time offer,” “Hurry,” Advance payment required” and “No-risk, money-back guarantee” are all attempts to make you quickly click the payment button, cautions the FTC. Resist the pressure to purchase on the spot and take your time to consult a trusted medical professional or pharmacist.
As Roy learned, most procedures and products work best as a preventive, when you still have your hair. There is no magic cure. You have to be realistic in your expectations and cognizant of the fact that once hair follicles are dead, hair loss is permanent. By trying any unproven treatments, you are simply delaying appropriate treatment that could be saving hair follicles, at the stage at which many of the current proven treatments can improve hair counts. Once hair loss is permanent, non-surgical hair replacement and surgical hair transplant are your only options for replacing hair that was lost.
Written by Naomi Mannino