There are certainly no shortage of products that claim to cure baldness. There is however, a shortage of products that actually do.
A Little History: In 400 B.C. Hippocrates tried to regrow hair by rubbing pigeon dung into his scalp. In the 1800's people used chicken poop. It sounds pretty funny, but Camel-dung treatments persisted well into this century.
In The Present: Unproven baldness remedies still abound. Herbal Lotions, Anti-oxidant shampoos, vitamins, and even a "sperm based" product persist. Many of these treatments are sold out of the back of magazines and (of course) on the internet.
In this section we will discuss different hoaxes, why we fall for them, what the government does about them, and 10 warning signs of hairloss hoaxes.
Vibrators for Your Head:
One very old theory is that poor circulation above the ears will cause hair loss. Barbers used to try to use massagers to agitate the follicles of customers. There is no evidence that follicle stimulation will encourage new hair growth. Dr. Douglas Altchek M.D. a dermatologist at Mr. Sinai Hospital in New York says "A scalp massage may feel good, but it won't help you grow a single hair".
It is likely that you know someone that has tried a questionable product and claims that it works. Here are three reasons why they might believe it.
The Placebo Effect:
Sort of a mystery of medical science but a significant percentage of people in any medical study that are given an inert mixture claim to see results. In the Rogaine trials hundreds of men that used an inert mixture claimed that it worked for them. Of course more of the Rogaine users claimed to see effects, but a significant number of placebo users believed that achieved results.
The gains due to Placebo Effect are usually short lived. Eventually the user comes around to determine that maybe they really aren't growing a full head of hair. This is why many scalp cleansers, massagers, etc. do not see many repeat customers.
The Cleanliness Effect:
Dr. Harry Roth M.D. A dermatologist that specializes in hair loss at the University of California at San Francisco believes that many antibaldness shampoos appear to work because the users simply wash their hair more often which makes it appear fuller. You don't need to buy a $50 blend of spices from the orient to do that, any shampoo will have the same effect.
The Thickening Effect:
Many products that promise to grow hair actually make your hair fatter. They contain chemicals that thicken the hair shafts and give the illusion of new hair growth. Usually these products use hydrolized animal protein or panthenol although these ingredients rarely appear on the label.
Hair thickening should only be called a hoax if the product promises to grow new hair. Many over the counter hair thickeners are available. Spending more than $10 per bottle is outrageous however even if it was developed by Monks in Elbonia.
Many people are asking why doesn't the government act against companies that produce products make false claims.
In an article in Men's Health magazine Dan Rutz interviewed Don McLearn Deputy Associate Commissioner For Public Affairs. In the interview the agency said it has more important concerns than deciding if dead weeds from the Orient will grow hair. "If something that's called a baldness cure is hurting or killing people, we'll take action" says McLearn "We just don't have the resources to go after everyone".
This may explain why some marketer can get away with pretty much anything as long as the product is harmless.
The Federal Trade Commision sometimes takes action in these cases although their "top priorities are claims involving health and safety". The FTC does have one trophy on their shelf. The FTC successfully defeated a company that marketed the "Helsinki Formula" a $50 shampoo that supposedly regrew hair through a combination of vitamin enrichment and scalp cleansing.
The Helsinki Formula
In one case the popularity of the product was its downfall. The Helsinki Formula was marketed between 1985 and 1990 on a 1/2 hour infomercial titled "Discover with Rober Vaughan". Sales of the Helsinki Formula eventually reached $101 Million at $50 a piece. Unfortunately it took until February of 1996 for the lawsuit to reach a conclusion. The FTC reached a settlement of $27 million because there was no scientific evidence that the Helsinki Formula grew hair or stopped hair loss. Unfortunately the perpetrators had already declared bankruptcy.
While the Helsinki Formula's popularity led to its downfall, there are many smaller operations operating below the radar of the FTC. Let the buyer beware.
These Ten Warning Signs Should Be A Red Flag For All Of Us: