For thousands of years, men and women have been searching for the ‘cure’ to hair loss. From wigs, to potions and lotions to surgical treatments, the quest is sure to continue for years to come.
During this period in history, wigs and hairpieces became extremely popular among the upper-class Assyrians, Sumerians, Cretans, Carthaginians, Persians, and Greeks. Medical knowledge, myths and rumours about hair loss and treatments started to circulate among Fertile Crescent area healers which were then passed on to the following generations.
The Ebers Papyrus, discovered in Luxor, Egypt was the oldest medical text ever found and it included information about hair loss treatment. The most popular medicine was a mixture of iron oxide, red lead, onions, alabaster, honey and fat from a variety of animals including snakes, crocodiles, hippopotamuses and lions. The mixture was to be swallowed, after praying to the Sun God.
In ancient Greece, many physicians searched for hair loss remedies such as Hippocrates, who tried to find a cure for his own hair loss. It was Hippocrates in fact who was the first physician to ever describe and theorise about surgical solutions to hair loss. After lengthy experimentation, Hippocrates thought he had found a great solution - a mixture of opium, horseradish, pigeon droppings, beetroot, and various spices. Unfortunately for Hippocrates and his followers, it didn’t work. As Hippocrates became so bald, extreme hair loss to this day is sometimes known as “Hippocratic baldness.” In the same period, Hippocrates recorded the first surgical solution to baldness in the “Aphorisms of Hippocrates”. Hippocrates noticed that Persian Army eunuchs never experienced hair loss. Hippocrates therefore drew a parallel between testosterone levels/sexual drive and hair loss. As “hot blooded” men went bald, he suggested that castration would be the ultimate solution to hair loss, if the price was worth paying.
In ancient Rome, hair was a symbol of power and virility. However, Rome’s leader at the time, Julius Caesar suffered from male-patterned baldness and so he employed various physicians to find him a cure. Despite applying various lotions and potions such as a combination of ground up mice, horse teeth, bear grease and deer, Caesar continued to suffer. A cosmetic ‘comb over’ and the wearing of a wreath seemed to be the only solution and as his empire continued to expand, his wreath soon became a symbol of power, without the need for hair. Ironically, the Latin word "caesaries" translates to long luxuriant hair.
Wigs became extremely popular in France when King Louis XIII began wearing a full wig to cover his thinning hair and to protect himself from lice. Soon after his first ‘wigged’ appearance at court, other members of the court and upper class began following his example and so wigs soon began to symbolise wealth and power. Rumour has it that King Louis had 40 wig makers and no one was allowed to see him without his wig apart from his barber. Being seen without a wig became ‘undignified’. Wigs became so expensive to make and maintain (covered daily with perfume and white powder) that wig thieves started to emerge who would try and rob passengers in carriages –jumping through the roof and grabbing the passenger’s wigs before disappearing.
By the 1700s, upper class American colonists also started wearing wigs to elevate their sense of importance and ‘class’. However, this ‘wig craze’ would not last long as the American War of Independence and the subsequent French Revolution caused the bourgeoisie to rise in popularity and the ‘upper-class’ to fall from fashion.
This period is also known as the years of the salesmen as hundreds of different hair loss cures began to emerge on the market. With names like “Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer,” “Westphall Auxiliator, “Ayers Hair Vigour,” “Skookum Root Hair Growth,” “East India Oil Hair Restoration,”“Imperial Hair Regenerator” and “Barry’s Tricopherous”, buyers were inundated with different remedies to try.
In the 1900s the idea that ‘wearing hats causes’ hair loss’ was spawned. During this time many notable male figures were wearing hats every day to work and many complained that they were going bald. As a result, anti- hat advocates started to urge men to let their hair and scalp ‘breathe’ by taking daily “sun baths” and “air baths.” Another remedy spouted by Bernarr MacFadden was scalp massage, hair pulling and the vigorous brushing and stimulation of the scalp to help circulation. However, this parallel between ‘wearing hats’ and ‘baldness’ was a fallacy as it ignored the countless men who wore hats and did not lose their hair.
In 1925, the Thermocap Treatment device engineered by the Allied Merke Institute appeared on the market- a machine that used static electricity, magnetism, heat, and vibration to increase circulation, cleanse clogged-up pores, and nourish hair bulbs. By using heat and a blue light from a special actinic quartz ray bulb, the machine claimed to ‘cure’ baldness and prevent further hair loss. Consumers were recommended to use this quartz ray treatment for fifteen minutes a day followed by the application of a Merke Tonic, Merke Dandruff Treatment and Merke Shampoo Cream. However, since its invention it has been found that the heat generated by this cone-head-like device, did not cure anything.
The first account of a hair transplant technique emerged in 1939 from a Japanese dermatologist Dr. Shoji Okuda. In the Japanese Journal of Dermatology, Dr. Shoji explored the idea of using hair transplant grafts to replace hair lost from the scalp, eyebrows, moustache and pubic area. Dr. Okuda in fact was the first person to try this procedure and to a patient’s relief, Dr. Shoji successfully removed hair follicles from the back of his patient’s head and transplanted the grafts to a new location to prevent a ‘balding’ appearance. Dr. Shoji’s advanced methods went largely unnoticed in the West because of World War II but nevertheless, his ideas inspired Dermatologist Norman Orentreich to perform the first hair transplants, popularizing “hair plugs” to treat baldness.
Dr. Norman Orentreich was the first dermatologist to popularize hair plugs to treat baldness. Dr. Norman Orentreich was first noticed when he published his “donor dominance” theory in the New York Academy of Sciences Journal, popularizing and refining this full size graft hair transplantation technique. His ideas however were based on Dr. Shoji’s findings years earlier which helped form the procedure of taking plugs of hair follicles from the back of the scalp and moving them to the front or top of the scalp where it would take and grow permanently. Dr. Norman’s procedure became a great success. By 1961, Norman had performed 200 transplants and by 1966, approximately 10,000 men, all over the world, had undergone Orentreich’s treatment. As a result, Dr. Norman’s genetic programming became the foundation for the entire field of hair restoration surgery for the next twenty years.
At the age of twenty-six, Sy Sperling was just a regular guy- divorced, depressed and trying to get a date on a Saturday night. Although he was still young, Sy had begun balding as was very unhappy with his appearance. Sy told the New York Times in an interview that “it was destroying my self-confidence - I was trying to establish myself in sales, trying to date again”. Sperling knew he had to do something about it and so he bought his first hairpiece. Although he loved his new look, he wanted something more natural looking and by chance he came upon a hair-restorer who successfully weaved in real hairpieces around the edges of the bald area. After that, Sperling decided to help others in the same situation and so he created the Hair Club for Men. The Hair Club grew to become the largest hair replacement company in the world with its own research department to make improvements to non-surgical hair appliances. A large proportion of his success was due to his television commercials in which he states “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client” – thus suggesting that you too can get the look you’ve always wanted.
In the United States, the first clinically proven hair loss medication was created to reduce the rate of thinning hair and to help grow back hairs that had been lost. A pill known as Minoxidil, previously created to treat high blood pressure, was discovered to have a beneficial effect on hair loss. Various clinical trials were conducted and finally, after many years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the manufacturer to advertise it as a treatment for hair loss. In 1988, Minoxidil lotion starts being sold under the brand name Rogaine.
In 1988, follicular unit micrografing came onto the scene thanks to Dr. Bob Limmer, a dermatologist and hair restoration surgeon in Texas. Although micrografting had been around for quite some time, many grafts failed due to the use of magnifying glasses while preparing micrographs. Dr. Bob Limmer and his team noticed this trend and so they started using stereo microscopes which had much more power in order to preserve naturally occurring clusters of hair follicles in the donor tissue. Additionally, the process of follicular unit micrografting kept the hair follicles chilled and moist during all stages of the procedure thus significantly reducing the number of graft failures and subsequently producing grafts that grew more naturally. In 1995 further advancements to this process was made such as using cool fluorescent transillumination and a disposable clear vinyl cutting surface with stereomicroscopes during graft preparation.
In 1991, the Hair Club for Men made another huge advancement - they introduced glued-on hair pieces, which allowed people to attach the hair directly to the scalp by using this adhesive. By eliminating hairpiece ‘weaves’, glued-on hairpieces soon become the industry standard as they gave customers a more natural look. As the hairpiece was bonded with your natural hair at the root, the hair flowed more naturally as if it were part of your scalp.
In 1998, Finasteride (sold under the brand name Propecia) became the second prescribed pill to help prevent hair loss for men. This pill (not be used by women or children) made it possible for men in the early stages of hair loss to keep their remaining hair and in some cases, grow back some hair that was recently lost. Eighty-five per cent of men stopped losing their hair while taking Propecia however some side effects were noted such as decline in sex drive, difficulty in achieving an erection, or a decrease in the amount of semen.
Another revolutionary advancement in 1998 was a laser-light treatment to stop hair loss and stimulate hair growth. The Canadian company which invented this process recommended customers to undertake two thirty-minute sessions twice a week in addition to using their own branded shower head filter, shampoo, conditioner, and nutritional supplements. If customers stuck to this regulated regime, the company claimed that no further signs of hair loss would occur and some people would in fact show signs of new hair growth.
In 2000, Dr. Bernstein and Columbia University came up with the revolutionary idea of hair cloning in order to develop the first long term ‘cure’ for hair loss. Hair Cloning involves multiplying a person’s germative hair follicle cells in vitro and then implanting then into the scalp in so that they grow new follicles/new permanent hair. Methods such as stem cell transplants, hair multiplication and scalp impregnation therapy were all developed during this period and some doctors have even offered people places on a “waiting list” when hair cloning finally passes clinical trials and is officially approved.
Today, 40% of men still begin to lose their hair in their early 20’s. However, service providers such as Advanced Hair assist over 500,000 people around the world by prescribing specialist medical hair loss treatment programs to treat tailored hair loss conditions. With popular non-surgical procedures to replace lost hair, Advanced Hair can give people a full head of hair and the subsequent feeling of confidence gained by looking good again.