How To Keep Your Hair On

Younger men and women are taking steps to prevent hair loss as modern day stress takes its toll. Cheah Ui-Hoon checks out new ways to boost the health of your scalp.

What's a line-free, pore-less complexion if it's topped with a head of thinning hair? Or a fresh youthful face with a receding hairline? It's questions like these that are sending more people from all age groups to their doors, say trichology salon owners.

It's no longer those in their 40s and older who are seeking solutions, says Elizabeth Leong, general manager of Follicle Hair Salon which opened last November in Ngee Ann City."We're seeing younger men and women come in with hair problems."

Eddie Ng, PHS Hairscience Salon's managing director, notes that his customers are sometimes as young as their early 20s.

"A lot more people are suffering from dry and sensitive scalps as well as hair loss. It could be due to stress, poor sleeping patterns and lifestyle activities like late night parties and frequent travel," he says.

Hair care really starts at the scalp, experts say. Women especially are better off caring for their scalp and going for regular treatments if they want to have a full head of hair as they age, says Ms Leong, adding that hair transplants don't work as well for women as they do for men.

"Even when new hair roots are transplanted on women, they don't survive well and can fall out again; it's due to hormonal changes. Men who lose their hair don't grow it back, but the transplanted hair does not fall out either," she explains.

The best treatment for women, then, is to halt or slow down the hair falling process.

Follicle's 90-minute signature therapy is developed by board-certified doctors in Korea. The patient's scalp is scanned first, and a hair tissue mineral analysis can be done to check on mineral deficiencies and toxic elements. After that, it's about deep cleansing the scalp and bringing balance or calming it.

"When the scalp gets neglected, the hair follicles get clogged over time and instead of three strands of hair from one pore, there might just be one," explains Ms Leong.

The process starts almost like a spa treatment - with the therapist telling you to inhale the relaxing fragrance of lavender essential oil from her palms. A quick rub of the shoulders follows, and a warm bio-ionic paddle is used for deeper massage, relaxation and better blood circulation. The scalp goes through a deep cleansing with an ion shampoo bubbly wash "sprayed" on to the head. A two-pronged bio-ionic probe is used to remove any dead skin.

After rinsing, the therapist applies a custom-blended ampoule (which contains peptides for stimulating the follicles) systematically on the scalp, using a handheld device for micro-needling, for better absorption of the tonic. After this, LED light panels are placed over the head for 15 minutes -this has several light variations, depending on the client's needs.

The therapist then makes the necessary recommendations for a hair and scalp programme, but maintenance is important, says Ms Leong. "Scalp and hair treatments can slow the hair falling process for women, and encourage regrowth," she adds.

PHS Hairscience Salon, also located at Ngee Ann City, uses proprietory formulations for their customers, complemented with pure extracts of Korean herbs, delivered to the scalp by a blend of TCM acupressure techniques and also modern equipment.

"The use of wrong products worsens the scalp condition so it's imperative to use good products," Mr Ng says, adding that the company launched its retail home haircare range about a decade ago, and they do not contain parabens, benzophenone, mineral oil, animal material and artificial colourants.

Besides more trichological care at hair salons, more commercial hair growth products can be found on the market these days. One of the latest is BioRoyale, developed by Singapore pharmaceutical start-up K&K Labs.

Rati Bhargawa, K&K Labs' Head of Research, points out that preventing hair fall is easy. "Dump a bunch of chemicals into your product like coal tar to plug up pores and hair fall will more than likely slow down," he says. "However, when you stop using the products, your hair will fall out in clumps!"

Although it's one thing to use the correct natural ingredients, they also need to be used optimally. "Aloe vera or green tea could be the next big things, as the natural effects of these ingredients that they claim for the most part are true. However, not everyone is able to activate and use these ingredients to the fullest," Dr Rati notes.

"You would not believe the amount of research that goes into creating natural products that are more effective than chemical-filled products, all the while making sure it has a similar shelf life," he adds. K&K Labs, set up in 2013, has experienced researchers with homeopathy backgrounds - and they bring some 20-30 years of experience with them.

"We've made a breakthrough into a whole new genre of generic alternate pharma manufacturing," he claims. K&K Labs also makes medication for diabetes and erectile dysfunction as well as cosmetic products such as anti-wrinkle creams and even products for hangover prevention.

BioRoyale's hair products - which are free from sulfates and parabens - contain ingredients like calendula to clear scalp infection, cedarwood oil which is anti-seborrheic; green tea which is a DHT blocker to help curb hair loss (dihydrotestosterone is responsible for male pattern baldness); arnica extract to stimulate healing and circulation in the scalp; argan oil to strengthen and soften the hair; tea tree oil which is anti-microbial, anti-dandruff and antiseptic; cochlearia to help regenerate hair roots, and so on.

K&K Labs also formulated the shampoo for the hard water in Singapore so it works better, Dr Rati adds.

According to market research, the global hair care market is expanding at a steady pace. Asia Pacific accounted for over 30 per cent in 2016, fuelled by the increasing number of people facing hair and scalp problems. The report also cites rising self-consciousness among youth about their looks. While the jury is still out on how well these products and therapies work, there's no denying that hope is a pretty effective marketing tool.

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