Monday, 12 November 2012

Hair we grow again

I like Ben Goldacre and his friends. They call out bullshitters. I thought that the upswell of pro-science, anti-woo feeling would get rid of the most egregious charlatans. 

Apparently not. Just past the Observer fashion spread encouraging men to buy tracksuit tops (£395), tracksuit trousers (£195) and trainers (£390) so that we can all look unemployed, was this gem which attracted my eye because as the years progress, your Vole is looking more like a hairless rat every day. 

So. The 'iGrow'. What an appalling name, by the way. As though sticking 'i' in front of anything attracts the cachet of an Apple product. But let's delve further, shall we. 

'Laser' energy. Call me an English Lit graduate, but LASER = 'Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation'. It's a strong and focussed beam of light. I'm finding it very hard to believe that this product has a laser licence like my CD player. Given the use of lasers for hair removal, it's hard to accept that lasers will help hair regrow. And it seems that Laser Therapy is by and large bullshit

What about 'LED energy'. Well, LED = Light Emitting Diode. So the energy emitted is in fact 'light'. 

Perhaps it has been proven that strengthening hair follicles might lead to regrowth, but that looks like the only sustainable claim here. The rest is a cunninc mish-mash of conditionals: you can 'expect' (sounds promising) to see reduction in "the appearance of hair loss". Not hair loss, you understand. Just the appearance. 

Let's have a look at the website. There are bound to be academic references to the research there… aren't there?

Um… no. Apparently there are 'hundreds' of clinical trials of LLLT. It's just that they haven't the time to list or link to any of them. But a man in 1967 said that hair grows in the right light. Which explains why your chest hair isn't down to your ankles. Not enough light, you see. 

But what's this?

LLLT has been shown to stop the appearance of hair loss and help rejuvenate hair for anyone with genetic forms of hair loss, such as male/female pattern baldness. Those with significant hair loss due to disease or medical causes will not benefit from LLLT.

I see. So despite the hair loss being genetic, i.e. a fundamental part of your operating system, shining a laser and an LED lightbulb on to it will make it regrow. Whereas 'disease or medical causes' (whatever that means) won't. Mmmm… I smell bullshit. 

But we should always give these guys a fair chance. Let's see if there have been any clinical trials into LLLT and hair loss. Oooh: there was one! How did it go?
This study has been withdrawn prior to enrollment.
Oh dear. Northwestern decided to ponder whether women with breast cancer might regrow their hair after chemotherapy. They pulled the plug before testing it on anyone. Who knows why? Perhaps they gave everyone an iGrow and they all turned into Rapunzel. 

And the LED treatment? Well, four private dermatologists tested a HairMax Laser Comb on 110 men. Some of them had thicker hair. 
 significant improvements in overall hair regrowth were demonstrated in terms of patients' subjective assessment 

But wait. What's that magic word? 'Subjective'. So they thought their hair had grown back. Personally, I got up this morning and subjectively assessed my height at 6'3". Yet nobody's pointed out my trousers cuffs are flapping around my knees yet. 

Still, you can plug your iPod into the iGrow. And drown out the mockery. 

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