When my sister and I were little, our cousins called us Silk and Satin after our shiny, fine hair, which my mom would curl under into dainty mushroom caps. We were hair vain until our bodies grew and changed while our babyish locks remained the same: fragile and limp. We enjoyed a hot moment at the height of the grunge era, when it was sexy to see helix-pierced ears poking through stringy, middle-parted strands. But mostly we lusted after the wild, full manes of Keri and Carrie (Russell and Bradshaw), the ropeish ponytails of our Asian friends, buns bigger than Timbits. This follicular dissatisfaction led to decades of blunt bobs and hours wasted searching for effective jeujing products.
My obsession intensified this year when some serious new density elixirs poured into the FLARE office. Way beyond quick-fix fluffers that create the mere appearance of volume, many of these products claim to literally stimulate growth, slow shedding or reduce breakage. Once geared to the 40 percent of Canadian ladies who deal with thinning, starting as early as in their 20s, these products are increasingly being marketed to people like me who, luckily, only suffer from chronic flaccidity and fly-aways.
The influx started with the launch of chick Rogaine last summer. Like the original men’s formula, it’s five percent minoxidil, a topical medication that extends the active growth phase of hair, which lasts about four years before blood stops flowing to the strand and it’s pushed out by a new one. Bumble and Bumble then released Full Potential, a line made with creatine that supposedly cuts the number of hairs you shed in a month (around 2,500 for a healthy human) by up to 46 percent. Latisse, the prescription eyelash treatment, is even developing a formula for heads, as is Skin Research Laboratories, the maker of NeuLash growth serum.
Another new approach is skincare for the scalp. At the top end is a new laser head device, the HairMax LaserBand, which claims to treat the scalp much as a facial laser would—by boosting cellular energy and blood flow. It costs $965 and looks like it should be sold on late-night TV but is actually carried by Bergdorf Goodman. The salon-only line Nioxin is releasing a pseudo night cream called Night Density Rescue, which encourages growth by delivering antioxidants to follicles. And cosmeceutical skincare label StriVectin is entering haircare with a bergamot-scented range infused with keratin and the brand’s star ingredient NIA-114, a form of vitamin B3 that promotes skin-cell healing. I tried it for a month and can confirm my locks are as soft as the inside of a puppy’s ear and shiny like they’ve never seen a blow-dryer.
Such lusciousness could also be due to the fact that I’ve been hitting an extra-strength formula of Viviscal that’s new to Canada. A little pink box of the pills sells every minute globally, and they’re beloved by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, plus a legit group of stylists that includes Miranda Kerr’s mane man, Harry Josh. The twice-a-day tablets are made with AminoMar, a blend of deep-sea-fish bones that nudges the scalp into making more dermal papilla cells, which are responsible for follicle development, and by boosting alkaline phosphatase, a molecule that triggers a new hair-growth cycle.
I’m skeptical of pills that have been endorsed by Goop (sorry, G), so I called Dr. Jeff Donovan, a dermatologist who owns hair-restoration clinics in Vancouver and Toronto—and has zero affiliation with the brand. “There have been some excellent studies [of Viviscal] with placebos that suggest people using it do benefit. A proportion of my patients have seen results, whether reduced shedding, improvement in the quality of their hair or slight thickening. But have I seen patients who saw no improvement? Absolutely. We don’t know enough about this compound yet to know why it works for some and not for others,” he tells me. I fall somewhere in between: there’s the glossy goodness, but my ponytail circumference remains sad—just four centimetres—and my ears still protrude through the scraggly dishrag that is my ’do. But full results take six months, so I’ll keep taking the promise pills. After a lifetime of striving for good hair, why stop now?
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