Buying A Hair Tonic
The boom in alternative medicine has not passed by the market for baldness 'cures': there are now
more tonics available than ever, with advertising shouting of 'natural', 'herbal' and 'aromatherapy'.
Many people's first response to hair loss is to purchase a tonic, and it is always possible that, from
amongst the vast and varied range of tonics available in the shops and by mail order, you might be lucky
enough to come across one that does some good. Many, however, make wildly exaggerated claims,
which they 'prove' with testimonials and 'before and after' photographs with changes of angle, exposure
and even hairstyle to create a false impression of hair growth.
Scientific proof requires controlled double-blind trials - that is, trials in which one group uses the
product and another uses a placebo, and neither they nor their doctor knows until the trial is over which
they used. Of course, we do not generally require such a high level of proof before we make everyday
decisions (nor are double blind trials easily applied to testing the individualistic prescriptions of much
alternative medicine), but given the price of some tonics it is a good idea to question what 'proof' means
in their advertising: it may mean little more than that the advertising standards people haven't caught
up with this one yet!
If in doubt, you could contact the company asking for more evidence to support their claims.
Testimonials may, of course, be falsified, or selectively edited; in any case, many types of hair loss can
cure themselves spontaneously, and even the loss leading to male pattern baldness can stop for a few
years of its own accord. If the treatment being sold involves rubbing the scalp, or requires more
frequent washing, it may be this rather than the product that is having the beneficial effect - hence the
use of double-blind trials.
Before you buy a tonic, check the ingredients (mistrust any that insist on the secrecy of their formula)
and see whether you cannot in fact produce something similar at home for a fraction of the cost. Also
check whether the tonic actually claims to promote growth: many 'tonics' contain alcohol (though it may
be hidden - for example, herbal tinctures are made with alcohol), which has a drying effect that may
irritate more sensitive scalps and coarsens the hair; these are in fact simply intended as a sort of
emergency shampoo. Unfortunately, although alcohol does dissolve the oils that make hair greasy, it
does not remove them, merely spreads them along the hair shaft - which is unlikely to improve the
appearance of greasy hair. Dry shampoos are a better alternative. Other products actually adhere to and
thicken individual hairs rather than stimulating any new growth