The boom in telehealth during the COVID pandemic extends to the hair restoration industry, with hair loss expert Professor Rodney Sinclair reporting a spurt in performance with his novel Hairy Pill online treatment model.
Launched in 2020, the Hairy Pill site signs up customers over the internet and provides online and virtual doctor assessments for an initial three-month course of oral hair loss medication mailed to customers via a compounding pharmacy.
After more than 25 years of clinical and research work, the respected dermatologist says the Hairy Pill program – involving daily oral administration of a patented medication with key ingredients including minoxidil – is a safe and efficacious solution for hair loss despite the lack of face-to-face consultation.
“It is essentially an extension of what happens in the clinic,” he tells the limbic.
According to Professor Sinclair, the model was developed to provide a convenient option for people who cannot or do not wish to spend the time to attend a clinic and give access to people who live too far away to make face-to-face visits viable. Other barriers to hair loss treatment are the high demands on Australia’s overstretched dermatology workforce. Many colleagues simply do not want to be doing regular follow-ups for a hair-treatment program, he says.
The model is also designed partly to reflect the Melbourne University professor’s observations of how hair loss patients behave – and to encourage adherence to the course of treatment.
“The idea is to under-promise and over-deliver,” Professor Sinclair tells the limbic. The same policy applies for product promotions, although cosmetic aids are subject to less stringent regulation than medical treatments and pharmaceuticals, he adds.
Professor Sinclair observes that men and women respond differently in their behaviour and expectations.
“Women will crawl on broken glass to get their hair back. Men are not so patient. They want results.”
Anecdotal industry feedback has it that most men trying topical hair-growth lotions would purchase a single bottle, use it for a month and give up.
Given that results normally take from three weeks to six months to appear, The Hairy Pill asks patients to stick with the course for a minimum of three months. The program can then continue indefinitely, “for as long as patients want to keep their hair.”
Not surprisingly, Professor Sinclair says interest in the online model has accelerated during the pandemic restrictions.
The Hairy Pill is available Australia-wide for eligible patients who pay $75 upfront for a three-month course of 100 pills.
In the online questionnaire, applicants need to indicate their hair loss pattern and declare residency status, current medications and supplements, details of existing hair loss treatment, and medical or health issues including allergies. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not accepted.
Applications are screened by doctors, the patients’ information is used to formulate a preparation, and the first batch of 100 pills is dispatched by post.
Each patient is subject to a quarterly medical review by phone and the dosage of active ingredients can be adjusted, according to a balance of patient tolerance and expectations.
Side-effects from the treatment are said to be uncommon.
However, The Hairy Pill website warns that 1-2% of patients may experience dizziness, and temporary hair loss normally occurs at around 3-6 weeks.
According to the Hairy Pill website, the start-up of the business was inspired by a former patient of Professor Sinclair’s, who saw an opportunity to offer an alternative to the torturous and expensive journey he had endured when seeking hair loss treatment
“[The patient’s] results were so good and the process so personalised, he and one of the other director’s (Jono) saw a gaping hole in an industry full of hidden fine print, a maze of different complicated products, and too many unrealistic guarantees,” the site says.
“There was a clear need for good old-fashioned quality, honesty, convenience, affordability, and something that worked (of course!). After teaming up with the world-renowned Prof. Sinclair, who has worked in the hair loss field for 30+ years and patented the underlying technology; The Hairy Pill was born.”