I’m sitting on my couch with Doc Brown’s mind-reading contraption from Back to the Future atop my head.
OK, it’s not actually Doc Brown’s mind-reading contraption from Back to the Future.
But it looks like it. It’s large and shiny and silver and it has flashing red lights. Only, instead of predicting what people are thinking, this machine is designed to do something arguably even more amazing: regrow hair.
I’ve actually been sporting this strange contraption—called the iGrow—on my head every other night, for 25 minutes, for the past four months. (I work from home and don’t have roommates, so it actually wasn’t much of an inconvenience or a source of embarrassment. It did, however, scare the hell out of my dog at first.)
I started this routine after two separate friends texted me in the same weekend to let me know they’d read something online about this device. (I’ve made it pretty clear to my friends, via many a late-night, beer-fueled bitch session, that I would prefer to have more hair.) And not only did they read something about it; they read from a fairly reputable source that it actually worked. I took these texts as signs from the follicle gods, and within a week, a shiny new iGrow was at my door.
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t difficult to figure out how to use the iGrow, either. It takes about 60 seconds. You remove the helmet from the box and plug its power source into an electrical outlet. (It also includes plugs for non-U.S. outlets, in case you need to use this in, say, Spain.) Then you place it on your head and put the headphones over your ears. Then you press the power button and choose either male or female and 20 or 25 minutes. (So yeah, it’s safe for both men and women.) It’ll make a few beeps and then it gets started shooting those scarlet rays onto your dome.
After the allotted time, it beeps to let you know it’s finished. There’s even a headphone jack in case you want to listen to music while it’s on, but I never bothered with that. I just watched TV with the volume cranked up or, in rare instances, read a book.
However one night I actually got up the nerve to use the iGrow in public. I went to a Starbucks and a bar and fired it up while talking to women, who seemed curious and even a little amused. So turns out the iGrow makes a nice icebreaker! Check out this video to see what I mean…
As far as, you know, actual science, here’s the technology in a nutshell, according to Jeff Braile at Apira Science, makers of the product: “The iGrow uses low-level light therapy (LLLT) to stimulate hair growth,” Braile wrote to me in an email. “Different wavelengths and strengths of light trigger chemical reactions in the cells. LLLT has long been used for such things as wound healing, minor pain, acne and fine lines and wrinkles, as well as thinning hair. All viable hair loss treatments need consistent treatment and four to six months to see results, and LLLT is no different.”
So let’s cut to the chase already: did the iGrow actually work for me? In a word: yes. In a few more words: I think it worked a little bit. After four months of use every other night, my hair looked a bit fuller, especially in front. It’s a bit hard to tell because I have a different haircut, but the before and after shots are below. I plan to use it a couple times a week for the next few months (which is what the iGrow folks recommend), and Braile says I should continue to see results.
But here’s the other thing, in the interest of full disclosure. The iGrow actually might have worked better for me, except for a (very unscientific) confounding variable I created for myself: At the same time that I was using the iGrow, I was scaling back on the amount of Finasteride (read: generic Propecia) I was taking due to some nasty side effects.
Had I been ingesting my typical dosage of that drug, which is effective but comes at a cost—namely lowered sex drive and lowered excitement for life—the iGrow might’ve given me even more iGrowth. And the fact that I wasn’t losing hair (or much hair) even though I cut my Finasteride dosage in half is a testament to the legitimate power of the iGrow. (I think. I’m not a hair doctor.)
But even if the iGrow would work a bit for you, there’s something else to consider: the price. This baby ain’t cheap. It runs about $700. So you really have to ask whether you think the iGrow’s limited effectiveness is worth that much to you.
Even the iGrow people admit on their blog that you won’t grow all of your hair back with it. They write: “Hair regrowth requires follicles that are still active, but might need some help to grow healthy hair. If you’re completely bare, the follicles are inactive and can no longer produce hair, and your only option is likely seeing if you’re a candidate for hair transplantation.”
In other words, if Mother Nature really wants you to be bald, this thing isn’t going to do a goddamn thing. You’re better off shaving your head and putting that $700 toward a new suit or a gym membership or a bartending class.
Or, OK, a good hair transplant.