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My hair has always been my “thing.” There was no product or treatment I wouldn’t try if it promised me longer, straighter, thicker, glossier hair. From Japanese straightening to Brazilian blowouts to every deep conditioning scalp treatment under the sun (and let’s not forget those three years of tape-in hair extensions), I've pretty much tried it all; my quest to gorgeous hair was never-ending. However, it’s my most recent hair escapade that has stopped me dead in my tracks. On Tuesday, June 4th, 2019, I checked myself into a hair rehab of sorts at the flagship Harklinniken Clinic in New York City and it has since been my most eye-opening and—dare I say—life-changing hair experience to date.
What Is Harklinikken?
As a quick background, Harklinikken (which, fun fact, translates directly to “hair clinic” in Danish) is a Scandinavian brand dedicated to being a safe haven for those dealing with hair thinning, loss, or other hair issues. While it’s hardly the first company to help in the hair loss fight—brands like Rogaine and Nioxin have been serving up fan favorite over-the-counter minoxidil formulas for decades—the Harklinikken difference lies in the education, and personalized experience built off 27 years of clinical research. Think of it as the personal trainers of hair treatments, with a custom regimen for each client and a loyal support system behind it all to keep you on track for results. While it’s not a hard process, it is a process and one that requires a daily change in your typical rinse-repeat hair regimen you’re likely currently following. The brand notes the success of the program is fully rooted in the customized process and compliance, applying a custom plant- and cow’s milk-derived extract twice daily to your scalp, and washing with a specific Harklinikken products (more on that to below). The results speak for themselves, and also the reason the brand relies solely on word of mouth advertising, a tactic that has successfully led to over 100,000 referrals-turned-satisfied-clients.
This wasn’t the first I had heard about the brand—however, my knowledge of their hair loss treatments was limited even though my interest on the topic was high, despite having what I previously thought was a long, full head of relatively healthy hair. The immaculate flagship space on Fifth Avenue felt special from the minute I entered, and the before and after photos were equally as impressive and intriguing. I’m no stranger to striking results photos—I suppose it comes with the territory of beauty editor and brands desperately trying to prove their point of difference via visual evidence— but something about these particular hair regrowth case studies resonated with me on a more personal level. The wispy thinness along the top of my hairline closely mimicked the “before” photos of one patient, and was an area I was secretly (and now not so secretly) self-conscious about.
I have to admit: leading up to this day, I was an advocate for the twice, even once, per week shampoo schedule. A regular use of dry shampoo and other instant hair refreshing products helped me skip daily washing. I was so dedicated to my fool-proof, lazy-girl system, I proudly published articles about my strategic haircare routine and how I’d expertly stretch a blowout to last me seven full days. My hair was long with the typical split ends that come from occasionally sandwiching your hair between two 400 degree hot plates. And while from an outsider’s glance, my hair appeared relatively healthy, I was admittedly experiencing regular dry, flaky patches on my scalp and was becoming increasingly self-conscious about the fine, cowlick-y patches I had along my hairline by my temples. I also felt that despite my best efforts, the length of my hair was halted at that medium-long-but-not-long-long length which I was so desperately working to move past.
How Harklinikken Works
The insanely knowledgeable team at Harklinikken broke things down quite simply. They explained how strong, healthy hairs are deeply rooted in your scalp and take up 100% of their root surface area. Over time, as hair goes through its normal seven year life cycle and sheds, the hair that grows back in its place is often not as deeply rooted and takes up only a fraction of the surface area of the original strand. Imagine this process, known as miniaturization, multiplied over your entire head and re-occurring over several hair life cycles with each new hair coming back as a fraction of what it once was. This means the hairs on your head are either a sad, wispy excuse for what was once growing from that root (called diffused thinning), or they’re not growing back at all, which is the cause of female pattern balding.
One simple question from the Harklinikken team set the lighbulb off in my brain: “Why do you treat the lower half of your head (your face) wildly different from the top half your head (your scalp)?” I couldn’t imagine going even two days without washing my face—yet with my hair and scalp, I was washing only one to two times per week. My practice made no sense. The team explained how the Harklinikken treatment aimed to reverse the miniaturization process by boosting the quality of the hair follicles currently on your head and helping to activate dormant hair follicles that had shrunken to nothingness. It was at this point the cold hard truth cut deep. They revealed to me that I was experiencing 60% thinning—and it was in this exact moment that I vowed my commitment to treatment.
What to Expect During a Harklinikken Treatment
The first step was a scalp analysis, which can also be booked as an online consultation using Facetime or Skype if you’re not conveniently located near one of the brand's three locations (New York, Tampa, and Los Angeles). This was where I met the man I can only refer to as a hair magician: Harklinikken founder and head of research and development, Lars Skjoth. One look under the microscope and Lars informed me that my scalp health was out of whack. It turns out, my lack of washing and excessive dry shampoo usage left me with a minor bacterial skin condition on my scalp that needed to be addressed before I could even begin the extract treatment. The truth hit hard yet again. I was horrified, but also instantly impressed. I knew something was up with my scalp, but because I had enough hair to disguise the flakes and irritations, it was a reality I had ignored for a long while. Had those flaky patches been on my face, I would have addressed them immediately before I even stepped foot out in public.
This was when I began the “pre-tox detox.” My product arsenal consisted of Harklinikken Balancing Shampoo and Daily Conditioner for my ends, and Nizoral— an over the counter anti-dandruff shampoo— for my roots. For four weeks, I was to wash my hair everyday—which, for the record, was a major life change for me. The real catch was that the Nizoral shampoo was to be applied only to my roots, massaged for 30 seconds, then left to sit for 10 minutes—which, in shower time, feels like eternity. I had to carefully rinse out the shampoo, tilting my head just right so that the Nizoral went straight down the drain without running through the ends of my hair, which were being washed with a more hydrating formula. It was hardly the most glamorous step in this hair rehab process, but a necessary reset before I could begin treatment. I was committed.
When I returned to the Harklinikken Clinic four weeks later, I received a glowing checkup from Lars and was cleared to begin treatment. (I will admit I knew after two week into pre-tox that the tedious process I was so diligently following was working like a charm: I experienced no flakes, no itch...just a clean, healthy scalp.) But first, I needed some before photos. The “photo cubby” I took my photos in helped to ensure all photos captured throughout the process remained consistent in terms of lights, surroundings, and camera angles. The attention to detail at this place is no joke.
Lars then walked me through my new hair rehab process. While my scalp health had improved dramatically during pre-tox, he explained that the luster, thickness, and regrowth could be improved by 60 to 75% if I committed to the treatment. Say what? The concept of nearly doubling my hair's thickness seemed impossible. I’m the first to admit it wasn’t nearly as thick as it once was during college, but I’d hardly ever consider myself thinning. Nonetheless, the promise of living out my real like Blake Lively hair dreams was enough to make me commit and follow everything this hair genius told me.
The Harklinikken At-Home Regimen
The actual Harklinikken treatment consisted of more Harklinikken Balancing Shampoo and Daily Conditioner for daily washings, then the Harklinikken Leave-In Hair Hydrating Crème to apply to my lengths multiple times a day, followed with the custom extract, which is formulated with burdock root, marigold, and proprietary ingredients derived from cow’s milk that bring your hair back to life. In some select cases, a low-dose minoxidil may be added to the extract in concentrations lower than those currently available over the counter; however this is rare and customized based on the needs of the client. The custom extract is individually tailored to serve your specific hair care needs and formulated by a Harklinikken specialist who continually adjusts the blend throughout the program based on progress and ongoing evaluations.
This was the slightly tricky part: I was supposed to apply the topical extract twice a day on dry hair—the first and second application needed to be applied one hour apart and massaged into scalp for about 30 seconds once applied. Then, I was to leave it on for at least eight hours before washing it out. The extract comes with a plastic applicator syringe to help measure the 4 ml twice-daily treatments, and has a fine tip that makes it easy to trace along your scalp to apply. I start at one side of my head, working my way over to the other, applying in straight lines from the hairline back.
It took a little strategizing to sync up the right washing and application routine but I became accustomed to packing my extract and syringe with me everywhere so I could always get the job done. I was insanely diligent the first six weeks of treatment. I completely eliminated the use of all hot tools, I washed every single day (with the exception for July 22nd, and yes I still feel a little guilty about it, and applied the leave in cream upwards of 4 times a day for added hydration). My six week check-up with Lars was the proof: The first set of before and after photos revealed noticeable improvement in hair density, fullness, and shine. If that’s not motivation to keep on keeping on, I don’t know what it.
My Thoughts So Far
Striking short term results aside, the most interesting part of the hair rehab process thus far has been the response from people in my life who have shared their own insecurities regarding hair thinning and hair loss. It seems that a surprisingly large amount of people in my life—male, female, young, and not as young—are dealing with unfavorable changes in their hair density or appearance and are secretly freaking out about it. It’s hardly the sexiest topic, but it’s been shocking to learn of the personal connection so many people have to it, yet are afraid to discuss it. Here’s to sharing every detail of my hair rehab experience with you all and inspiring a more open and honest conversation about how the struggle for thick, healthy hair is indeed very, very real.
Check back in a few weeks for an update on my Harklinikken journey.