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Well, I took the bait...
on July 14, 2007
I wrote a previous review for this device, based on my research as to its effectiveness, and summed it up with a cautiously positive opinion. That review discussed the FDA approval (based on the device being safe, but not necessarily effective), independent peer-reviewed studies, and the Dateline show that followed a HairMax user for one year (note that he was using it in combination with drug treatment). I received a few comments disregarding my review because i hadn't used the device, so here's a new one based on my actual experience.
Yes, I took the bait. I'm a user now. I figured that I'd rather spend the money on a non-invasive, non-chemical treatment that will leave me with a device to sell rather than a prescription to a drug that reportedly has the same odds of success.
It shipped out late (2+ weeks), with no alert from the manufacturer (I ordered direct). The package I received was missing the instructional DVD and the second set of combs. The DC plug was difficult to fit into the device and the lasers were not aligned very precisely (the beams diverged noticeably at two feet away - I doubt that this matters at all, other than an overall indication of precision). Hmmm... not a great first impression.
First 10 weeks:
The process is fairly straightforward... drag the comb across your entire scalp at least twice, taking enough time to make sure the laser penetrates the scalp. Half an inch every four seconds, with the entire process taking twenty minutes or more. It's not at all painful or unpleasant, but it does require a commitment to make the time in a busy schedule. I chose mornings right after my shower on M-W-F for the procedure, and this worked well. The manual mentions that more treatments probably won't hurt, but they still recommend the prescribed 3-day treatment every week. The manual also mentions that wet, clean hair (before gel treatments, spray, etc.) is preferable. Makes sense... water makes tissue more translucent. Drop some water on a piece of paper and hold it up to a light for an example of the principle.
I experienced accelerated hair loss in the first 10 weeks, which was mentioned in an online report. It didn't bother me too much... the combing process involves working the hair against the nap and using a comb to clear it away as you progress. My hair wasn't used to this type of disruption.
I also experienced increased body to my hair, which was also mentioned in the report. I attributed this to the same combing process... the device gives out a very small amount of heat, and as you comb through your hair it dries in a fluffed position. That leads to increased body much like blow-drying might.
The report also mentioned reduced gray hair with some users. Lately I think I may be seeing this as well, and I'm not complaining. Perhaps the thinner, weaker gray hairs are falling out.
Unfortunately, what I didn't see in the first 10 weeks was convincing hair growth. And this is the tricky part... how do you know for sure? I mean, even without any kind of treatment, my hair looks thinner on certain days when I haven't washed it, or if I've worn a hat, or my mother-in-law is around. And when the stars align just right, it can sometimes seem thicker as well. So how do you know whether the device is really working, given our subjective perception? You can choose to believe the independent studies (while wondering who paid for them), you can choose to believe the personal testimonies (while wondering about their compensation as well), or you can choose to just believe. Or maybe not, and return the thing (they give you 20 weeks for a return). I chose to keep going, based on desperation more than belief.
Next five weeks:
I'll update this review (if it stays up on Amazon) as long as I keep the device, and so far I've used it for approximately fifteen weeks. I've neglected to use it maybe four times in those fifteen weeks, due to a lack of time (four out of forty-five... not too bad).
The lasers seems solid, but the beeper seems to go haywire now and then, either sticking on or going silent for awhile. Hmmm.
I've had a bit of an uptick in my opinion. It may have been just the planets aligning again, but my hair seems thicker overall, and definitely less gray. Then again, days later it seems thinner. Again, this is really a tough thing to gauge, given so many variables. For now, I'll keep forging on, but if I don't see more certain results by the holidays, you'll see my LaserComb on eBay. It'll be easy to spot - the one without the CD and with only one set of combs.
Forgive me for not concluding my review... it's been quite some time since I wrote my original comments, but I stopped using the Hairmax after about five months of use (and too late to take advantage of their 20-week return policy). In the end, I found I was fighting time (in more ways than one) and time is one tough cookie. Although I think the HairMax probably does work to some extent, I just couldn't take the time needed to consistently use the device. Perhaps that's a sorry statement about the busy nature of life in America, but I think it's better seen as the ultimate comment regarding this device: I couldn't find the time to fight time itself.
If you think you might have more commitment to the battle than I, the HairMax might be worth the effort. I chose to work out a peace agreement (okay, I surrendered). My hair is thinner than ever, but I no longer mind as much. I've accepted the fact that I'm getting older, and I welcome the clarity that comes with the decision.
I'll be selling mine on eBay. As soon as I can find the time...