Three Decades of Growth

By Lynn Ducey

Phoenix Business Journal

May 2008

The hair restoration industry is becoming increasingly popular – not just among aging baby boomers seeking to preserve their graying locks, but also among a younger population apt to take action when it comes to their appearance.

“Twenty years ago, our clientele was really a more mature male. It was less than 5 percent women. Today, that is split right down the middle. We are seeing younger and younger people coming in,” said David McKenna, senior image consultant with Phoenix based National Hair Centers.

With more than two decades in the hair restoration industry, McKenna himself has received treatments at the center and is proud to show off his results.

“There’s been tons of research done on hair and hair loss, and it’s really all about how people feel about themselves. They were afraid of doing anything because of what people were going to say. But today, it’s not as big a deal,” he said.

According to a study conducted by the Chicago-based International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, more than 100,000 hair restorations were performed nationwide in 2006. While that marked a 7 percent increase from 2004, the number of nonsurgical treatments increased by a whipping 34 percent during the same period.

Surgical treatments replace and move hair follicles, while nonsurgical treatments include using hairpieces and weaves made from human hair. Unlike the toupees of the past, those in the industry say today’s options are high-tech and undetectable.

And while men make up about 90 percent of surgical patients, women comprise about 30 percent of those seeking nonsurgical options, with most seeking services in their 40s and 5os, said ISHRS spokeswoman Karen Sideris.

And just as the clientele is changing with the times, so too are the technology and methods used to alter a person’s appearance.

Many physicians specialize in surgical procedures, while businesses offer nonsurgical restoration options. National Hair Centers specializes in hair transplant surgery, laser therapies to encourage hair growth, and even a product called Virtual Reality – a customized toupee with a thin, flexible, skin like membrane.

McKenna compares the changes in hair restoration technology to the visible differences in cell phones from a few years ago to today.

“That’s our biggest focus-that naturalness of it. It’s all about undetectability,” McKenna said.

“We will actually fix transplants that were does years ago,” said Lisa Zimmerman, president of National Hair Centers. “We can soften a front hairline and correct any type of imperfections.”

Today, the Phoenix-based company even offers a genetic test that can determine with 95 percent to 98 percent accuracy whether a client is likely to develop pattern baldness in the future.

Zimmerman said many seek hair-replacement options because they suffer from medical conditions such as alopecia or are losing their hair because of chemotherapy. Consultants and physicians work with them to achieve their desired looks.

“With alopecia, you can lose all your hair or just in patches. Then, it comes and it goes. It’s very emotional,” said McKenna.

Zimmerman would not disclose financials for the privately held company, but she said revenue has grown consistently by 10 percent to 15 percent each year since the company was founded 33 years ago. Typically, National Hair Centers sees more than 10,000 clients a year, she said.

National Hair Centers

International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery