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Is This Scandi Treatment the Cure to Thinning Hair?

Photography: Domen/ Van De Velde

Everyone has better hair than me. Everyone. At least, that’s what I tell myself on a daily basis. Repeating this affirmation in my mind, every time I look in the mirror, is not only incredibly depressing but perhaps more than a little self-sabotaging: My belief that my hair is beyond help is so strongly rooted internally, in the deepest layers of my psyche, that I’ve accepted it as truth. Admittedly, I haven’t given my hair an easy ride – far from it. Ever since the age of four when I was found behind the couch, hacking into my then long, naturally blonde locks with a pair of kitchen scissors, I’ve found various ways to torture my hair: Excessive bleaching (not always performed by a professional), daily straightening (I scorched my fuzzy hair into submission throughout the Nineties), round-after-round of extensions (from glued-in bonds to tapes and everything in between), lengthy periods between trims (one such hiatus lasted twelve years), and a highly regrettable perm (I was going for Kylie Minogue and I got…something else). I vaguely remember one kind comment in high school; a friend observed that my hair – worn down and ironed to within an inch of its frazzled life – looked good that day. And that is the only positive memory I have; it may not have even happened at all and if it did, well, she was my friend so probably felt obliged to be nice.

I am cursed with thin hair; the kind that feels utterly weightless and refuses to grow with any significance past shoulder length – the strands that do frizz and retreat at the first sign of humidity or break in premature surrender. But it’s not just the unflattering length that inspires my daily tirade of self-loathing: there is also a receding hairline and shiny patches of scalp (sides and temples), that command equal attention. In the past, while going through a particularly stressful period at work, I suffered from alopecia, discovered by a colorist during a routine round of highlights. “Oh wow, you have a bald patch here on your crown,” were her words. “This is quite serious – you need to do something about this or it will spread.” Wake up call Number One. Yes, I hated my hair, but at least I still had some. I do not have the delicate elfin features of Natalie Portman, nor the iconic beauty of Demi Moore, so the only fate worse than living with my stunted crop would be complete baldness. Not long after that, I quit my job, which helped in the short term (the alopecia didn’t spread and the bald spot eventually filled in), but stress remains a trigger for aggressive periods of shedding.

Hair by Ilham Mestour. Photographed by Domen & Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia

I thought I had tried everything: Hair growth pills, regular washing, irregular washing, a shower filter, a silk turban to sleep in, a silk pillowcase should the turban fall off, intensive conditioning treatments, caffeine-infused scalp serum, Olaplex, Argan oil, coconut oil and any number of homemade ‘tonics.’ And I’ve blamed everything: Bad water, over-exercising, a lack of certain minerals (hence the hair growth pills and trials of any vitamin that has ever been associated with hair health – trust me, there are many), wearing my hair in a top knot, the refusal to ever get more than half an inch lopped off (even after twelve years) and finally, finally, genetics. The lightbulb moment: Acceptance that the fate of my hair has, in fact, been sealed since birth.

Turns out, enlightenment does not make the truth any easier to accept so here I am, still searching for a miracle cure for bad hair. Cue Harklinikken, a Scandinavian hair growth regimen helmed by Denmark native Lars Skjoth. The process involves overhauling your regular routine, shampooing every day and using an extract custom-blended with raw materials to treat and restore scalp health. Unlike other hair growth systems, Harklinikken don’t promise speedy, unrealistic results – what they advocate is more of a long-term lifestyle change, “dedication and patience” and a commitment of years, not weeks. Step one is a consultation with Regional Director Nina Pedersen in the brand’s Jumeirah Beach HQ. We discuss my concerns and the routine I’m currently engaged in (infrequent washing, lots of dry hair shampoo, daily top knots), before Pedersen takes a closer look at my scalp under spotlight. In its present state, it is certainly not primed for fresh growth, with signs of trauma (thinning of sides and temple), itchiness and flaking. Like many people trying to navigate a constantly ‘switched on’ world, I’m constantly in a rush – from the minute I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow, I feel like a demented hamster in a wheel – and my priority to fit in a morning workout before the office commute often results in a dirty, scraped-back bun. She poses the question: “Why do you treat the skin on your face differently to the skin on your scalp?” My skincare routine is a carefully orchestrated, twice daily practice of epic proportions, so she has a point – I wouldn’t even go a day without washing my face so why should my scalp be any different?

Prescribed the brand’s Balancing Shampoo (to be used every day), a Daily Conditioner, a moisture-boosting Hair Mask and two bottles of customized Extract (to be applied twice daily directly to the scalp with a syringe, in hourly intervals), plus a sample of Eucerin – an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo to treat my itchy scalp – I’m given instructions and reassurances that there is, in fact, hope. My hair can and will gain condition and thickness if I stick to the routine. Buoyed by Pedersen’s words, I get to work giving my scalp some much-needed self-love. I stick to the routine religiously – sometimes to the detriment of my social life – and the results start to show. During my follow-up appointment 6-8 weeks later, Pedersen compares pictures taken during my consultation with the fresh scalp now in front of her and points out a new crop of baby hair. Not only is my scalp clean and itch-free, I can see new hair growing. The routine continues with a new round of extract, slightly tweaked to complement stage two of the regimen, and so it goes – with each consultation there is progress and products refined to give my hair the best chance of revival.

Founder and head of research development Lars Skjoth flits from clinic-to-clinic, country-to-country (Harklinikken currently has clinics in five countries), offering personal appointments and application advice to his clients. In person, his enthusiasm for the product he developed is infectious – when someone truly believes in something and has the evidence to back it up, it’s hard not to get on board. I was fortunate enough to meet Skjoth during one of his frequent trips to Dubai and, comparing now months-worth of progress pictures, he was pleased with the result. The sides of my hair had noticeably filled in, and there was new thickness on the crown – but the condition could still use some work. Skjoth suggested only shampooing the roots, and using the mask as a barrier on the ends when showering. When applying the extract to the scalp, he recommended a mini massage, pressing firmly with my fingertips after application to increase blood flow. His advice has been honed from years of experience, and there are any number of testimonials to back it up – I continue with the program.

Six months have passed and I’m still using Harklinikken. Have there been blips along the way? Absolutely. Sometimes the routine is simply not realistic: daily washing and extract application can fall by the wayside when travel, social events and work get in the way. But I’m educated on how to make my hair and scalp as healthy as it can be. I will never have thick, waist-grazing glossy locks – that ship sailed the moment the first bottle of peroxide came into contact with my teenage crop – but hopefully I can now look at myself in the mirror and find something to love about the person staring back.

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