A little thin on the top

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A little thin on the top

 
LEE KYONG-HEE
The author is the head of the Innovation Lab of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Admiration for thick hair doesn’t seem to be anything new. The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text from the 16th century BC, includes 11 recipes for hair loss treatment. One method is applying a mixture of the ash of hedgehog quills, clipped nails, honey, gypsum and red soil containing iron oxide. Joseon Dynasty renowned physician Heo Jun’s “Donguibogam” also includes a reference to a prescription for a young man who lost all his hair, and his hair grew by 1 inch.

According to “The Medicalization of Society” by medical sociologist Peter Conrad, the medical world paid little attention to hair los until the late 19th century. As hair loss treatment was more alchemy or superstition than medicine, it was hardly effective. Some doctors tried treatments that didn’t work at all. For instance, they deliberately blistered the scalp or put on a rubber cap to help blood circulation. After effective treatments like minoxidil were employed, hair loss treatment finally became a serious medical field.

Ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung pledged to include hair loss treatment in medical insurance coverage. The move is apparently aimed at getting votes from the 10 million people suffering from hair loss. Chronic hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata and seborrheic alopecia are covered by health insurance now. For example, steroid and autoimmune treatments are used for alopecia areata, but there is no definite cure. According to the National Health Insurance Service, the number of patients who got treatment for hair loss increased from 210,000 in 2016 to 230,000 in 2020. 
 
 
 
 
Ruling party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung prmoised to ensure medical insurance covers hair loss. [YOUTUBE CAPTURE]

On the other hand, hair loss in men largely resulting from hormone imbalance and heredity factors is not covered by medical insurance because treatment is considered cosmetic. When used at an early stage, male hair loss treatment like Propecia and Avodart can prevent the condition progressing. If you stop taking the medication, hair loss will start again. Therefore, as long as you want to resist hair loss, you cannot quit the medication. It is a financial burden for people and a lucrative product for pharmaceutical companies.

Global market research firm Grand View Research predicts the global hair loss treatment market to grow from 9 trillion won ($7.5 billion) in 2020 to 18 trillion won in 2028. Conrad points out the industrial background of incorporating hair loss — a part of the natural aging process — into the list of diseases to treat. If you want to cut down the social cost, you should change the perception of hair loss. 

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