Earlier this month the Japanese Dermatological Association released the results of a study on the effects of various commercial treatments for baldness, and industry that’s worth about ¥60 billion. The association estimates that some 8 million men in Japan “worry” about thinning hair, and the number of complaints about seemingly bogus baldness cures has been on the increase, even if the absolute number of complaints is pretty low, given the size of the market. The National Consumer Affairs Center received 153 complaints about baldness cures in 2009, which is 2.5 times as many as it received in 2005. The JDA decided to lend its expertise to the issue, but rather than conduct its own experimental study into the efficacy of various products and treatments, it basically studied documentation submitted by manufacturers and then compared it to scientific papers published here and abroad.
Consequently, the results were hardly conclusive in a way that would probably make a difference; and, in fact, efficacy was closely related to cost. The JDA ranked treatments into five categories, with “A” being “strongly recommended,” “B” being simply “recommended,” “C1” being possibly effective but lacking in scientific proof, “C2” not recommended, and “D” possibly harmful.
What makes the results a bit eyebrow-raising is that the two products that earned “A” ratings were both mentioned by brand name: the hair tonic RiUP, made by Taisho Pharmaceutical, and the orally administered prescription drug Propecia, made by Merck and distributed in Japan by Banyu. The only treatments that earned a “B” rating were hair transplant methods that utilized the patient’s own hair, while products categorized under “C1” and “C2” were only mentioned in terms of their active ingredients, so if you want to find out which products actually use those ingredients you would have to do your own research. Obviously, the JDA’s obligations to balding men (and women, for that matter) is limited when it comes to hurting the feelings of some of the companies who make their living off of them.