Research shows that treatments for baldness often fail but DJ Jason King reveals how he was given the very latest in ‘hair-replacement systems’
When radio DJ and TV presenter Jason King played in a football match last weekend he was pretty impressed with his performance on the pitch.
Not because he scored a goal or overcame the opposition with a gritty tackle, but because his brand new toupee – or hair-replacement system, as they’re now known – hadn’t budged. In fact, none of his fellow players would ever have known he was wearing one as it simply looks as if he has a healthy head of hair.
It seems toupees are no longer the joke- worthy affairs they once were (think Bruce Forsyth or Frankie Howerd).
Jason King: Before (left) and after treatment
Today’s versions are identically matched to a recipient’s own hair, weaved on to a fine base made from lace, bonded to the scalp with surgical glue and then cut and styled by a trained technician to blend in with the natural hair.
It means that for Jason, there’s no danger of his new toupee flying off during a TV show or, heaven forbid, a passionate clinch with his wife, former Hear’Say pop star and now Emmerdale actress Suzanne Shaw.
‘I don’t smoke, I don’t drink much and I’ve always tried to lead a healthy lifestyle – only for my hair to start falling out when I was 25,’ admits Jason, now 36, and one half of former Radio 1 partnership JK and Joel. The pair now present on Leeds station Radio Aire.
‘There’s a lot of publicity about the pressure on women to look as youthful as they can in the TV business but image really counts for men in the industry too. The main reason I had the hair-replacement system was because Joel and I are back on TV doing kids’ programmes for the BBC and I was really self-conscious that the wrong camera angle would catch my bald patch.
‘I feel that in kids’ telly, it’s better to have quite cool hair, styled in a youthful way, not something resembling an egg hatching from a nest on the back of your head like mine was.’
All smiles: Suzanne Shaw and Jason King are pleased with the treatment
Clearly Jason wasn’t alone in feeling self-conscious of his growing bald patch. The Hair Replacement Clinic in Pudsey on the outskirts of Leeds, where he had his fitting last month, has reported a 150 per cent increase in clients this year alone.
There’s every chance the stampede has been influenced by footballer Wayne Rooney and actor James Nesbitt going public with more drastic solutions to baldness. Both have had painful and expensive surgical hair transplants, where follicles are removed from an area of dense hair on the head and transplanted to the bald patch.
At a cost of about £30,000, most men would be unable to afford such treatment. And, despite good results for Rooney and Nesbitt, it doesn’t always work. Research shows that some methods can have a failure rate of more than 50 per cent, after what can often be an eight-hour procedure.
Meanwhile, Jason’s pain-free hairreplacement system is more accessible at a cost of £1,500. Marilyn Sherlock, chairman of the Institute of Trichologists, explains: ‘The main cause of baldness in men is genetic, often passed down via men on the mother’s side.
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‘Most modern medical research suggests that individuals with such male-pattern baldness produce increased levels of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone [DHT], which is converted from testosterone. It binds to the hair follicles and weakens them. When the hair falls out, it’s too weak to grow back.
‘The only way to actually restore your own hair is with hair-transplant surgery, but this is not successful in some cases. Inevitably, there are countless drugs and potions on the market claiming that they’ll restore hair but most will do nothing other than waste your money.
‘The only two to have been clinically proven to arrest hair loss and prevent a bald patch worsening are the drug finasteride and a lotion called Minoxidil.’
Jason tried applying Minoxidil daily to his scalp, while also taking tablets containing finasteride, which inhibits the production of DHT. Though he says they definitely slowed down the hair loss, it wasn’t enough.
‘The trouble is that I’m quite impatient – I want results fast,’ say Jason, who admits that it was with some trepidation that he arrived at the Hair Replacement Clinic last month.
On yer head: Wayne Rooney decided to have surgery rather than use a wig
The company contacted him after hearing his on-air partner Joel ribbing him about his bald patch on the radio. Says Jason: ‘I had visions in my head of Elton John’s dodgy hairpiece when I went for the consultation. I also had lots of questions such as whether the hair-replacement system would stand up to washing, styling and the stunts I have to do on kids’ TV and, most of all, if it would look natural. But I was really impressed by how far toupees have come.’
According to Andrew McCarthy, director of the clinic, the art is in precisely matching the hairreplacement system to the client’s natural hair. ‘During the initial consultation we measure the client’s bald patch and take a hair sample,’ he explains.
‘We use hair donors from all over the world to make sure we can exactly match the colour and texture of a client’s hair. ‘It takes about three weeks to find a match and have the hairreplacement system made.
The client then returns for a 90-minute fitting, which includes bonding the system to the scalp, cutting and styling it to blend with his or her own hair. ‘They can wash and style it absolutely as normal. Then, rather than going to the barber or hairdresser, they come back here every three or four weeks instead.
‘Our technicians remove and rebond the system to the scalp to ensure it stays completely secure, then cut and style their hair for them. It costs £45 each time.
‘General wear and tear caused by sleeping, styling and washing will eventually cause the hair-replacement system to shed hair. The trick is to have a new one made before this starts to happen, usually after 12 to 18 months.’
What, then, does Jason’s famous wife Suzanne think? ‘She absolutely loves it,’ he says. ‘Obviously I was a bit worried about what she’d think of me having it done.
But her response was that she often uses extensions to make her hair longer or fuller and that I never have a problem with that, so what’s the difference in me doing this to look better and feel more confident?’