This article will discuss the use of the growband as a device for the maintenance and regrowth of hair that has been lost through male pattern baldness.
The goal of this article is to provide unbiased information about the device so that you can make an informed decision about whether you want to use it for yourself and for your hair.
Firstly, this website does not sell any products and does not make commissions from any recommendations.
This website was setup to provide free and impartial advice to those with hair loss.
What is a growband?
A growband is a simple device that aims to regrow hair lost through pattern baldness.
But what is pattern baldness, and how can an easy-to-use hands-free device possibly help to regrow lost hair?
An introduction to pattern baldness
Pattern baldness, also known as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) and Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB), is a genetic hair loss condition. It occurs in both men and women, and it’s characterized by a receding hairline (in men) and thinning at the vertex (in women).
The exact cause of AGA has yet to be pinpointed, by scientists now believe that there are multiple factors that contribute to its development. Some of the suggested factors include:
- Androgen (DHT) sensitivity
But according to the hair loss framework, those are just some things that contribute to the condition. The two main causes are more specifically believed to be chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalance.
The above-mentioned factors certainly contribute to inflammation and hormonal imbalance, but other factors at play may include illness and medications, diet, and microbiome.
Both inflammation and hormonal imbalance can result in poor blood flow to the scalp, which reduces oxygen levels and nutrient availability. This will trigger a process known as miniaturisation, which occurs when the follicle begins to strangle the hair within it and, eventually, leads to hair thinning and permanent baldness.
As mentioned, though, other factors can contribute to AGA and miniturisation.
The evidence now suggests that scalp tension also plays an important role in the miniaturisation of hair follicles at the early stages of male pattern baldness.
Multiple studies have confirmed that scalp tension plays a role in this process.
Study #1: Involvement of Mechanical Stress in Androgenetic Alopecia
For example, a study performed in 2015 by researchers from Spain showed that mechanical stress – also known as scalp tension – had an impact on the pattern of hair loss as seen in men with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA).
To understand why this is the case, it’s important to first have a basic understanding of the layers of the scalp.
There are five layers that comprise the scalp. From top to bottom they are:
These aren’t separate structures, though. As it relates to the first three – the skin, the subcutaneous, and the galea – they should be considered together as a moveable structure separate from the other two.
The combined weight of this structure can put pressure on the hair follicles, but there are two reasons that this doesn’t occur in young, healthy individuals.
The first is that the dermal layer of the skin is flexible and hydrated and, as such, can handle quite a bit of mechanical stress before it begins to impact the galea. The second is the subcutaneous layer includes a layer of fat which also buffers against stress.
These two layers will begin to lose their protective properties as one ages, though.
With the galea now less insulated, the contractions from the occipitofrontalis muscle can travel up through the subcutaneous layer and towards the skin where the hair follicles are present.
In this way, mechanical stress begins to place pressure on the follicles and makes it more difficult for healthy hair development to occur.
Now, let’s go back to the study mentioned above.
The researchers created a geometric mesh that was “developed and adjusted to the galea aponeurotica anatomy.” A force vector was then applied to the front (hairline) and back (or occipital) regions of the mesh and force applied.
This mesh was then laid over a model of the “schematic sequence of androgenetic alopecia transition zones according to Hamilton–Norwood scale.”
As shown below, the areas where force was most likely to cause tension correlated with the pattern of hair loss in men with AGA.
There are other factors at play, of course. For example, a genetic predisposition to the condition is still the main trigger of hair loss, though the effects of mechanical stress may speed up the process.
Study #2: Treatment of Male Pattern Baldness With Botulinum Toxin: A Pilot Study
So, if scalp tension is a major contributor to hair follicle miniaturisation and hair loss, what can be done?
In 2010, one group of researchers posed the same question as above.
If scalp tension was a contributor to hair loss, it would theoretically mean that loosening of the scalp’s skin would be one way to ‘treat’ MPB and possibly induce hair growth.
To test this theory, researchers recruited 50 male subjects between the ages of 19 and 57 with Norwood/Hamilton ratings of II to IV.
The men’s scalps were injected with 150 units of Botox over the course of two, 24-week treatment cycles. They were injected in the muscles surrounding the scalp, including the frontalis, temporalis, periauricular, and occipitalis muscles in equal doses in over 30 injection sites.
Forty of the subjects completed the study.
To measure the outcome, the change in hair count in a fixed 2-cm area was tracked throughout the study.
The treatment response rate was 75%, with the mean hair count increasing 18% across all subjects between baseline and week 48:
As the study seems to indicate, loosening of the skin around the periphery of the scalp is successful in promoting hair growth in men with MPB. This is very likely do to the natural increase in blood flow to the hair follicles as a result of the loosening.
This delivery of blood also increases oxygen levels, which has an effect on the conversion of testosterone and 5-alpha-reductase to DHT.
Study #3: Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue
While Botox proved to be successful at reducing tension in the above study, it’s not yet a standard form of treatment available for AGA. The risk of side effects, though rare, may also be off-putting to many. So, is there another way to reduce scalp tension so as to increase hair growth?
A Japanese research study carried out in 2016 indicates that scalp massage may play a role in reducing mechanical stress and increasing hair thickness.
Scalp massage is the gentle manipulation of the scalp which stretches the dermal papilla cells and, as this study shows, this may lead to changes in cellular gene expression.
The study consisted of nine healthy Japanese men. They received four minutes of scalp massage every day for a total of 24 weeks with the help of a scalp massage device.
As expected, the control area of each scalp (i.e. the areas not massaged with the device) saw no significant differences in hair count or thickness throughout the 24 weeks. However, the scalp massage areas showed a significant increase in hair thickness by the end of the study when compared to the baseline:
Perhaps more interesting than these visual results, though, are the underlying changes to gene expression which took place in the scalp massage areas of the scalps.
Genes play a major role in the hair growth cycle as their expressions determine density, length, color, and texture of the produced hair. And while the exact role that certain genes played isn’t entirely clear, there are still those genes which have been definitively linked to hair growth.
These genes include BMP4, NOGGIN, SMAD4, IL6, and IL6ST.
As the results of this study show, IL6 was downregulated in the dermal papilla cells after 72 hours of stretching compared with control cells. This gene is believed to be linked to inhibition of hair shaft elongation via DHT sensitivity.
The cells linked to hair growth, though, including BMP4, NOGGIN, SMAD4, and IL6ST were shown to be upregulated after 72 hours when compared to control cells:
This shows that scalp massage may have both short- and long-term impacts on the hair growth cycle.
How is it claimed to work?
The growband works by helping to reduce the scalp tension through the lifting force provided by the inflated airbags.
The secondary effects of the lifting force also may also help with the reduction in calcification of the scalp.
These two processes are both known to contribute to regrowth through the re-vascularization of the scalp. The more blood flow, the more nutrients and oxygen that are able to reach the follicle themselves and enable healthy hair growth.
But first, it’s important to understand what calcification is and its connection to hair loss.
In simplest terms, calcification is the abnormal accumulation of calcium salts in body tissue such as the scalp. Injury may trigger the start of calcification, as evidenced by one study performed in 1971. And the introduction of DHT seems to speed up this process.
This doesn’t mean that DHT is the sole contributor of calcification, though. After all, one in-vitro study showed that androgens (such as DHT) actually prevented against calcification.
This means that increased levels of scalp DHT isn’t the only factor which leads to calcification.
One study shows that a combination of increased androgen levels and increased androgen receptors may be to blame. But even further, it may be that those with calcification were more susceptible to the condition due to an imbalance in calcification regulators within the scalp.
This makes sense since increased levels of DHT within the body’s tissues anywhere but the scalp induce hair growth.
But perhaps more important than the cause of calcification of the scalp is the end result.
So, what’s the solution?
Tissue massage, as shown by this 2014 study, increases temperature of the immediate area. This actually increases as the time between massage and temperature measurement increases, with the peak temperature achieved at 25 minutes.
As stated by the researchers, “a rise in temperature theoretically indicates an increase in blood flow to the area.”
The growband works, then, by reducing scalp tension and increasing blood flow to calcified tissues so as to ensure the hair follicles receive the proper levels of oxygen and nutrients.
And what about the importance of oxygen and its connection to calcification?
According to Dr. Brian Freund of the Crown Institute in Ontario:
The enzymatic conversion of testosterone to DHT is oxygen dependent. In low-oxygen environments, the conversion of testosterone to di-hydro-testosterone is favoured, whereas in high-oxygen environments, more testosterone is converted to estradiol.”
This means that increasing blood flow (and oxygen as a direct result), will theoretically reduce the levels of DHT within the scalp tissues. This may lead to less miniaturisation of the follicles (as discussed above) which itself is crucial for the prevention of hair loss.
This, plus the reduction in scalp tension, may lead to less hair loss and even increased hair growth in those with AGA and calcification.
If all of this seems too good to be true, let’s take a look at a study which tested out a similar apparatus on 40 men suffering from Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB).
Study #4: A new apparatus for hair regrowth in male-pattern baldness
A group of Japanese scientists utilized a device known as the Scalp Tension Relaxer (STR) which is a similar concept to the growband.
The participants ranged in age from 28 to 58, and they suffered from MPB for an average of 10.3 years.
The device worked by lifting the scalp for two hours each day so as to relieve tension and increase blood flow as a result.
The study continued for 12 months, and researchers began to take photographs and measurements (including cutaneous blood flow and temperature) at three months.
At the end of the study, the results showed that at 40 percent of participants saw good or excellent hair regrowth:
Even further, the cutaneous blood flow rate and temperature increased which indicates that the new apparatus reduced tension as expected and increased blood flow to the scalp as hoped.
Expected time frame for positive results?
With any such device there is never a guarantee of positive results.
If we look to the clinical studies on the STR apparatus, results may start to become visible after three months of continued use.
But the truth is that an expected time frame can vary.
Is there risk of side effects?
As the growband is a mechanical device, there isn’t a risk of side effects in the traditional sense. However, you may experience some things as your scalp adjusts to the device.
For example, it’s not uncommon to see an increase in sebum production for the first few weeks of use. This is because the scalp may not be used to the level of tissue manipulation that the growband provides, but the levels will adjust over time.
It’s also not uncommon for there to be a bit of swelling and irritation within the first few weeks of use. This will subside over time, and many users of such devices find them to be quite relaxing.
Can the device be used with other treatments?
While clinical studies on STR devices were carried out on patients who were not using any other products, there’s no reason that you cannot use other treatments and products at the same time.
The only two hair loss treatments to be approved by the FDA are Rogaine (minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride). They work by increasing blood flow to the scalp and reducing the production of DHT, respectively, and they can be used together or individually.
If you intend to use the growband alongside minoxidil, you may want to use the device a few hours before or after application so as to avoid transfer of the product to the adjustment straps. But otherwise, there should be no risks.
The same advice would apply to other topical solutions, including essential oils and carrier oils.
There are many factors that contribute to hair loss, including genetics, sensitivity to androgens such as DHT, and lifestyle. However, the underlying cause of hair loss no matter the trigger is poor blood flow.
Blood flow to the scalp and, more specifically, the hair follicle is critical for the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients. But when blood flow is restricted due to the above mentioned factors, including scalp tension and calcification, this can mean a reduction in healthy hair growth and an increase in hair loss.
That’s why treating the problem at its root – i.e. increasing blood flow to the scalp – is crucial if you want to see positive results.
One possible way of doing so is with a growband, a Scalp Tension Reducer (STR) device that lifts the scalp in such as a way as a to reduce tension and reinstate proper blood circulation to the area.