Scalp Massage, Mechanotransduction and Hair Growth

I have covered scalp massage, scalp exercises and mechanotherapy for hair growth a number of times on this blog. During the past year, I have had a few people e-mail me about Mr. Robert English and his hair loss treatment protocol. Mr. English owns the perfecthairhealth website. His regimen primarily entails mechanotransduction and scalp massage therapy.

If you do not want to read this entire post, click on the below listed names to go to their approximate sections. I have also covered most of the below people in separate posts in the past.

Important note: I do not believe that any of the below methods can possibly regrow hair on totally bald areas of the head. At best, these scalp massage and related mechanotransduction techniques may make existing thinning hair become thicker. This better quality hair is then less likely to atrophy and progress to baldness.

Scalp Massages and Mechanotransduction

Robert English

Robert English has written two interesting papers on hair loss during the past one and a half years:

  1. The limitations of just focusing on DHT reduction in dealing with hair loss (February, 2018).
  2. Survey results from self-assessments of standardized scalp massages for androgenic alopecia (March, 2019).

Neither of the journals that published Mr. English’s papers seem to be prestigious. However, his medical and scientific writing quality is very good. Mr. English does not hold a Phd, and does not seem to have any biology or science background as far as I can tell.

Mr. English mentions the concept of “mechanotransduction” a few times in his first paper. This term encompasses scalp massages and many other forms of mechanical stimulation. I discuss some of these in greater detail in the second half of this post.

A 2016 study from China concluded that:

“Mechanics such as pressure, compression, friction, traction, stretch, shear, and mechanical wounding can influence hair loss or growth.”

Besides improving scalp blood flow and oxygenation, mechanotransduction can alter scalp skin and hair at the genetic level. It can theoretically also reduce hair follicle inflammation, improve nutrient delivery and increase growth factors. Some of these effects seem to occur via Wnt signaling changes.

A 2016 study from Japan (with Dr. Rei Ogawa as a co-author) concluded that:

“Stretching forces result in changes in gene expression in human dermal papilla cells. Standardized scalp massage is a way to transmit mechanical stress to human dermal papilla cells in subcutaneous tissue. Hair thickness was shown to increase with standardized scalp massage.”

Regimen

It seems like Mr. English’s methodology can only be accessed by joining his membership community and getting his e-book. I have not tried to do either myself. However, someone by the name of JD Moyer wrote a detailed testimonial in 2014 that is worth a read. It looks like Rob English’s method involves: 1) Daily scalp massage; 2) Dietary changes; and 3) Avoidance of using shampoos when washing hair.

Scalp massage during shampooing.I have heard the last mentioned piece of advice many times in the past. I do not believe that shampoos can directly cause scalp hair loss. Otherwise, you would also see body hair loss near your wrists, where the shampoo touches during each scrubbing of the head. Or loss of facial and chest hair, since the shampoo drips down to those areas after rinsing.

Mr. English seems to be saying that the chemicals in shampoos could alter your hormones, which makes some sense. I try not to use my dermatologist recommended dandruff shampoos more than twice a week.

Scalp Exercises, Massages and Mechanotherapy

This post covers the positive hair growth effects from scalp massages, scalp exercises and scalp wounding. Related terms and concepts include mechanotherapy, mechanotransduction and microneedling. Such techniques and treatment that involve direct prolonged contact and manipulation of the scalp are worth linking together in one post. Maybe I should also add Botox injections into the scalp for hair growth into this list.

Electric scalp massager for hair growth.
An electric scalp massager on Amazon.

Scalp massages, stretching and wounding can all perhaps reverse or slow down further progression in scalp calcification and scalp skin fibrosis. Note that the key word here is “perhaps”. I trust the veracity of some of the studies that support these techniques. However, I also have major doubts.

Hair loss is much harder to reverse after calcification and fibrosis have progressed too far. So anything that can reverse or slow down these processes is worth looking into. Scalp tension is also known to be greater in those suffering from androgenetic alopecia. See my post on bald scalps being tighter and thinner.

On a side note, there have been many anecdotal reports of people in casts and bandages reporting greater body hair once the cast is removed after several months. Perhaps this is also due to mechanotransduction type reactions?

Of importance, before there was Robert English, there were many others who have discussed similar concepts. Among the main ones that I have covered on this blog in the past include:

Hagerty, Foote, Ogawa and Dhurat

  • Tom Hagerty

    The first one that I heard about was Tom Hagerty. He owns one site on scalp muscle control techniques and hair growth; and another site on face shaping exercises. Mr. Hagerty must be close to 80 years old by now and is still active on his forums. Me and Mr. Hagerty first emailed each other over 15 years ago. His recent videos seem to be done by a younger person:

  • Stephen Foote

    Around the same time or shortly thereafter, I started reading posts from Stephen Foote on various hair loss forums. In 2019, I wrote a post on Stephen Foote and his hydraulic theory of hair loss. His original paper was published in 1995. Mr. Foote makes no income from selling his ideas or any products. He is just a citizen scientist who is now into his 60s.

  • Rachita Dhurat

    Then came various findings from around the world in recent years that concluded that microneedling and wounding benefit scalp hair growth. Perhaps the most famous scientist associated with microneedling and wounding is Dr. Rachita Dhurat from India. Both microneedling and massaging can effect some identical hair growth related pathways and signaling.

  • Rei Ogawa

    Then came Dr. Rei Ogawa and his mechanotherapy theory of hair regeneration. Dr. Ogawa and his Japanese co-researchers have published a number of well regarded papers on scalp massages and mechanotherapy. They seem to have proven that scalp massage can change gene expression at the hair follicle level. I covered both Dr. Rei Ogawa and Mr. Tom Hagerty in a combined  post in 2014.

Detumescence Therapy of the Scalp

Hyon-Sook Choy

Head shape, detumescence therapy and hair loss.One person that I never mentioned in the past is Dr. Hyon-Sook Choy. In 2012, he wrote an extremely interesting paper on detumescence therapy of  the scalp for hair regrowth. It has some funky photos in there that are well worth a look. After reading Dr. Choy’s work, you might start staring at the shapes of the scalps and foreheads of strangers! I never really thought much about dome shaped heads before reading this paper.

Note: If none of the above works, there is always ligature of the scalp arteries to prevent further hair loss. FYI — I am being sarcastic.

If Shiseido Decides to Do So

Update: November 26, 2019

Shiseido Japanese Patent Published

Someone named “Paul” (thanks!) just posted a link to Shiseido’s official Japanese patent, which was released in Japan in May 2019. Paul found this link on an investing forum, and he also posted a bunch of information about stock prices. I deleted the latter, as I do not want to encourage blog readers to buy or sell Shiseido or Replicel stock.

Ultimately, whether “Shiseido decides to do so OR not to do so” will decide everything. The patent indicates optimism about the technology. However, nothing is set in stone for sure. The English translation of the patent is extremely informative if you expand each section and wait for it to load. Or you can open the whole Japanese pdf too and use translation software.

The big question I have is what portion of the technology comes from Replicel (licensing), versus from Shiseido in-house?

The inventors are listed as:

  • Tsutomu Soma
  • Jiro Kishimoto
  • Sayaka Koide
  • Hitoshi Okochi
  • Masahiro Kiso

Update: November 26, 2019

Replicel Year-End 2019 Update

RepliCel released its 2019 year-end update today. It includes discussion about its partnership with Shiseido. Regarding Replicel’s cellular therapy (RCH-01) for androgenetic alopecia, the key points are that:

  • Shiseido’s clinical study in Japan is now complete.
  • Shiseido will soon announce on whether it will commercially launch the product in Japan or conduct further clinical testing.
  • Replicel is holding off on Shiseido’s final decision before pursuing any further Phase 2 trials. The former’s Phase 1 trials in Europe were successful.
  • The Replicel and Shiseido dispute is still unresolved.

It seems like Shiseido could still launch the product in Japan soon. No doubt aided by the country’s new faster regulations for marketing when it comes to cellular therapy.

Replicel’s proprietary injection device, RCI-02, is on schedule to get approval and be used in much of the developed world in 2020.

Replicel-Shiseido Partnership

March 23, 2019

I used to cover Replicel (Canada) and its Japanese cosmetics behemoth partner Shiseido at least a few times per year until last year. At some point, I got skeptical about the RCH-01 autologous cell therapy hair loss product being released any time in the near future.

Shiseido LogoBesides typical delays, Replicel and Shiseido had some unclear conflicts regarding their partnership.

However, Replicel published two important updates this month, the second of which is of most interest to us:

Per the first link above, the disagreement regarding the agreement between Shiseido and Replicel remains unresolved. However, it is not subject to any litigation or arbitration at this time.

The key money quote is from the second link:

“While the Company’s RCH-01 product for hair loss due to androgenic alopecia may be launched in Japan much earlier if Shiseido decides to do so, current planning anticipates the potential for all four products to be on the market in Japan by 2022.”

The implication seems to be that:

  1. Shiseido could release the product well before 2022. See my past post on the company’s new research facility in Kobe, Japan.
  2. Even if Shiseido does not release the product earlier, it will quite possibly get released in 2022 in Japan by Replicel.

See my past post on Japan’s new laws fast-tracking stem cell therapies and clinical trials.

Another key quote:

“Unlike anywhere else in the world, one well-designed cell therapy trial in Japan, approved by their regulatory authorities, has the potential to lead to product market launch.”

Replicel is clearly focusing on a “First-in-Japan” strategy due the country’s favorable regulatory environment. Shiseido has rights to the Asian market when it comes to RCH-01. However, it seems like Replicel can still release the product in Japan in 2022 if Shiseido does not do so?

Hard to make this conclusion for certain without knowing much more about the two companies’ legal contract. In any case, this is a great development.

Further references:

— A discussion of Replicel’s technology in two videos.

— Shseido and Adenosine for hair loss.

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