Salons supply hair where it's spare

May 26, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

The way Dennis Fallon sees the Baltimore-Washington area, there are a lot of men out there needlessly suffering the bane of hair loss, baldness and wigs that just won't stay put.

Mr. Fallon, and the company he works for, Kansas City, Mo.-based Apollo International, believe all that lost hair could be found money.

That's why Apollo, which develops and markets non-surgical human hair additions and hair care products, recently opened its northeast headquarters in Columbia. The office will serve Apollo salons from Northern Virginia to Boston. An Apollo salon, where hair additions and grooming are done, also opened with the regional headquarters.

Mr. Fallon, Apollo's vice president for northeast operations, said Columbia was selected for the regional headquarters because of its central location in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

The company's staples are two non-surgical cosmetic procedures to conceal hair loss. The company also markets a solution to slow hair loss, hair care products and grooming services for those with hair additions.

The cosmetic procedures that conceal baldness include a procedure called "micro-cabling" and a procedure called "scalp-lock."

Micro-cabling involves attaching human hair to a client's existing natural hair. The scalp-lock procedure involves applying human hair to the scalp with a bonding chemical. In either case, the added hair doesn't grow.

The new head of locks, said Mr. Fallon, are "so secure you could grab a guy's hair and drag him down the hall."

While Apollo claims the added hair cannot be distinguished from a customer's natural hair color or texture, customers are encouraged to have their hair groomed at an Apollo salon because blending the client's natural hair and the added hair requires training, Mr. Fallon said.

The hair addition lasts two to four years, costing between $2,000 and $3,000.

The company estimates 900,000 men, aged 25 to 49, are living in the region, and as many as 40 percent to 60 percent of them experience a hair loss problem. Apollo estimates that about 10 percent of those men -- 36,000 to 54,000 -- will at some point this year decided to have a hair addition or replacement procedure or purchase a product to address their hair loss.

The other market the company hopes to tap regionally are people experiencing hair loss resulting from chemotherapy and illnesses. The majority of the company's customers are men; women experiencing hair loss, Mr. Fallon said, traditionally favor wigs.

Apollo, of course, is not the lone player in the hair replacement industry. It competes with companies offering similar products to cosmetic surgeons offering hair transplant operations. But Mr. Fallon said "there's enough business out there for everybody."

Several trends work in Apollo's favor. According to the American Hair Loss Council, a Texas-based research organization, spending in the U.S. on hair loss products is up nationwide -- $342 million in 1992 on hair additions alone.

Also, says the council in a recent report, the male taboo against discussing hair loss is eroding. Aggressive national marketing of some hair loss products, such as Rogaine, have spurred the shift, says the report.

"For a long time men have tended to shy away from discussing their hair loss. One of the first things we try to do is get a potential customer to feel comfortable about talking about their situation," Mr. Fallon said.

The company's initial challenges in the region, said Mr. Fallon, include building name recognation. Although Apollo has 102 outlets in the U.S. and 38 oversees, it is virtually unknown in this region.

Apollo plans to build area name recognition through advertising on radio, television and newspapers. But the cornerstone of the company's success since its founding by a Kansas City barber in 1972 has been through word of mouth by satisfied clients, said Mr. Fallon.

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