Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

The Mane Man: Lars Skjoth on Scalp Love and Hair Restoration

Many of us spend much time and money taking care of our skin, teeth, and waistline — so why not make the same commitment to a healthy scalp? Harklinikken founder Lars Skjoth describes his lifelong mission to solve an age-old problem.

Words by John Pearson
Portraits by Reto Sterchi

Hair transplants, wigs and hair tattooing (SMP) are extremely common these days. A-list actors, sports stars, all manner of celebrities and business leaders are embracing the idea of putting their best head of hair forward, drawing from what is now a multi-billion dollar business.

Millions of men, once resigned to the onset of premature baldness, an unwelcome inheritance of family genes, now seek out ways of improving, of cheat treating their follicle mass and as a consequence, improving their confidence. They refuse to give up without a healthy fight, and why should they? For millennia, hair has long been associated with virility, magnetism, and vigorous health — so it’s easy to understand why finding bona fide solutions to an age-old problem is a reasonable, if not imperative goal.

Recently, I’ve been taught much, spending time with Lars Skjoth, founder and lead researcher of Scandinavian brand Harklinikken, a global chief in the very competitive field of hair restoration, scalp wellness, and care.

I’ve learnt that your precious scalp, hidden under whatever thickness of hair you possess, ages six times faster than your facial skin, and twelve times faster than your body skin. I’ve been alarmed by the fact that one’s scalp is a breeding ground for fungi and various other elements that can cook and clog under various temperatures, both internal and external.

I’ve realized that a healthy scalp is the foundation to start treating hereditary hair loss and this is Lars’ particular focus of knowledge. The truth is that anyone, whatever gender or indeed age, can and will experience hair thinning and deterioration as the years pass. Lars’ raison d’être and expertise lay in identifying and arresting such degeneration and then treating, nurturing, and guiding new and healthier growth persistently.

Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

Washing, conditioning, and treating one’s hair with the correct symphony of organic ingredients does produce positive results, when the science is right.

But, like most things of quality in life, to benefit and experience solid results, you have to be consistent. If you want a fit body, you get to the gym, you do yoga, you ride your bike. If you want nice teeth, you brush and floss daily. A sharp brain and memory demands you play chess, do puzzles, read, and write — what you put in is directly proportional to what you get out.

The unique service that Harklinikken supplies is that following a consultation including macro photographing of your various hairlines (preferably in person, but also highly successful on-line) they provide for you a bespoke organic extract which is then monitored for optimal results of growth and tweaked as the condition of your hair changes. Think Saville Row — your tailor makes you a suit from the finest fabrics and then can let it out or in, depending on your current size and condition, making slight adjustments to keep it ‘in vogue.’

Harklinikken Hair Gain Extract
Harklinikken Hair Gain Extract

And so who is Lars Skjoth, what makes him tick and what happened to determine his path? Born in Denmark into a family of both creatives and academics, at around 16 years old, having discovered a problem with his scalp, Lars sought out medical assistance from a dermatologist in the family. He was prescribed a potion to apply that unfortunately stank of sulphur. Shocked and self-conscious, having been called out by a young kid at a local store who unfiltered, commented on the reek, Lars decided to take matters into his own hands and committed himself to finding solutions.

Ensconced at the local library, he got to work, seeking out any information, any literature surrounding the subject.  Initially, he focused on research provided in the Nordic culture, but accessed literature from all over Europe, even having a Hungarian plant medicine book translated to help his cause.

He set about testing his concoctions, including a shampoo, on himself and on friends and family members and began to see results — minor but significant shifts which encouraged him to keep going. At the same time, Lars was finishing aviation training, and  became a commercial pilot for a domestic airline. But he told his parents that he wanted to study human nutrition and biochemistry instead, which with their blessing, he began to do.

Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth examines the scalp of Mr Feelgood co-founder John Pearson // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

In October 1992, at the age of 25, he opened his first Harklinikkin clinic in Copenhagen, still immersed in his studies, sleeping in the back of the shop whilst also working in a hotel to make his rent. His bigger vision was informed and inspired: the creation of clinics that harness contemporary elegant design, clean and spacious aesthetic, all contributing to create a feeling of space and flow, whilst offering his hair restoration solutions. Every hour that he had free, weekends and well into the night, Lars would experiment with the trial and error aspect of developing the products, building and refining on the science that he’d learned along his way. Lars comes across as that type of man who is very comfortable in his work environment, whilst also possessing the touch of the admirable and obsessive geek — the guy that loves nothing more than to create, innovate, and develop things in his shed. He’s a man who for more than three decades has employed laser focus in this particular area — genuinely passionate about his mission. He’s had his head down, working, testing, experimenting, re-testing and has built a brand that hasn’t until recently taken on any partners despite having received lucrative offers all along the way.

I sat down with Lars at Harklinikken’s clinic in Beverly Hills, California, for a scalp check and a chat.

Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

Lars, when did you originally start to plan this?

I would say that I started in 1992, but when it came to ’98, ’99, it started to dawn on me that we were onto something special. When it came to 2007, I knew we had something unique and since then I realized we could really cheat-treat hereditary hair loss.

You started at aged 16 experimenting in your kitchen lab, trying out pairings, combinations of extracts, one of them being burdock root which you still use to this day. What made you realize you were on to something?

I began to believe there was something here that was not in the alternative world of plant-based shampoo, not in the medicinal world, but something effective I could develop in between.

And that was the extract, the generic name for every client’s individual potion. How many ingredients go into it?

When I’m creating one ingredient, I’ve identified a little more than 200 constituents within that. Then I take away perhaps 190 of them, and use 10 constituents in the final ingredient. So I would say I use 10 major source ingredients delivering a couple of hundred constituents that go together, that speak to each other in synergy. They work in symphony. I figure out how they speak to one another, connect, and how one activates the other, making the other one more potent. Some also work very well as individuals. And then it’s how they interconnect with the type of shampoo we create, which is very different from normal shampoo.

We source our ingredients for the extract in many, many different countries where they have the proper soil and climate to cultivate the uniqueness of the constituent that we use in the products. So for example, if I create the burdock by a normal root extract, it will have a minimum of what I wanted. Given all my years of working with it, I needed it to be growing in a particular soil with a certain climate that changed over the year. There was one constituent from an apple that I identified 16 years ago, which then took seven-and-a-half years to extract safely from that particular type of apple, only to then learn that 40 hours later, it was dead. So then I had to develop a natural fatty acid to encapsulate those constituents, and also have them small enough to get into the follicle. Three-and-a-half years ago we began the trials and now it’s in everyone’s extract. So for me to test and make the decision for something to be in more or less everyone’s extract, that took 15 years.

Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

Wow. What about the styling products? What do they do?

I want to say that it’s not just important with the constituents and with the extract, but how it all works in complete symphony with the shampoo and with the hydration products. When I make a styling product, I make it the primary thing to care for the hair — the styling aspect is secondary.

How exactly do the products work?

It works by suppressing some of the things that on a daily basis are attacking the environment in the hair follicle and making the biome, the microbiome, both on the scalp and in the hair follicle less ideal. So optimizing conditions. First of all, creating the ideal circumstances (a clean and healthy scalp) and then knowing when to add something and then later, something else. We are constantly adjusting your extract throughout the life of your treatment. We do that to get the level of results we are looking for — we cannot get them by just making a standard skew for everyone. It’s literally customized. Every single constituent is made for you, which is why the touch point, the consultation, is essential for better success. We do online consultations — you post really good before and after photos online, and we can definitely still get you to a good place, sometimes even to the same place, but those we do not see in person won’t get to that exceptional level.

Harklinikken Weightless Conditioner
Harklinikken Weightless Conditioner

How do you want your clients to feel?

It’s a very important part of our integrity as a brand, and in building genuine brand equity by way of knowledge, to understand results but also the way our spaces look and feel when you walk in. As a client, it’s a safe haven where you are comfortable about sharing. I want you to come in and have confidence in this because I have and I want to show you that respect. I want to be consistently available to my clients. I learned a lot in the lab. I learned a lot from my studies. I learn much more in the clinic from my clients. I really want to come into a space where I feel completely and utterly at ease, comfortable, and so why would our clients expect less?

How does the client process work?

We have team members seeing clients on a daily basis from seven continents. We have around 100,000 active users, and have had maybe closer to double that over the last 32 years.

Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

How do people cope with the commitment to the product?

Some people stop the protocol for various reasons. A large proportion of people that discontinue maybe find it difficult to do things on a regular basis, not just this, it could also be their skin care or working out. Others might have different things happening in their lives, distracting them from where they really want to go. It’s not necessarily that they are bad at doing it, it’s just difficult for them to make it fit into their lifestyle.

It’s a lifelong commitment to optimizing conditions for your hair. But what you get is not the same — it’s constantly changing throughout the life of your journey with us. You know you can be consistent with brushing your teeth and caring even minimally for your skin, whether it’s simply to wash it or put some moisturizer on. If I ask you the importance of different things in your life — how important are your teeth, your skin, your hair, your vision, your clothing, your height, your weight?  Of all these things, most people put hair high up, many put it at number one. And then you ask yourself, why not then take care of it and keep caring.

What keeps you motivated and moving forward?

Sometimes you are transforming people from having been thinning for 30, 40 years. We could see a lady who might be late 70s, even early 80s, and we get her to a point of having more hair than she remembers having. When you see people that late in life and it’s been a very gradual thinning, we are giving them so much more than even we expected.  When that happens, which happens quite often, it becomes a life-changing event for that individual, but also a life changing moment for us.

What are your thoughts on transplants and pharmaceutical treatments?

Transplants definitely have a place, because if you have a completely bald area, perhaps on the crown, we can’t help that but we can improve the surrounding area, all the rest, so maybe you can consider doing hair transplantation over the bald area. That combination can sometimes go hand in glove. And some people that come to us are already on medication, Finasteride for example. If they’re already on it and don’t have any side effects we suggest they just make a decision before they get started with us to stay on it or not, because if they do want to get off it, we want to wait a month before starting so they get a new baseline.

Have you experienced any resistance or backlash from other players in the hair industry?

I’ve experienced a lot of interest in collaborations! And there’s always, I guess, resistance. I’m probably one of the most unpopular people in the hair industry in one area, in the way that I am very much against dry shampoo for example, that has absolutely nothing to do with shampoo. It just gives you the illusion of recently shampooed hair, but it can cause a lot of irritation to the scalp and things like that.

Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi
Lars Skjoth // 📸 : Reto Sterchi

Learn more about Harklinikken here

John is a world-renowned male model who has been the face of countless leading fashion houses. During his 36-year modeling career he has also moonlighted as an actor, writer, restauranteur, editor, and producer. He co-founded Mr Feelgood to provide a safe space for candid discussion and sharing ideas.

1 Comment

  1. Hi John,

    Regarding your article with Lars from Harklinikken.
    The product doesn’t work. Tried it and after six months of religiously following instructions and using all recommended products, I had ZERO hair growth.
    Just wanted to make comment.


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