More and more younger Koreans are seeking treatment for hair loss every year, and now the race is on among clinics to offer cheaper treatments amid skyrocketing inflation.
According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of people in their 20s and 30s who are treated for hair loss increased from 95,469 in 2017 to 104,104 last year, accounting for a whopping 43 percent of all patients.
Clinics in Jongno and Gangnam in Seoul and Bundang in Gyeonggi Province are busy every weekend, and online chatrooms are full of first-hand information about the cheapest treatment and where to find it.
Treatment pills have to be taken every day but cost a lot of money that college students and young jobseekers can ill afford.
Dermatology clinics typically prescribe original medicines or generics for a course of one to three months. But some clinics that target younger hair-loss patients prescribe them for as long as six months or even a year. Special offers range from W500 to W1,600 per pill to let patients choose which one fits their budget (US$1=W1,304).
During a visit to a clinic in Jongno, a 30-something office worker was prescribed a six-month treatment for about W100,000.
"As soon as I sat down, the dermatologist asked about my choice of pill without even looking at the scalp where I'm losing hair," he said. "I told him of the pill I had found online earlier. It only took five minutes."
But doctors advise against prescriptions for a large quantity of pills for long-term treatment. Prof. Kwon Oh-sang at Seoul National University Hospital said, "Patients should be aware of possible side effects. They should be careful when taking certain pills on a long-term basis and consult with their doctors."