Marrin Costello, an American businesswoman, designer, and brand architect, recently invited Dr. Ben Benham to participate in her weekly Apple podcast. While Costello was studying at UCLA, American Idol featured her jewelry collection. Costello’s collections have since been featured in Vogue, Huffington Post, In Style, and US Weekly, and she has become a recognized lifestyle influencer, style icon, and tastemaker. As an entrepreneur, Costello uses her podcast as a platform to share the stories behind the scenes of successful businesses. During the segment, Dr. Behnam, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Happy Head topical hair loss solutions, shared why Happy Head was founded, the company’s philosophies, and the secrets behind the start-up. In case you missed the podcast, here are some highlights.
Getting to Know Dr. Ben Behnam, Chief Medical Officer of Dermatology & Hair Restoration Specialists and Happy Head Hair Loss Formula Co-Founder
Costello: I’m so excited to have Dr. Ben on the show. Dr. Ben and Dr. Sean Behnam are dedicated hair loss and hair restoration specialists and are the founders of happyhead.com. Dr. Sean Behnam is a renowned board-certified hair transplant surgeon, and his practice specializes in hair loss, while Dr. Ben Behnam is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical hair loss management and medicine. Doctors Ben and Sean Benham are dedicated researchers, innovators, and mentors who have spent their professional lives focused on hair. Most importantly, they are artists. A great hair transplant requires detailed artistry. They spend the time designing a hairline that suits you. Their goals and philosophies revolve around providing the most artistic results and the highest quality care. Today we have half of the dynamic duo. Dr. Ben, thank you so much for coming to the show.
Costello: I just found out that you and Doctor Sean are not only brothers; you are twins. How did you guys know that you both wanted to go into medicine?
Dr. Ben: Well, we actually didn’t, believe it or not, but we figured that out mid-college, around the sophomore year. We ended up at different medical schools, which was kind of good and bad. When we grew up, twins weren’t separated, so we were always in the same school and classes. Going to different medical schools was a little bit daunting. But cell phones became available in early 2000, so we were always on the phone together and went to different residencies. Afterwards, Sean focused on hair, and I focused on dermatology. There’s quite a bit of overlap, so we decided to open our clinic together and named it Dermatology and Hair Restoration. Our practice has evolved over the last ten years, and we have been focusing more on hair. It’s really fun being in the same office. The best part is that I always have someone to count on when I have a question. When we have tough cases, we can discuss them, which is great because we’re bouncing ideas off of each other. Bringing our different educational backgrounds and experiences together really benefits our patients. They get two doctors rather than one.
Focusing on Innovation
Costello: What was your first experience in the workforce? How did you go from studying medicine to opening up your practice?
Dr. Ben: I worked with a good friend in Long Beach for about two years, and then Dr. Sean and I decided to establish our practice in Santa Monica. We slowly got busier and busier. We started doing procedures that were different than everyone else.
We were one of the first groups to start doing Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplants. During FUE, individual hair follicles are moved to areas where your hair is thin or missing to give a natural look. Traditionally hair transplants were done as a strip where you get a long scar. In 2008 and 2009, no one was doing the new advanced technique. We were one of the first groups to do it. In fact, when we first started, we could only get 100 hairs a day because the technology wasn’t advanced. That built a little buzz around us just because no one else knew how or was doing it. Over the years, we’ve been trying to advance our techniques. Our goal is to be the best of what we do. We are currently working on getting 3000 hairs in one day, which is unheard of in the US. We always try to think outside of the box.
Other things we are known for include:
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
Developed and use a technique that is more effective than traditional PRP treatments. Recently purchased equipment from France that allows us to do more PRP.
Stem cell transplants
We’re now one of the leaders in stem cell transplants in the country.
Hyperbaric oxygen chamber
We recently purchased a hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) chamber. HBO therapy is used after hair transplants to reduce postsurgical follicle shedding, folliculitis, and itching.
People from around the world fly in for hair restoration procedures.
Dr. Ben: Dedication, hard work, and staying focused led us to Happy Head. In 2017, we had a hair loss product in our office that worked very well compared to all the non-prescription hair serums on the market. We were testing it in our office between 2017 and 2019 and intended to launch Happy Head, but we were too busy to do it. As my wife says, it required the power of the pandemic to launch the website. The day the pandemic happened, we already had everything lined-up, ready to go. While we were shut down and at home, we launched the Happy website. It took about six months to really get things up and running and expand nationwide. When we started selling Happy Head, we gave people access to a product we had in our clinic that people otherwise would not be able to get. Patients can go online, have a consultation, get a prescription, and have the product delivered within two to three days. It’s difficult to touch a lot of people’s lives when you only have one clinic, yet with the power of telemedicine and Zoom, we were able to expand our reach and help boost a lot of people’s confidence. Many patients have contacted me to let me know that we changed their lives.
Developing Happy Head’s Formula
Costello: You mentioned that the Happy Head formula was already complete before the pandemic hit. How long did it take you to create the formula?
Dr. Ben: Happy Head’s formula is a prescription that has always been used in dermatology. Traditionally, people take oral Propecia for hair loss. At that time, nobody had commercially marketed a topical Propecia, also known as Finasteride. If you look at the literature, the first article published was back in 1996. No one bothered to look at the study, but some doctors were using a similar form of medication in their practice. Everyone had it, but nobody wanted to commercialize it and make it available nationwide. So we took a similar formula, read a lot of studies, and over about a two-year period, made the product more stable, less irritating, and a better formula by removing some ingredients and adding some others to it. It took us about two years of trial and error.
Understanding Happy Head’s Customers
Costello: Where do most of your sales come from?
Dr. Ben: We’re purely an online business. When people see results, we get a lot of word-of-mouth advertising. Many people with hair loss start by trying vitamins and over-the-counter serums that do not work. They then realize that they should try prescription medication. When we began Happy Head, only oral prescriptions were available, and many people were scared of oral hair loss medications. We were the only topical option in the market for a long time. When people started Googling us, we were the only ones that showed up in the U.S.
Giving Patients Access to Affordable Hair Loss Treatments
Costello: If someone doesn’t have the financial means to visit your practice to work with you individually, would Happy Head be a good place for them to start?
Dr. Ben: I think Happy Head is great place to start. Happy Head was launched to make prescription hair loss medications accessible and reduce costs. When you see a doctor in the office, you have to pay for the office visit and for the medication. With Happy Head, patients only pay for the product. We pay the doctor independently every time the doctor sees the patient. We streamline the process to make it accessible and affordable.
Juggling a Busy Dermatology Practice and the Happy Head Start-up at the Same Time
Costello: You launched Happy Head during the pandemic, and then things started opening up again. It sounds like you were seeing patients, and then you weren’t. You were able to focus on the website. What happens now that the world is open and now that you’re managing both?
Dr. Ben: During the pandemic, calls for hair transplants and hair loss skyrocketed. When we returned to the office, we were still very busy with our practice. I give my wife a lot of credit for Happy Head’s launch. She was responsible for the branding and creative. She put all of the pieces together. Once we had the website up and running, I would wake up at 4:00 a.m. to work on Happy Head. Our manufacturers and vendors are on the East Coast, and we had team members in the Philippines. I worked from 4 to 9 a.m. each morning, then went to the clinic to see my patients until five. After work, I would go home, be with my son, go to bed by 9 p.m., and start again at 4:00 a.m the next day. I did that for about almost a year to a year and a half. After that, the company was in a good place, and we could hand it off to our CEO, who now runs the company. We have grown exponentially since he has come on board. I’m currently the Chief Medical Officer responsible for making sure that our patients are doing well and expanding our product line. I’ve learned that companies like this do not grow because of one person. You need a group of people with a variety of talents.
Costello: What are some of the challenges that you and your brother have overcome in your practice?
Dr. Ben: We opened during the last recession which was in 2008. Starting a business during a recession is always tough because no one wants to lend money to you, and no one trusts you, especially at the beginning. We had quite a bit of a challenge growing because we’re a very small group. It took us many years to get larger.
We have a group of 1520 employees. We are fortunate to have the best people, but running the group is still challenging. Many doctors sell out and give up their packages to get proper equity because they don’t want to deal with the day-to-day challenges. Another challenge in the past two years has been costs. Our cost of everything has gone up dramatically. Gloves that used to cost $4 a box are now $20 a box. The cost of stem cells has gone up 25 percent.
Planning for the Future
Costello: What does the future look like for your practice and for Happy Head?
Dr. Ben: We direct a certain percentage of our gross income to technology every year. The investment allows us to experiment with new apps and software. It makes the process easy for patients when they can make an appointment, get text reminders, check out, and pay their bills online. We also believe that you always have to spend money on research. Research is the key to success in any business.
What makes Happy Head unique is that it’s customizable. Every other company in the world offers a one-size-fits-all solution. Nobody wants to offer customization because it’s so difficult. We took the hard approach, and I think it’s paying off. We’ll change ingredients for customers and ship out a new bottle within 48 hours. No other company will do that. The future of hair loss, I believe, is topical compared to oral solutions. However, the topical product will be genetically based. In the next five years, we will have improved genetic data. We will be able to customize the formula based on your genetic composition.
Access the Full Podcast
This recap is an excerpt of Dr. Behnam’s lively discussion with Marrin Costello. To hear the full version, tune in to Marrin Costello Radio Podcast Featuring Dr. Ben Behnam, Intentional Conversations with Impactul People.
For more information on Dr. Ben’s practice or to find out if Happy Head topical hair loss solution is right for you, visit us at happyhead.com for a free consultation.