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Becon's scalp scanner forces you to confront hair loss head-on

The startup is part of Samsung's C-Lab program.
Nick Summers, @nisummers
January 7, 2020
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To quote the great Thanos: "Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives." Like so many others, I don't want to think about whether my hair is thinning. For now, I'm happy to put my head in the sand (not literally) and pretend the problem doesn't exist. A startup called Becon takes a different view, though. The team, which is part of Samsung's C-Lab program, believes it's better to tackle the problem head on (no pun intended) and track your scalp meticulously. With the right data, they argue, you can identify the root cause (geez, so many puns) and possibly slow the hair loss process.

Becon's solution is designed for people who are too embarrassed to see a specialist. It comes in two parts -- a handheld device that peeks at your hair, and a companion app that offers hopefully relevant advice.

I was given a brief demo of the product at CES 2020. A company spokesperson connected the Becon to a nearby Android smartphone over WiFi. He then tapped the app's floating action button, chose "scalp analysis" and took a reading near my crown. The Becon has three core components -- a camera, temperature and humidity sensor, and gas-measuring TVOC (Total Volatile Organic Compounds) sensor -- that work in tandem to assess your head. They collectively broke my hair health down into 10 attributes including follicle density, dead skin, and scalp sensitivity.

Apparently, I have the scalp age of a 21-year-old! (In reality, I'm 29.)

Becon

Were the readings accurate? I couldn't tell you, as I'm not a trained trichologist. It struck me as strange, though, that the Becon was making judgements about my entire noggin based on a tiny portion of hair. A company spokesperson said it was best to take three readings at slightly different locations. But again, is that enough reference data? I'm not sure.

At the end of my hair report, the app recommended products -- mostly shampoo, in my case -- that were apparently personalized to my individual needs. Each bottle had a "score" to represent their suitability and I could tap through for a full breakdown of helpful and harmful ingredients.

Becon doesn't know when its handheld device will be ready for store shelves. There's no word on pricing, either, though a spokesperson guessed it would be somewhere around $100. Is the product worth your time, or technological snake oil? I'm pulling my hair out trying to decide, which is probably a bad idea if I want to keep that 21-year-old scalp score intact...

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