"I've more than regained my hair,” the star tells PEOPLE exclusively. "It's healthier than it's ever been."

Throughout the three decades that Ricki Lake struggled with hair loss, she was desperate to find a solution. "You name it, I put it on my scalp," Lake tells PEOPLE in this week's issue, opening up about her "painful" journey for the first time since she shaved her head a year ago.

She used Rogaine, prescription medications, supplements, topical treatments, Propecia, steroid injections and PRP therapy (injecting your own plasma into your scalp to encourage hair growth). Nothing worked. To hide the thinning, she resorted to wearing extensions and a hair piece for five years.

Eventually, the 52-year-old documentary filmmaker had enough of suffering in silence and decided to shave her head, a move that helped her find self-acceptance with her appearance.

"I think it looked good," she said of her buzzed look.

ricki lake shaved head
Credit: Courtesy Ricki Lake

So Lake was cautiously optimistic in February of 2020, when a friend recommended Harklinikken, the Danish-born clinic that specializes in customized hair-restoration treatments. (Celebrity hairstylists like Chris McMillan, Harry Josh, and Tracey Cunningham are known to recommend Harklinikken to their star clients.). She went to the Beverly Hills location (they also have clinics in New York City and Tampa) and was diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia, a genetic condition which causes gradual thinning.

"The constant teasing and dyeing Ricki's hair endured at the beginning of her career created structural damage to her hair," explains Harklinikken founder and head of research and development, Lars Skjoth. "But the type of thinning she had over time was due to hereditary causes."

Before Skjoth could put Lake on his program he had to address her scalp, which in addition to having permanent scaring from years of extensions and pieces, was red and irritated from all of the treatments she had tried. He instructed her to use Nizoral, an over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoo, to prep her head for treatment and improve her regrowth.

RELATED: Ricki Lake Reveals She Shaved Head as She Opens Up About Hair Loss: 'I Am So Done with Hiding'

Once she got the go ahead, Lake began the strict Harklinikken regimen which includes twice daily applications of a customized extract made with proprietary ingredients that contain no artificial colors, perfumes, petrochemicals or paraben and helps stimulate dormant hair follicles and using specific Harklinikken shampoo, conditioner and styling products.

After a few weeks, Lake noticed that her scalp felt healthier and she had some regrowth. Within three months, she had enough hair to run her fingers through. "The difference was night and day," she says. "It not just the density, it's the quality of my hair."

For more about Lake's hair loss and the treatment that helped her, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now.

Ricki lake
Credit: Ramona Rosales

According to Skjoth, Ricki's results are not unusual (Harlinikken reports over 100,000 referrals from satisfied clients). He attributes the protocol's success to both the individualized formula (each one is made by hand) and strict adherence to the instructions. "Every single person we put on the regimen will see growth if they are compliant," he says. 

To book a consultation at a Harklinikken location or for an online consultation, visit harklinikken.com.