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The things that can cause hair loss – genetics, toxins, medications, illnesses, grooming techniques, stress, and mental illness – illustrate how multifactorial hair loss can be. And, it shows us how some medical as well as non-medical specialists (such as your hair stylist), may not have the best qualifications to diagnose thinning hair or provide hair loss solutions.
This is what gave rise to trichology, a para-medical approach to hair and scalp health. Trichologists, the practitioners of trichology, study diseases of hair and scalp, provide assessments of the cause, and make referrals to other health professions or offer treatments for hair loss that they are qualified to give. Some consider it the bridge between dermatology and cosmetology.
Consider the importance of seeing hair as a part of one’s broader health. Some individuals with long-haul COVID-19 symptoms are reporting hair loss. Technically, it’s “hair shedding” which sometimes follows extended periods of high fever. This might happen with clumps of hair falling out two or three months after the acute stage of the illness.
Trichologists report that fever-induced hair loss is a temporary condition, although it can last for several months.
What are trichology qualifications?
Trichologists who have specialized training and are recognized by state boards and might belong to the International Association of Trichologists or the World Trichology Society. The first such organization was created in Great Britain in 1902, a time when hair loss and hygiene achieved greater prominence in society.
To become a certified trichologist, a practitioner needs to complete academic coursework that spans six to 12 months or more (some programs take less time and are consequently held in lower regard). They also receive practical hands-on training with a practicing trichologist. Exams and mentorships are also part of the certification process.
Trichologists do not have the qualifications of dermatologists, as the latter of these are board certified medical doctors. But because the focus of trichology is on hair to a more thorough degree, they will know when to refer a patient to a dermatologist and when other treatment options might make better sense.
What can a trichologist do for people with hair loss?
Almost everyone experiences hair loss during their lives, some younger than others. But often it’s a rapid onset of hair loss that motivates people – male, female, non-binary – to seek an explanation for it, to identify the cause, and to search for a solution to stop and possibly reverse the loss.
It might just be a matter of genetically driven androgenic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern baldness (women experience androgenic alopecia, which involves testosterone, but female hair loss is generalized across the scalp as opposed to the selective pattern more typically seen in men). But very often, there can be other causes where hair loss is a symptom and not the base problem.
For example, the trichologist will look closely at such things as hair breakage, scalp oiliness, and for the presence of scalp psoriasis. Psychological factors such as stress, or if the patient suffers from trichotillomania (obsessive hair pulling, a psychological disorder), are in the purview of this profession.
Trichology patients are quizzed on broader health issues, such as the presence of coronary heart disease, prostate enlargement, diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome, menstruation cycles, acne, and weight gain or loss. Certain medications, including chemotherapy, are associated with hair loss.
As mentioned earlier, a physician referral might well be the recommendation by the trichologist. But they are also able to prescribe nutritional supplements, scalp therapy products, low-level laser therapy, and over-the-counter medications (e.g., minoxidil).