Every time I am out at a party, inevitably someone will ask me what I do for a living. I say, “I am a trichologist,” which is invariably met with a blank, unknowing expression, to which I then have to provide an explanation. So to save you that conversation if we ever happen to meet, here’s everything you need to know about what a trichologist is and why you’d want to see one if you are experiencing hair loss.

What is a Trichologist?

A trichologist is someone who specializes in hair loss and scalp problems. There are many different types of hair loss and scalp issues and my job is to diagnose the problem, explain to the patient why it is occurring, and educate them on what they can do about it.

Chelcey Salinger specialises in hair loss and scalp problems in women and men.

My Training and History

I am a proud member of the International Association of Trichologists (IAT), which was founded as a non-profit Californian corporation almost 50 years ago. IAT has students, members and training clinics all over the world and I have had the pleasure of meeting many members when I lectured at IAT conferences in Brazil and Canada.

My father worked at the University of Southern California to develop the trichology course in 1974-75 under a large grant from the Redken Foundation, and it is this course that is used by IAT to train trichology students. (My grandfather was also a trichologist, so there must be something in the genes.)

Why Visit a Trichologist With Your Hair Problem?

A trichologist specializes in all the different types of hair loss and scalp problems. The benefits of seeing an IAT-trained trichologist rather than a general practitioner or dermatologist are:

1. The trichologist will have a much deeper and more specific knowledge of hair loss than most doctors or dermatologists.

2. You can normally get in to see a trichologist much more quickly than a dermatologist, and timely diagnosis and treatment is essential when it comes to hair loss.

3.  A trichologist will generally spend a lot longer with the patient than a dermatologist. Considerable time is often required to obtain all the relevant information and to get to the ‘root’ of the hair loss problem. Furthermore, a trichologist will have a trichoscope – something that is essential when examining the scalp.

What Happens in a Trichology Consultation?

Patients always fear the worst when it comes to hair loss so a big part of my job is to reassure the patient as much as possible that the hair can and will recover. The rare exception to this is where hair follicles have been destroyed. But in a high percentage of cases, the hair follicles are intact so the patient can be helped.

Sometimes, all I have to do is reassure the patient. So, for example, they might be suffering excessive hair loss as a result of a change in diet or a traumatic event. In such cases, I can reassure the patient that the rate of hair loss will return to normal after about three months (because of the phases of the hair growth cycle) and the hair will fully recover, with no treatment necessary. Or, in cases of sudden patches of hair loss (alopecia areata), analysis of the hair and scalp might indicate that the hair loss has stopped and there is plenty of new hair growing, so that therapy is not necessary. You can imagine how hair loss affects people – for some it can be devastating. Positive reassurance, when it is possible, can make a huge difference to the patient’s mental state and recovery.

A Holistic Approach to Hair

The wonderful thing about trichology is that it encompasses so many different fields. Part of my job is to refer patients to the appropriate specialist if I feel the problem needs the input of others. Referral can be to a general practitioner, endocrinologist, dermatologist, immunologist, psychotherapist or a hairpiece specialist, and we all work together to solve the problem.

One example that sticks in my mind is a 75-year-old female who suddenly developed genetic hair loss (thinning of hair on top and at the front of her scalp). Such loss can be triggered by sex hormone changes which, of course, are unusual in your 70s. So I contacted her doctor and asked her to run blood tests on the patient’s sex hormone levels. The doctor found high testosterone levels and, digging deeper, found the cause to be ovarian cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was in its early stages and, with therapy, the patient fully recovered.

This case indicates how hair loss can be the first sign of other medical or nutritional problems, and some medications used to treat health problems can also cause hair loss. That’s why it’s so important to take a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment.

Nutrition and Your Hair

Poor nutrition is the basis of so many problems – something we are discovering more and more – and I frequently use nutrition and supplements as part of my treatment programs. This is a cornerstone of therapy and is important for general health support.

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