Defining Trichology—The Study of Hair Loss

It’s devastating when hair falls out. Hair loss can leave embarrassing bald spots on our heads, crushing self-confidence and making us self-conscious. That’s where the field of trichology comes in.

Hair, while an evolutionary mechanism to keep us warm and help us cool off, has become central to our sense of style and even identity. Cutting and styling your hair to fit your particular head and face shape can just make you look and feel your best.

What Is Trichology?

Trichology is a paramedical science that studies and analyzes hair, hair loss, and scalp problems; the causes, effects, assessments, and treatments of diseases of the human hair and scalp.

The word originates from the Greek word trikhos, which means hair. Many view trichology as the link between cosmetology and dermatology, where cosmetology involves beautifying while dermatology is the branch of medicine concerning the skin.

Trichology aims to understand the reason behind why someone may be experiencing hair loss in order to treat it. Since that involves both the hair and the skin beneath it, and since it can either be a health or cosmetic issue, this science links the two professions.

What Is a Trichologist?

A trichologist is someone who specializes in problems of the hair and scalp, studying and treating ailments affecting these areas. Most of the time, they help patients regrow hair on their heads.

Since trichologists are paramedical professionals, they work with your doctor to make sure your treatment options are sufficient for your needs.

Trichologist Training and Education

Trichologists must attend an accredited trichology certification program, the most notable of which include the Institute of Trichologists and the World Trichology Society. There are several programs, but they all involve several months of classroom coursework, hands-on experience, exams, and mentorships.

Programs are at least six months long, although they can last longer over a year. The trichologist receives their certification and may start practicing upon completing the program.

When Should You Speak with a Trichologist?

Hair Loss/Bald Patches/Alopecia

Alopecia is any kind of hair loss that occurs in places where hair usually grows. One of the most common forms many men and women face—especially as they get older—is Androgenetic Alopecia, also called pattern baldness.

In men, pattern baldness starts when the hairline begins receding in a defined M-shape, often beginning above the temples. More than 50% of men over 50 will experience male pattern baldness. Many things can explain male pattern baldness, but excessive dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is often to blame. Women usually do not have a receding hairline when suffering from pattern baldness. Instead, the hair begins thinning, typically after menopause.

Hair Shedding

Some hair shedding is natural, as it’s the last of the hair growth phases. During this phase, you can shed up to 100 hairs a day for months at a time, but new hairs grow in to replace them. However, if large patches of hair fall off your head, you may be experiencing a temporary form of hair loss called telogen effluvium.

This condition can happen for a variety of reasons, the most common being excessive physical stress. Extra stress pushes more hairs into the telogen phase of hair growth, which then fall out when they move into the last stage. As a result, you may have thin hair or bald patches. Some stress events that may trigger telogen effluvium include childbirth, trauma/extreme stress, surgery, extreme weight loss, and certain medications.

Excessive Hair Growth in Women

Hirsutism is a condition in women that causes excessive growth of darker, coarser hair in areas typically only seen in men, such as the back, chest, chin, and upper lip. This condition occurs in women with an imbalance in the levels of androgens—primarily testosterone—in the body.

As for where this excess testosterone comes from: one of the most common causes is polycystic ovary syndrome. In rare cases, some other endocrine conditions (such as pituitary or thyroid issues) and medication side effects can cause an imbalance in hormones.

Hair Texture Issues

Everyone’s hair is different. However, some people might find that their hair’s texture is not as it usually feels, whether it be coarse, dry, or curlier than usual.

These changes in hair texture often occur because of the various stresses we put our hair through. For example, heavy use of heat (such as from blow-drying) while the hair is dry or using strong chemicals in your hair can alter the texture.

Scalp Problems

The scalp is a sensitive area that we unfortunately can’t see, making it a potential problem area on the body. Scalp disorders include minor issues like dandruff to more serious conditions like Psoriasis. 

These issues have a variety of causes. Some factors, like diet and stress levels, are more controllable. Others may be out of our control, such as genetics or required medications.

What Should You Expect at a Trichology Office?

In most cases, the trichologist will start by asking for your medical history, about your lifestyle, and specifics of your hair care routine. This information helps the trichologist determine what the issue might be and which treatment methods to pursue—or if you should see a physician.

Trichologists sometimes conduct hair analysis and may even order blood tests in some instances. Others use platelet-rich plasma (PRP) for treating hair loss. This procedure involves drawing blood from your arm, separating its components in a centrifuge, then injecting the platelet-rich plasma into your scalp. By doing this, you increase the supply of nutrients to the scalp to promote hair growth. Laser therapy for hair loss also shows promise in restoring hair, but further studies are being conducted to determine why and how it works.

Once they’ve figured out the exact hair loss treatment that’s best for you, they’ll recommend next steps—whether that be hair replacement options or over-the-counter products.

A Trichologist May Be Able to Help!

If you’re having problems with your hair or scalp, a trichologist may be worth a visit. You will, however, be better served by meeting with a board-certified dermatologist for a consultation.