If your goal is to have the healthiest-looking head of hair possible, chances are good you’ve enlisted the help of a few professionals. You only let your trusted stylist cut your locks, you can’t imagine anyone other than your colorist dyeing your precious dark brown hair, and you’ve even made an appointment with a doctor to make sure your health is in tip-top shape. While it may seem as though you’ve checked every box possible, you may be missing out on one crucial expert: a trichologist. Trichology is a branch of the medicinal and cosmetic study, research, and care of the human hair and scalp.
If you’ve never heard of a trichologist, fear not—you’re not the only one. Lucky for you, we’ve teamed up with Sophia Emmanuel, an International Association of Trichologists Certified Trichologist, hair stylist, and creator of the blog Crown Worthy, to get the scoop on everything you need to know about trichologists—including when it’s time to make an appointment with one.
What is trichology?
Trichology promotes the study, research and legitimate practice in all aspects of the treatment and care of the human hair and scalp in health and disease, According to the International Association of Trichologists, a trichologist is someone who is certified to help people who have problems with their scalp and hair.
What is the difference between a trichologist and a dermatologist?
In matters of the hair and scalp, trichology and dermatology often cross paths. However, there are significant differences between the two practices. Most importantly, dermatologists are medical doctors who specialize in the physiology and pathology of the skin. It requires years of schooling to become a dermatologist during which they will learn many things about the body in general as well as the ins and outs of skincare—including your scalp. On the other hand, anyone interested in trichology can take a course and become a certified trichologist in just a few months. Which means anyone—even you—can become a certified trichologist if there’s a passion for scalp and hair care.
“Think of a trichologist as a hair and scalp detective,” Emmanuel explains.
Much like a real detective, they search for factors that may be the cause of your scalp and hair trouble such as hair loss patterns, diet, nutrition, medical history, and genetics. Then, they recommend the best course of action, which may even include consulting a dermatologist.
While a trichologist may have spent more time studying scalp and hair issues, there are still many scalp and hair issues that only a dermatologist is equipped to handle.
“The scalp can display serious medical problems that are not within the scope of trichology. Lesions on the scalp as well as on other parts of the body, skin discoloration, ringworm, and pimples with puss coming out are examples of problems dermatologists have to help with,” Emmanuel says.
Even though a trichologist can help you identify some of these issues, ultimately only a licensed doctor can perform medical procedures or prescribe medicine.
“Dermatologists can diagnose disorders, do biopsies, take insurance, and administer other in-office treatments that help with scalp disorders such as steroid injections, platelet-rich-plasma therapy,” Emmanuel continues. “A trichologist cannot do these things because they are not licensed to do so.”
If you make an appointment with a trichologist, understand that you may have to make a follow-up appointment with a dermatologist. If you decide to go straight to a dermatologist, Emmanuel suggests looking for a doctor who specializes in hair and scalp disorders. Dermatologists who specialize in scalp and hair care are sure to be up to date on the latest scalp and hair treatment available.
How does one become a certified trichologist?
There are several programs available for people who are interested in becoming a certified trichologist. Emmanuel is certified through the International Association of Trichology. Much like choosing a med school, you will need to do extensive research to make sure you find the best program for you. Some courses are offered online while others are only available to doctors or licensed cosmetologist. Whichever course you settle on, Emmanuel recommends looking for a well-rounded program.
“Find a program that will give you the academics and hands-on experience to become knowledgeable about hair and scalp disorders,” she says.
What tools does a trichologist use?
Unless your trichologist is also a doctor, they won’t be able to diagnose you with a disorder or prescribe you medicine. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have tools at their disposal to help figure out what’s going on with your hair and scalp. Emmanuel says tools will vary from trichologist to trichologist, but almost everyone will have a digital microscope.
The digital microscope gives your trichologist a magnified view of your scalp, allowing them to take a closer look at you hair strands and follicles. This will allow them to compare your scalp, follicles, and strands. While a digital microscope has its uses, your blood can play a role in helping a trichologist understand what's going on with your scalp. Some may even recommend over the counter supplements and topical solutions.
Does everyone need to see a trichologist?
While we're sticklers for taking all of your hair care woes straight to a professional stylist, not everyone needs to schedule an appointment with trichologist. You only need to make an appointment if you’re experiencing an issue with your scalp or hair.
“Some symptoms to look out for are excessive itching, burning, tingling, soreness of the scalp, bald patches, or thinning hair,” Emmanuel says. “The earlier you come in...the better the chance you have of finding a solution.”
If you aren’t experiencing any unusual issues with your hair and scalp, your regular visits to the hair salon should be all you need to keep your hair looking and feeling its best.
Interested in personalized advice about scalp care and hair loss? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.