A trichologist is a specialist who focuses on trichology — the study of diseases or problems related to the hair and scalp, as well as their treatments.
Trichology takes its name from the Greek word Trikhos, which means hair. Though trichologists are not doctors, they can advise people who are having hair-related problems, such as hair loss or scalp conditions.
What Does a Trichologist Do?
Specialists working in this field help people with issues such as hair loss, hair breakage, oily scalp, and scalp psoriasis. Some trichologists can also treat problems related to conditions like alopecia and trichotillomania, or hair-pulling disorder.
Trichologists examine the hair and scalp to diagnose and recommend treatment for your condition and its severity.
However, since they’re not physicians, they cannot prescribe drugs or perform medical or surgical procedures.
Education and Training
Trichologists must get specialized training to become licensed to treat hair and scalp conditions.
The process includes several steps and will vary based on the type of certification the trichologist gets, but all certifications require:
- Academic coursework
- Hands-on training
- Observations and mentorships
Training lasts from 6 months to a year or more, although there are less well-regarded programs that promise certifications in a few weeks.
Once certified through a program accredited by a state board, trichologists often join a professional organization related to the field like the International Association of Trichologists or the World Trichology Society.
Reasons to See a Trichologist
Trichologists treat a wide range of hair and scalp conditions:
Male and Female Hair Loss (Pattern Baldness)
Pattern baldness is a common form of hair loss, or alopecia, in men and women. For men, hair is lost in a well-defined pattern, starting above both temples, eventually receding to form a characteristic “M” shape. Women are more likely to experience overall hair thinning without a receding hairline.
In addition to the emotional aspects of hair loss, pattern baldness in men has been associated with several serious medical conditions, including coronary heart disease, enlargement of the prostate, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Hair loss in women is associated with an elevated risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that can cause irregular menstruation, acne, and weight gain.
Hair shedding, or telogen effluvium, occurs when large sections of hair fall detach from the scalp. This can be caused by several conditions, including stress, surgery, high fevers, blood loss, hormonal change, and childbirth. Hair shedding is a common side effect of some chemotherapy drugs.
If you’re experiencing hair shedding, a trichologist might be a good place to start. They should be able to direct you to a physician who can help you with underlying conditions.
Scarring alopecia is a condition where hair follicles are destroyed, which leads to irreversible hair loss. A trichologist may be able to help you treat this condition. If scarring alopecia is treated early, patients can sometimes regrow hair. In other cases, the hair loss is permanent.
Scarring alopecia is caused by inflammatory disorders, chemicals like hair relaxers, and several fungal conditions.
Excessive Hair Growth in Women
Women who experience excessive hair growth, or hirsutism, may notice excess hair growth on their body or face. Often, women experience hair growth in places where men typically have hair, but women don’t, including the upper lip, chin, chest, and back. Hirsutism is caused by an excess of the male hormone androgen.
PCOS often causes hirsutism in women. It can also result from disorders of the pituitary, adrenal, or thyroid gland or medication side effects. A trichologist may be able to treat the condition or help guide you to the right physician to get a diagnosis, depending on its root cause.
What to Expect at the Trichologist
When you visit a trichologist, you can expect a thorough examination of your hair and scalp.
The trichologist may ask you several questions about your medical history, nutrition, lifestyle, and hair care routine. Your answers can help the trichologist determine how to treat you or whether they should refer you to a different specialist or to a physician.
Trichologists sometimes conduct hair analysis to check for structural damage or the presence of a lice or fungal infection.
Occasionally, trichologists will request a blood test from your primary care physician.
Once the trichologist arrives at a diagnosis, they will recommend the next best step. This could include:
- A referral to another professional, specialist, or primary care physician
- Topical creams or lotions
- Nutrition advice
- A mental healthcare professional if your condition seems stress-related