For those with bouncing, lustrous locks it’s just a word… but if you’ve ever looked in dismay at strands in your brush, on your pillow, or swirling down your bathroom drain, you will understand the stark horror and embarrassment that a simple thing like ‘hair’ can cause.
“Hair is an emotional subject — and that is the first thing we have to understand before we begin any kind of treatment,” says Patricia Neptune, owner of the International Beauty and Wellness Day Spa & Trichology Clinic in Kantac Plaza, Arouca, Trinidad.
Patricia is one of the few certified trichologists in the Caribbean, and a member of the Caribbean Association of Professional Trichologists.
She was one of only a handful of Trinidadians who attended the Corrective Hairdressing and Advanced Haircare seminar in Barbados in 2001, where the study of trichology was formally introduced and discussed by hair care professionals from the United States.
Patricia has been involved with hairdressing, haircare and cosmetological treatments for over two decades; and in the field of trichology since 2001. When the company she worked at started downsizing, she began to look for what she really wanted to do, and did her first hairdressing course before leaving the company to open her own salon in 1992.
“My passion was always to help people — in fact, at one point I wanted to become a nurse,” she says. “But once I started in hairdressing, I realised there was a gap where people needed help the most. I was buying all the shampoos, conditioners and treatments on the market — but in many cases they couldn’t solve my clients’ problems.”
Then, in 2000, she first heard the word that she was barely able to pronounce: ‘trichology’.
Trichology — dermatology & much more
Trichology, originating from the Greek word ‘trikhos‘ meaning hair, is the scientific study of hair and scalp disorders. Beginning in Britain in the late 19th century, trichology is often considered as a ‘bridge between dermatology and cosmetology’, though it also involves some medical, nutritional and pharmacological sciences as well.
Trichology involves looking at hair loss problems in a holistic manner through evaluating one’s lifestyle, personal and medical history, genetic factors and environmental conditions. Based on an in-depth study of the client, a trichologist can suggest and/or implement individualised treatments for the condition, give nutritional advice and recommend changes to improve the problem.
Locally, the industry suffers not just from the scarcity of professional trichologists, but also from simple ignorance.
“In the early days, we did a lot of nationwide awareness roadshows,” Patricia reminisces. “The few of us partnered up, and we went to different communities, we begged for sponsorship to help with refreshments and rental of the facilities… and the place was always packed. There were so many people, especially women, searching for something — anything.”
Despite the demand from the public, even now she still finds that trichology lacks respect from doctors, dermatologists and other more recognised fields.
She remembers one incident, where she told a client to get her thyroid checked as it may be the cause of her hair loss.
“She called from her doctor’s office, to say: ‘The doctor want to know — how my hairdresser know that!’ ” laughs Patricia.
What to expect from your trichologist
Firstly, the initial encounter is not just “a quick chat with your hairdresser”, but a consultation, explains Patricia.
Despite operating out of a salon that also offers various hairdressing and beauty services as well, the realm of trichology is a professional service and bears the accompanying cost — which, though quite reasonable for a doctor’s visit, many may balk at to shell out for a talk with a ‘hairdresser’.
Your consultation will generally consist of an in-depth discussion to determine possible causes of your hair or scalp problem, a record of which will be kept in the trichologist’s records to track your progress. A general course of treatment and progress analysis may involve some or all of the following:
- A high-intensity magnifying scope, to examine scalp and hair follicles to determine whether there is miniturisation of hair follicles, scalp irritation, or other issues that the naked eye may not be able to see
- Electro-magnetic high frequency treatments to increase blood flow to the scalp and stimulate the hair follicles
- Routine examinations of the quantity of shedded hair over a specific period to determine progress
- A course of detox treatments (external), which helps to rid the body of environmental toxins that may be affecting hair loss
- Recommendation for a quarterly cleanse (internal) to rid nutritional toxins in the body
- Hair density testing to track progress by measuring the hair at the thickest point of your head to compare the ratio to thinning or balding spots
- Mineral analysis of a lock of hair (sent abroad to the U.S. to be tested in a lab), which gives much more information than a blood test can as hair does not ‘let go of anything’ the way blood replenishes itself
- Supplementation advice to correct nutritional deficiencies that may affect hair loss
- And, of course, a series of topical treatments at the trichologist’s salon, as well as recommended at-home products for aftercare
Product formulation & contribution to the field
After over two years of research, development, testing and working with a chemist to stabilise the formula, she is proud to finally be able to say she has her own product on the market, both locally and in the United States — Trichoceutical Formulations Scalp Therapy, a broad-spectrum product for all scalp disorders.
This is only the first of a series of products — she already has plans in the works for various others including shampoos, conditioners, scalp oils and moisturising treatments.
As Patricia explains, when you go into a retail store to buy a hair product, the attendant can only tell you if the product is selling quickly — whereas the trichologist, with any product they use, formulate, or buy to re-sell to a client, will be able to tell you not only ‘This working good; it’s the bomb!’ but also about the chemistry of the product and why it works.
In fact, you may be surprised to learn — some of those branded professional hair products you swear by, were actually created in a lab by none other than a trichologist!
While achieving her own formulation of a product has been a significant milestone in her career, for Patricia the true joy in her work comes from being able to help those that previously thought all hope was lost.
“People — women in particular, often can’t function if they do not feel confident about their hair,” she says. “It can keep them back from a relationship, a job, from properly enjoying their lives and being who they are meant to be. For me to be able to see a client come around and live a life that is more meaningful to them — that is where the passion lies.”
What You Need To Know
- An initial consultation with a local trichologist will cost you about TT$250-$350, which is also the average cost for a topical treatment. Most clients will need a series of topical application treatments as part of their full course of treatment.
- At Patricia’s International Beauty and Wellness Day Spa & Trichology Clinic, she offers other services such as facials, manicures, pedicures, and massages. Her most popular is the spa pedicure, which involves massaging of the whole foot from the knee down and the use of paraffin and hot towels — this will run you at about TT$120-200.
- Trichologists are not allowed to prescribe medication, but can recommend you to a doctor who can. They will also refer you to the relevant specialist if the problem is not something within their field of expertise, as Patricia has had to do for a young client with trichotillomania, the pulling out and sometimes eating of one’s own hair.
- While Patricia claims to have never yet seen a case that she thought was ‘impossible’, it’s important also to manage your expectations. Often, a ‘successful’ course of trichology-specific treatments can result not in the ‘growing back’ of hair you lost, but simply in keeping what you already have — hair loss gets progressively worse, so stopping this natural progression can be the best-case scenario for some persons.