The Natural Hair Industry sees its fair share of fads and quackery and of late, for the Nigerian Natural Hair Industry, because kpali (certification) is so very important to us, I have noticed that the new one is in Trichology. Here’s a post to help you make informed choices – whether you want to be a trichologist or consult with one.
A few years ago, when the Natural Hair industry began to grow in Nigeria, I thought I would go into Trichology. However, after going through an assessment of where my interests truly lay, I decided that it was in making cosmetics. I told a few friends about trichology and I watched as one person in particular went through the rigours of it.
She, being trained as a lawyer, had to re-educate herself by learning basic and sometimes advanced biology and chemistry in order to participate in and pass rigorous exams. She also travelled out of the country and did a clinical training under a certified trichologist before she could append the name Trichologist to her qualifications. That is what she is. A Trichologist. Her certificate does not bear a series of words that have the word Tricholoigist somewhere in the middle, thus creating the impression that she is a Trichologist as I see with some of the “certifications” that are out there now.
Why bother speaking about this? Because I think that we are receiving less than we deserve from the people that ought to know better. This “we” might be the well-meaning people who seek an education and are somehow lured into getting a quickie certification that end with a series of words that have the word Tricholoigist somewhere in the middle. This “we” might also mean their “clients” who turn to them as an authority to help with hair related illnesses only to receive less than stellar service. Victims at every corner.
So, what exactly is a Trichologist and how does one identify an actual one?
A lot of people like to refer to trichologists as “hair doctors”. In some way, due to the fact that it is a new-ish notion to most, it can help in creating an understanding of the term. In truth, trichology is a branch of dermatology that deals with the scientific study of healthy hair and scalp.
Trichologists don’t have to be dermatologists but can sometimes work with them, depending on the severity or nature of the case brought to them.
Where can you study Trichology?
The earliest known institute of Trichologists was founded in 1902 and this is the Institute of Trichologists which is based in the UK. Another popular one is the international Association of Trichologists based in Australia. They have the only university-developed trichology course. One other that I have heard about is the World Trichology Society. Most of these provide a 2-year (distance) learning option and then a clinical training for their students.
On the other hand, with the other condensed courses, there is, for example, an 8-week version. That is the total time. Research shows that some of these courses are interestingly self-described as “beginning foundation in Trichology study”. But then the people that go through the course call themselves Trichologists. I guess because they are issued a Certificate in Tricholgy. You have to admit that it is all rather confusing.
There is a company in Lagos that sells hair care products and retails them through supermarkets. I cannot tell you how many times, one of the sales people attached to them have approached me in the supermarket to say “I am a trichologist”. Once, when I decided not to roll my eyes and actually gave them a chance to speak to me, I found that it was nothing but what I suspected – a marketing gimmick designed to sell their products. The lady who took a quick look at my hair made up conditions I may be suffering from and quickly suggested some of their products which would “cure” them. I asked her a few questions and found that neither she nor her company were affiliated to any Trichology body and did not understand beyond the basic terms – Alopecia, Hair Loss, e.t.c what hair conditions a person could suffer from.
I mean, It is not enough to say that a customer has scarring alopecia, it should be narrowed down to what may have caused it. e.g. Lichen Planopilaris. Or stating that a woman has hair loss (which is usually fairly obvious) without linking it to a root cause e.g. Irregular periods. Or that certain hair conditions such as central centrifugal cicatrical alopecia (CCCA) can lead to an increased risk of developing fibroids. Yes, your visit to a trichologist can uncover possible indication of underlying disease/illness especially when additional laboratory analysis is ordered to pinpoint the root cause of the problem.
Trichology goes way beyond “use this shampoo or that conditioner”.
How do you determine who should be your trichologist?
An easy place to start would be asking for their professional affiliations. They need to be a part of an institute that require them to renew their membership periodically. Then go online and check to make sure that they are members. These groups usually have a list. Here is an example for IAT and WTS. See if you can find any Nigerians on the list.
You can also ask about where they got their Trichology education from. A quick google search will show if it was a quick course (not good) or one where they had to put in the hours to get their certificates.
Trichologists will take your history. They need it in order to determine where the problem is coming from. They will open a “file” for you much like in a hospital. If your trichologist doesn’t do this, that’s a red flag. Some clients might say “I have dandruff and (s)he can simply tell me what to do since they have treated several cases”. Not so. A trichologist KNOWS that what we call dandruff may actually not be dandruff and that the root cause (and thus treatment) for one person may not be the same as for someone else. They need to ask probing questions to determine that.
As with any professional, your doctor, dentist e.t.c, you need to do your research on your Trichologist.
Have you ever visited a trichologist? What was your experience with them?