How to Become a Trichologist
Trichology is the study, science, and treatment of the hair and scalp. According to the World Trichology Society, the specialty is “the bridge between cosmetology and dermatology.” Keep reading to learn about this unique and in-demand specialty. Plus, hear from one of the world’s most influential and renowned trichologists to find out how to become a trichologist, what you can expect from a career in the field, and where it can lead.
What does a Trichologist Do?
If a dermatologist or cosmetologist notices issues with a client’s hair, they might refer them to a trichologist. These issues may include thinning of their hair, a flaky or scaly scalp, lesions or pimples, inflammation, damaged follicles, or otherwise worrisome signs.
Trichologists can perform analyses and treatments cosmetologists or dermatologists might not be trained to do. A trichologist may be called upon to work with clients experiencing alopecia, trichotillomania, and other ailments that can lead to hair loss, as well as standard male pattern baldness and female hair loss.
As opposed to dermatologists, trichologists spend more time evaluating patients and tend to focus on holistic care. They may prescribe treatment options, which include, but aren’t limited to, steroid shots, topical sensitizers, and hypnotherapy. They use traditional medicines like minoxidil, perform low-level laser therapy, and partner with medical doctors to conduct blood tests and suggest medical treatments. According to the National Institutes of Health, trichologists sometimes work with oncologists to develop treatment plans for patients suffering from cancer-related hair loss, like patients with alopecia caused by cancer.
Because of his standing in the field, Dr. David H. Kingsley, president of the World Trichology Society and the only doctor in the U.S. to hold a Ph.D. in hair-loss research, is sought after by foreign dignitaries and celebrity actors, actresses, and musicians. But when asked what he likes most about his career, Dr. Kingsley replied, “It might sound like a cliche, but helping people. Understanding the reasons why a person is losing hair and the impact on the patient—having someone understand why he/she is losing hair and what treatments they need to improve their condition—is very satisfying.”
Steps to Becoming a Trichologist
States don’t issue licenses to trichologists as they do to cosmetologists and medical estheticians. To work as a trichologist, however, you must earn a professional certification. Before outlining the steps required to become one, it’s important to note that most trichologists apply their specialty training in a related field like hair design or esthetics. Many others, however, incorporate trichology into much broader and comprehensive medical training.
“I was interested in biology at school and some family members were trichologists, so it was a natural progression,” said Dr. Kingsley. “I received my bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. after I became a trichologist. It took me 13 years to complete as I was working full-time and had a family to look after.”
The hard work paid off.
“Getting my Ph.D. changed the way many physicians viewed me,” Dr. Kingsley said. “I started incorporating more para-medical aspects into my practice such as suggested blood tests, etc.”
What started as a basic trichology certification led to his current status as a global leader in the field.
“I trained in the U.K. with the Institute of Trichologists,” he said. “Subsequently, I co-founded the World Trichology Society in the U.S.A. to try and improve the education of trichologists in North America.”
Whether your goal is to earn a doctorate or begin work in a salon or medical office, the initial steps are the same:
1. Choose a career field
As previously stated, most trichologists apply their training to specific paths, like cosmetology or medicine. You might want to work in a salon or spa, dermatologist’s office, or hair restoration clinic.
2. Choose your type of certification
Most programs offer a variety of certifications depending on your career goals and specialty of choice. Associate certifications, for example, are good for aspiring stylists or those who plan to work in hair restoration clinics. Clinical certification, which often takes longer and requires an observation or residency experience, is for those who plan to focus on medicine. There are several other certification options, as well.
3. Select a trichology certification program
According to Modern Salon, the International Association of Trichologists and the World Trichology Society administer the two most respected training and certification programs in the U.S. However, many other organizations, like the U.S. Trichology Institute, offer programs of their own. You can usually do much of the learning online, but training should take at least six months and might last a year or more. Be suspicious of programs that promise certification in a few weeks.
4. Complete the program
After thorough research, enroll in your program and complete all required academic coursework, hands-on training, and exams to receive certification.
5. Join a professional organization
If you become a member of one of the previously mentioned industry groups, you can immediately begin networking with members. This may allow you to search for job openings, find out about additional certifications, and attend their conferences and events.
Meet the Expert
Dr. David H. Kingsley
Dr. David H. Kingsley is the president of the World Trichology Society. He’s the only trichologist in the world who is a member of both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Hair Research Society, as well as the only trichologist in North America with a Ph.D. in hair-loss research. He qualified as a certified trichologist in 1980 and attained his doctorate through the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. Dr. Kingsley has published many medical papers, presented his work on hair loss treatments at medical conferences, and authored the award-winning book “The Hair-Loss Cure: A Self-Help Guide.”