Add this word to your vocabulary: trichology. It’s the study of scalps and hair, and how they relate to one another. Trichologists specialize in the root cause of hair loss, since, not surprisingly, it all starts right there in the scalp. I always use the metaphor of soil and plants: You need fertile, nourished soil in order for plants to grow strong. (OK, sun usually helps, too, but spare me the finer details.) If the soil is subpar—either there is a dearth of nutrients, or it’s simply an uninhabitable patch of land—then the plants will die, if they even grew in the first place. It’s important to think of your hair growth the same way. Just as any number of issues could cause the soil to go south, the same can happen with scalp health.
I’ll be the first to admit that, when I talk about my own hair loss experience with readers and friends, I’m quick to suggest medical remedies as a way to thwart hormonal assault on your follicles, and to boost nutrient delivery. Yes, these and other hair loss prevention methods work, but it can frequently be mitigated by any number of tactics, says trichologist Bridgette Hill. She’s the founder of Root Cause Scalp Analysis, a scalp therapy platform that helps clients fully understand their own unique variables affecting hair loss.
“A lot of men simplify [to finasteride and minoxidil], but there are so many lifestyle changes, as well as holistic and plant-based solutions out there that can help you,” Hill says. “Many men want to think it’s genetic hair loss, but it could be an overbuilding of proteins from their workout regimens. Sometimes it’s inflammation from over-shampooing. A lot of times, you can end up doing more damage when you treat androgenic hair loss with [prescriptions], when you could just treat it holistically.”
Read on for a little more insight into how trichology might help you understand the correlation between your own scalp and hair health, plus a few other ways brands are getting into scalp care.
What does a trichologist do?
“Trichologists are the bridge between cosmetology and dermatology,” says Hill. Again, no two hair loss experiences are the same, and that’s because you have to factor in things like geographic location, gender, medical history, ethnicity, age, lifestyle and habits, nutrient deficiencies, stress and anxiety, grooming products, and (believe it or not), much more. A cosmetologist might look at the surface, or only focus on the hair, while a dermatologist might jump right to the medical and anatomical stuff, oftentimes relying only on prescriptions.
“Trichologists ask a series of strategic questions that help us respond to [hair loss] triggers,” Hill says. “Doctors might take a biopsy and define it in general terms, like ‘this is dermatitis or folliculitis’ and leave it at that. But hair loss is very personal. It’s one thing to blame, let’s say, diabetes, for hair loss, but what medication are you taking? Your medications might be creating inefficiencies in your minerals and vitamins that would otherwise help [the hair follicles and scalp].”
So, consider adding this to your roster of routine health screenings: a visit to the trichologist (many, like Hill, have transitioned to digital consultations this past year). Even if everything seems balanced and healthy, a trichologist can help build a plan that will get ahead of future hair loss problems.
How can I care for my scalp regularly?
Here are four ways you can prioritize scalp health on your own—even if hair loss isn’t a primary concern.
1. Get the right nutrients, but not an overdose: More brands are making scalp- and follicle-fortifying supplements that take a natural, plant-based approach. In the case of Prose, the aim is to cut back the reliance on medicines, and provide consumers with exactly the amount of nutrients needed. You can also prioritize a balanced diet centered on Vitamins A, B, C, and E (leafy greens, sweet potatoes, berries, nuts), fatty acids (nuts, avocadoes, fish), proteins (eggs, nuts, beans), among other natural, whole foods.
Prose “Root Source” scalp and hair supplements
2. Scrub a dub dub: Scalp exfoliation might seem counterproductive: Wait, so you scrub the scalp over and over in order to promote hair retention? Sure, you might lose a few hairs in the process (ones that were bound to fall later that day, before restarting their growth cycles), but doing this scrub also stimulates nutrient delivery to your scalp and hair follicles. It even clears the scalp of dead skin cells, excess dirt and grime, as well as product accumulation. This allows follicles to grow stronger and uninhibited, while also mitigating fungal breakouts and flaking. And if you prefer a topical scrub (versus a physical brush), the product might even contain scalp-balancing ingredients like tea tree oil. But it’s important to note that you should only scrub 1-2 time weekly, max.
3. Do a weekly scalp treatment: At-home scalp therapies can range from leave-on masks to rinse-away treatments, but they all have a similar aim: To neutralize bacterial and fungal buildup, and deliver a high concentration of nourishment to the scalp and hair follicles, often while promoting circulation. Some might prioritize dry-scalp revival, while others may mitigate excessive oil production.
Briogeo charcoal and tea tree scalp treatment for dry, itchy scalps
Jupiter leave-in scalp treatment for oily, itchy, flaky scalps
4. Blow dry less often, and at cooler settings: The heat from a blow dryer is not just damaging to your hair; it can also wilt the follicles themselves. There’s no recovering from that kind of frying, so keep the dryer on cool, if you must, and pick up an ionic dryer, which causes less damage to hairs. (Oh, and take milder showers, while you’re at it.)