Trichology 101

In the past few years the art of Trichology has been upending the hair industry. Trichology is a practice based on ancient medicine that posits that healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. Hair companies around the globe are finally figuring this out and itching to release products that follow the tenants of this science. This month we’re taking a look at some of the basics 

What is Trichology?
Trichology is a set of cosmetology services that promotes healthier hair growth. It is not a medical service, nor a newly developed study. In fact, it is a 110 year old practice that was first introduced by The Institute of Trichologists in London. The Institute defines trichology as “the science of the structure, function and diseases of the human hair.” It goes on to say, “Clinical trichology is the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the human hair and scalp.”

If you read just this definition you may mistake it for a medical service which only licensed doctors can perform. In reality, it is an unregulated wellness service that can be preformed by almost anyone, provided they have some level of training. Ideally, the treatment would be provided as a part of a cosmetology service.

When trichology was first introduced, a group of doctors, scientists and cos-metologists foresaw it as a separate medical specialty. But since the study of the hair and scalp overlaps with the study of dermatology, it failed to get recognized as such. In 1972, with the help of Dr. David Salinger, the University of Southern California reviewed studies of trichology but came to a similar conclusion.

Despite this disappointing outcome, The Institute of Trichologists continues to train trichologists, and many well-trained trichologists are providing professional services throughout the world. Some work side by side with dermatologists, and others are operating their own non-medical clinics. Trichology rests in a liminal space, not classified as medical nor purely cosmetic. It is partially due to this lack of classification that trichology has not attained popularity.

Birth of Herbal Trichology
The lack of interest changed about 10 years ago; trichology was introduced in Asia, specifically Korea and Japan, countries well known for their herbal medicines and treatments. Their traditional medicine, which combines herbal extracts, acupuncture and therapeutic massages (Jihop), has been proven over several thousand years of practice. In fact, large numbers of modern drugs have been developed based on their traditional medicine.

Asian scholars and cosmetologists saw the potential of trichology and began incorporating the conventionally developed trichology of the UK with Asian traditional therapy. The result was explosive. Within the first 3 years more than 25,000 trichology centers opened in Korea alone, and the numbers are still grow-ing rapidly. Service fees range from $50 to about $150 for a 1-hour session, and millions of consumers visit these trichology centers regularly.

As the demand for trichology services grows, medical clinics have been pressured into providing trichology service. It has became a popular treatment at most dermatologists’ offices but with much larger price tags.

What Triggered Its Success?
“I think it is mostly because academia and the beauty industry worked hand in hand from the beginning. These sound infrastructures helped generate a large number of well trained trichologists in a relatively short period of time and developing scientific theories and reliable products at the university level, in cooperation with corporate,” said Professor Noh Young-hee at Konyang University, the school that pioneered Medical-beauty, incorporating medical aspects into beauty culture.

During the past decade, Noh and a number of scholars have published more than 70 books on trichology. The study of trichology is now included as a part of cosmetology studies in more than 140 colleges and Universities in Korea alone, including the private institutions. There are thousands of new trichologists entering the market each year.

In addition to the strong support of academia, the scientists who studied traditional medicine made a huge impact when they merged the modern science of trichology with the benefits of the herbal science from Asia. Fueled by the enthusiastic consumers, and with a proven track record, the herbal trichology service is likely to spread like wild fire into North America and Europe.

Opportunities and Challenges
When considering the potential to generate tens of thousands of new jobs and bringing more clients to salons, the herbal trichology industry clearly offers a great deal of opportunities for many. At the same time, it poses challenges to the quality of its services. Since it is not regulated by government agencies, anyone can claim to be a trichologist and offer services. Untrained trichologists with poor skills can easily discredit the benefit of herbal trichology.

Renowned trichologist and educator, Dr. David Kingsley, at the World Trichology Society, welcomes this new movement while emphasizing the importance of the proper training to maintain the positive reputation of the trichology service itself. In anticipation of this potential boom, he has recently written a comprehensive textbook on trichology and formed an organization to provide continuing education for trichologists.

The scholars who developed herbal trichology share the same concerns and are preparing to launch their own nationwide training program. Their program will incorporate hands-on training and online classes. Unlike the conventional trichol-ogy training program that takes years to complete, this new training program is simplified and shortened. An average student can complete the entire course in less than 3 months, and licensed cosmetologists can complete the course in a matter of days or weeks since their cosmetology courses include anatomy and biology.Regardless of the many challenges, Tressential, a Maryland company that is leading the way in Herbal trichology in the US, Simon trichology, based in Spain, and the Alès Group USA, the manufacturer of Phyto brand all expect that the trichology industry will experience dynamic growth.