Why is our hair the way it is? What makes it so different from the next person and why does it change as we grow older? I started in hairdressing as a 16-year-old, and from my first few months in this profession I was fascinated by the science of hair. After all, if I was going to be selling lotions and potions, I wanted to sure they were authentic.
I always tend to question why things are the way they are, and if there’s anything I can do to improve matters. I’m curious about how things work, why they work…and, crucially, if they work!
Over the past 25 years (a quarter of a century! Where has that gone?) I reckon I’ve cut and styled about 70,000 heads of hair. Now, either I’m getting more clients of a certain age or I’m just more switched on to them, but the question so many are asking is much the same: “Why is my hair is falling out?”
Very good question. Of course I understood about natural hair cycles but in many cases some of those rules clearly didn’t apply. So I promised I’d try to find out.
So, on a mission to find answers, I signed up to a trichology foundation degree. When I mention this to people their first question is: “Did you say psychologist?” ‘No,” I say, “trichologist.” Then, not unreasonably… “what’s a trichologist?”
Another good question. Trichology (pronounced try-cology in case you wondered) is the science and diagnosis of the structure, function, diseases and disorders of human hair and scalp.
I started with Anatomy and Physiology which blew my mind and made me consider how we all managed to stay alive at all given the tight balance needed to maintain an equilibrium. I felt as if I were learning another language. Most of the words I couldn’t even pronounce, let alone remember what they meant…and what in earth did all this have to do with hair!
Anyway, I put every ounce of effort that I had into my first exam, and came out with a 70% mark. Seventy per cent? I couldn’t believe it. I felt as if I’d learned enough to get 200%!
It wasn’t much easier to get my head around the Chemistry module, but after my 98% pass I began to think I could handle this after all. Certainly, when it came to the chemistry of hair and beauty products I felt a lot more at home with and was pleased to find out I knew my stuff!
Nutrition was absolutely fascinating, you find out all of those reasons why your parents used to tell you that carrots make you see in the dark or you should eat your crusts to make your hair go curly…
It turns out that we grow 0.5 mm of hair per day. Multiply that by the 100,000 hairs on an average head and that’s around 50 metres of growth every day! Or, put another way, that’s equivalent to a filament of hair about as high as Nelson’s Column, or, very roughly, the Arc de Triomphe, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Every day.
And once I knew what’s supposed to happen when everything in our bodies is working well, I could begin to understand some of the effects on hair and skin when it isn’t – when something is missing or when our equilibrium has been upset.
Of course, as I’ve mentioned, I already had some clients with hair concerns and, luckily for me, they allowed me to use them as my case studies. One by one I documented every hair complaint I could find, sending off my research with a mix of re-recorded and live consultations and exams.
The end result is that foundation degree in trichology. And it all comes back to that 16-year-old, starting in hairdressing and always asking why things happen as they do.
And though I’ll never stop asking questions, at least I have some answers to my clients’ questions. And the healthier their hair is, the more they’ll love it.