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The skinny on thinning hair

Q&A with leading trichologist, Iain Sallis, on the real reasons why your client’s hair could be thinning.

Sallis, Tangle Teezer’s go-to trichologist, is UK-based and the director of the Hairmedic Trichologly clinics and co-founder of the International Trichology Congress.

What’s the job description of a trichologist?

The definition of trichology is the study of diseases and disorders of the hair and scalp. A trichologist could be anyone from a hairdresser who takes an interest in the science and problems of hair, to the hair biologists who are at the very cutting edge of hair science – it all comes under the umbrella of trichology.

Personally, I am an investigator and problem solver. People come to my clinic with particular hair problems that cannot be corrected through orthodox channels, like your GP for instance. I’m a specialist, so I can spot subtle differences which may be missed by a GP or dermatologist.

What are the most common hair complaints in your clinics?

General hair thinning in females. This could be due to nutrition, hormones, mechanical trauma, genetics, medication, long term illnesses or any one of these exacerbating another.

All of the above can cause the hair to become finer, thinner and less voluminous than it once was. Approximately 1 in 3 women will suffer from hair thinning at some point in their life, so it is a very common issue which has no one set answer.

What’s your first piece of advice for women suffering from hair loss?

Get a diagnosis! Hair loss is multi-faceted and unique to each person, so if you are suffering from a low iron level, the shampoo you are using isn’t going to correct the problem – and no, it doesn’t even help!

The hair supplements people take are a blunderbuss approach, hoping that the stuff in them is the thing they are low in and so will eventually help. On rare occasions this may be the case, but it is unlikely anyone in the western hemisphere is suffering from biotin or selenium deficiency. Iron and protein are the two main supplements you should look at using and this is because the modern diet doesn’t have enough of these in them.

What’s the biggest hair myth?

There are literally hundreds of myths which surround hair, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some have a grain of truth. Hair turning white overnight, for example. This comes from people who have suffered such a severe shock that it induces a form of diffuse alopecia, causing all the pigmented (coloured hair) to fall out from the scalp over a period of days.

For reasons we don’t quite know of, non-pigmented hairs (white/ grey hairs) can be immune to this response, so these are left. The coloured hairs fall out and the white hairs are left – and as if by magic, a person’s hair turns white overnight!

And some myths are harmful – such as ‘this shampoo will help with your hair loss’. These are the ones I really don’t like!

How important is diet in maintaining good health and is there any wonder ingredient for hair?

Hair and health are inextricably linked. The best way to maintain hair as you get older is to ensure you are healthy and don’t rely on long term medications.

There is no ‘superfood’ for hair, but iron and protein are the main ingredients that are usually missing in a person’s diet when it comes to dietary hair loss.

Sulphur-rich amino acids found in red meat, eggs and oily fish are great for hair. If this type of diet is unattainable (vegetarians, busy lifestyle) that is where a good supplement will come in handy.

What’s the number one thing you can do for better hair (internally and externally)?

Internally – make sure you are as healthy as possible, it is boring, but it is so true. Smoking, obesity, malnutrition and long-term medication will all impact on hair growth to an extent.

Externally – treat your hair like a piece of clothing, make sure you do not over-bleach it and make sure you have a decent brush if your hair is fine or fragile.

How important is the right hairbrush for your hair type?

Immensely! There is no point to putting a massive amount of effort into diagnosis and treatment of the hair if all you’re going to do is use a 20-year-old radial brush that rips out 10-20 hairs every time you use it. Those 10-20 hairs soon build up!

Using a brush specifically designed to limit hair breakage from the natural traction imparted upon the hair, such as the Tangle Teezer’s Fine & Fragile Hairbrush (pictured above), will only help the hair in the long run, as there is less traction and friction.


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