A trichologist studies the hair and scalp to provide information about disorders of the hair and scalp as well as care of the hair and scalp. The trichology profession is regulated to varying degrees around the world, and there is some confusion about what trichologists do and the types of services they offer. As a general rule, people with serious scalp and hair problems need to see a dermatologist or a doctor, not a trichologist, while people with concerns like dry hair would see a trichologist.
Some members of the medical profession have studied trichology and may describe themselves as trichologists. For example, a dermatologist who focuses on hair and scalp disorders exclusively may offer services as a trichologist. He or she can offer medical treatment ranging from taking samples of ulcerations in the scalp to look for infectious agents to prescribing medications to manage hair and scalp problems.
Not all trichologists are members of the medical profession. A trichologist may work in a salon, providing advice to patients about hair and scalp care. This type of trichologist focuses on helping people grow healthy, strong hair, and he or she may recommend various hair care products, techniques, or regimens to benefit clients of the salon.
A trichologist may also conduct analysis of samples from the hair and scalp. Forensic trichologists have special training which allows them to test hair for drugs and trace amounts of medication, and to collect hair samples for DNA analysis. Forensic trichology can also include matching of hair samples, and the study of someone's hair to learn more about his or her lifestyle. For example, someone may have unusually dry, brittle hair which suggests outdoor employment, or someone's hair may contain traces of chemicals found in paint, suggesting that he or she is an artist; hair keeps an excellent record of the substances people are exposed to over time.
Trichologists can also work offering advice for hair and scalp issues such as encroaching baldness, scalp irritation, or brittle hair. They may conduct hair analysis to learn more about their clients, and they can assist with wig fittings and offer advice on cosmetic options ranging from hair plugs to hair colorings. This type of trichologist generally lacks medical training, although he or she may have completed a specialty program at a vocational school, and it is important for people who offer these services to be able to recognize medical conditions which need attention from a doctor.