Hair loss is a condition that affects more than 56 million men and women in the United States alone. As such a common occurrence, this means there are quite a few hair loss professionals – including doctors and specialists – whom might be able to help you.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to what a hair loss specialist is, and how they can help you. This will include a deeper look at the types of specialists commonly visited by those with hair issues (such as dermatologists, endocrinologists, and hair restoration surgeons).
In addition, I’ll outline how to prepare for and what to expect at your appointment.
What Is a Hair Loss Specialist?
In short, a hair loss specialist is a healthcare professional (who may or may not be a medical doctor) who specializes in alopecia and its causes.
In addition, they may be medical professionals who don’t exactly specialize in hair loss, but who is a specialist in the cause of a particular type hair loss (for example, an endocrinologist for hormonal hair loss).
What Type of Doctor Should You See for Thinning and/or Receding Hair?
As hair loss isn’t a field of medical practice, you won’t necessarily find a physician with such a title. However, there are many medical doctors – both general and specialized – who are considered specialists within the study and treatment of hair loss.
Primary Care Physician
The first place you should go is your primary care physician. As the provider of your general medical care, they may be able to offer insight into the cause of your hair loss, as well as refer you to the appropriate professional.
However, I urge you not to stop here and to seek the help of other professionals (such as those listed below) on your journey.
After all, a second (or even third) opinion cannot hurt and can only be more beneficial as you work to treat your thinning and loss.
The speciality in which you’ll likely have the most luck is dermatology. As dermatologists deal with all manner of skin disorders – including those that affect the hair follicles – they’re the most likely to have received specialized training in hair loss disorders.
What type of disorders can a dermatologist treat?
- Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA)
- Alopecia Areata (AA)
- Telogen Effluvium
- Lichen Planopilaris (LP)
- Congenital Atrichia
- Traction Alopecia
- Alopecia Totalis
- Cicatricial Alopecia
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and a board-certified dermatologist can help with a wide array of skin and hair conditions.
In certain cases, your primary care physician or dermatologist may refer you to an endocrinologist. This is done in cases where loss of hair is suspected to be caused by a hormonal imbalance.
A number of conditions, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and insulin resistance can trigger hormonal imbalances within your body which can lead to hair loss.
Additionally, particular life events (such as menopause) can also lead to decreased estrogen and progesterone. As a result, you may experience unpleasant side effects, one of which is hair loss.
As a specialist in such conditions, an endocrinologist may be able to 1) pinpoint the cause of your hormonal imbalance and 2) treat the imbalance through supplements or prescriptions.
While individuals with hormone-related hair thinning may have success following methods commonly used by AGA patients (such as microneedling and DHT blocking), it’s best to treat the issue at the source.
Hair Restoration Surgeon
Once you’ve gained a better understanding of the cause of your hair loss (either through your physician, dermatologist, or endocrinologist), you may find yourself visiting a hairline restoration surgeon. Unlike the above professionals who aim to diagnose and treat, these specialists are more likely to focus on surgical treatment approaches.
Surgical hair restoration methods include hair transplants and scalp reduction, but both of these procedures carry risk and are costly. In addition, neither of these approaches are permanent as they only cover the issue.
Instead, we recommend you take a non-surgical route to treating your hair loss.
Other Types of Professionals
On your treatment journey, you may find yourself interacting with various professionals in the healthcare field. While not all of them are medical doctors, many can still offer you valuable insight and treatment approaches.
Trichologists are typically dermatological professionals (such as estheticians) who specialize in the treatment of hair loss. Their approaches to treatment tend to be less focused on medications (as they’re unable to prescribe) and more focused on natural methods.
With a deep understanding of skin and hair health, a trichologist will likely recommend the use of targeted oils and extracts.
A licensed nutritionist, while not a medical doctor, is still a valuable addition to your hair treatment team. Instead of focusing on directly treating the issue, they focus more on what you eat and how it can affect your overall health (including hair growth).
Nutritionists with experience treating hair loss are out there. Such professionals will focus more on coming up with a dietary plan that will:
- Reduce diet-related nutritional deficiencies
- Improve your overall health and wellbeing
What a Specialist Doctor Can Do For You
Are you considering visiting with a specialist in the near future but you aren’t too sure that they’ll be able to help? Take a look at the three main things a hair loss specialist can do for you.
Assess and Diagnose Your Hair Loss
The first step in treating any medical problem is assessment and diagnosis. After all, only with a proper diagnosis in place can an adequate treatment method be recommended.
Using the medical history you provide, as well as the physical assessment performed in the office, a specialist can offer you a better understanding of your loss.
They can offer you insight into the cause of your hair loss, as well as the likely outcomes should treatment be delayed.
Offer Therapies and Prescribe Medications
Refer You for Further Testing
Sometimes, thinning and receding hair can be a sign of a larger health issue. In such cases, a specialist will be able to 1) recognize this and 2) refer you to the right medical professional for further testing.
When to See a Specialist
For best results, a specialist should be visited at the first signs of balding. These include:
- Excessive hair fall (especially noticeable on your pillow or in the shower drain).
- Hair thinning.
- A decrease in hair growth.
- A receding hairline (characterized by an M-shaped pattern).
However, you can also take a preemptive approach by visiting with a specialist before it even becomes noticeable. But why would someone want to do this? This can be a helpful approach if:
- Pattern baldness runs in your family.
- You’re on medications or undergoing treatment (such as chemotherapy) that are commonly associated with hair loss.
- You have a medical condition that commonly leads to thinning and hair fall.
By visiting with a specialist early, you can make a plan of attack for prevention and treatment. While further thinning may still occur, your preemptive approach can considerably lessen the overall impact.
What to Expect at Your Appointment
Whether you’ve scheduled your specialist appointment, or you’re curious about what to expect, here’s a breakdown of the general process and what you can expect at your first appointment.
An Intake Interview
The first thing the specialist will do is to perform an intake interview. This helps them to get a clearer picture of your medical history, your past and current health, and any external circumstances that may be causing or contributing to your hair problems.
The first part of this interview is typically performed at home or in the waiting room. A form will be provided, which you then fill out with basic medical information and any complaints related to your hair.
You’ll be asked to outline any particular symptoms, as well as a general timeline of hair loss.
The second part of the interview will take place with the specialist. Using your interview form, the specialist will touch on everything you’ve mentioned and ask you to expand on certain areas.
You may want to bring a list of concerns and questions with you to your appointment. These can also further help the specialist to get a clearer picture of the condition.
A Physical Assessment
With a better idea of what to look for, the specialist will now perform a physical assessment. You may have your vital signs taken (heart rate and blood pressure), and your scalp will be closely examined by the specialist.
A few things the specialist will be looking for include:
- Dryness and/or scaling
- Noticeable patterns of loss
- Hair follicle irritation/inflammation
- Low-quality hair texture
- Signs of infections (fungal or bacterial)
- Signs of dandruff/seborrheic dermatitis
- Excess sebum production
To further assist in the assessment of your scalp, the specialist may also perform a scalp biopsy. This is commonly performed by dermatologists and hair restoration surgeons.
It involves removing a small area of scalp (either through shaving or punch biopsy) which is then examined under a microscope.
Another test commonly used is a hair pull test (to determine whether loss is excessive), and your doctor may also use a densitometer to check for hair miniaturization.
A Blood Draw
If the specialist believes there is a deeper medical issue going on, or if they’d just like to have a look at your panels, a blood draw may be ordered.
The results of your blood tests can provide the doctor with a few helpful pieces of information. For example:
- Nutritional deficiencies (such as iron or Vitamin D)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Insulin resistance
- Autoimmune disorders
- Adrenal levels (such as cortisol)
While the results of a blood test won’t likely provide you with the full picture of the causes, they can aid your doctor in the process of diagnosis and treatment.
How to Prepare for Your Appointment
To get the most from your appointment, I recommend you plan ahead. Here are a few tips to get you started on your preparations:
- Avoid styling your hair prior to your appointment.
- Avoid the use of hair products (such as conditioners, gels, hair sprays, and serums).
- Jot down any questions or concerns and bring them with you.
- Bring any relevant health paperwork (such as lab results).
Not only will these preparations make the process simpler, but they can also lend themselves to improved assessment and diagnosis.
While hair loss can be a devastating experience, there are professionals who can help. Through assessment and diagnosis, you can then move forward with treatment and regain your hair (and your life).
Prior to undergoing a more mainstream medical treatment, however, I urge you to try a natural approach to hair growth. Many natural approaches can be just as effective (if not more so!) and have less risk and side effects associated with use.
In addition, these treatments treat the root causes. This is more effective than simply masking the issue (such as with hair transplants or Rogaine), and the results you’ll receive will be worth the bit of extra work.