Today, I want to continue with my review of London trichologists and whether investing into a trichology consultation is worth it for anyone dealing with persistent hair loss.
After my review of the Philip Kingsley Trichology Clinic, I want to talk about my experience with Sara Allison and the London Institute of Trichologists.
Let’s start with Sara Allison. Sara Allison was the first trichologist I saw about six years ago. She diagnosed me with chronic telogen effluvium, a long-term condition which, however, should be fully reversible if you identify and correct the underlining problem.
She had me have a comprehensive range of blood tests. This was very useful. She wrote a letter to my GP explaining why I needed these blood tests. Everyone who has ever dealt with hair loss knows how difficult it is to get doctors to take you seriously. Unless you have bald patches or your scalp shows through your hair in a way that can no longer be concealed, you would quite often hear the dismissive ‘your hair looks OK to me’. The fact that you might be having only a half of the hair density that you once had and the fact that they have no comparison since they don’t really know you, goes beyond them.
So for me, Sara Allison was very helpful by ordering those blood tests for me from the GP. She identified two major problems. Low ferritin stores and low vitamin D. Ferritin is essentially a measure of your iron stores that is available in your body. The problem here is that what is understood as acceptable levels of ferritin by GPs is not what is considered optimum by trichologists. There is evidence that in many women, low ferritin levels cause chronic hair shedding. I wrote a post about my struggles with increasing ferritin quite a while ago.
Vitamin D is also supposed to have some sort of a link to hair growth and nearly everybody living in countries that have a long winter is deficient. Low vitamin D is linked to low bone density, which means that supplementing is god for almost everybody.
Sara Allison was positive that she found the smoking gun and that I would achieve a good recovery. It made perfect sense. My hair shedding started at the age of 14, about two years after my periods. It seemed feasible that my ferritin levels were gradually dropping and eventually reached a point that was too low for my hair.
She also recommended food sensitivity testing, which I found quite useful as it gives you an idea, which food items might potentially cause you harm.
She talked me out of vegetarianism and really made me think about my protein intake. All of this had a substantial positive effect on my overall hair. Unfortunately, my hair didn’t respond.
However, there are two caveats. My ferritin levels, as far as I know, never reached the fully optimal levels. I struggled to increase my stores despite supplementation. The reason for that, I found eventually, was my high consumption of green tea.
The second caveat is that I have had extreme amounts of emotional and psychological stress throughout my life, which is believed to be a major trigger of all sorts of not only hair-related problems. I went through the trauma of a relationship with a narcissist and all that entailed (I do believe that it must have affected me epigenetically quite a bit), plus I already have a serious complex emotional and psychological trauma from my childhood. In the years after my consultation with Sara Allison, I went through a hell of a roller coaster of a full-blown CPTSD and a near breakdown. It is possible that if I were in a stable balanced situation, my hair today would be much better.
The downside of the consultation with Sara Allison was that she put me on a lot of overpriced supplements, including some multivitamin tablets, which exacerbated the symptoms of my fibroids and endometriosis.
I might go back to Sara Allison at some point to get a second opinion on the treatment I am currently having at Kingsley. Back then, she insisted that my diagnoses was purely telogen effluvium. My hair went downhill since then, and I would be curious whether she would today add the androgenic alopecia diagnoses as well.
To sum up:
Pluses: blood tests, holistic approach, food sensitivity testing
Minuses: In my opinion pushed quite a lot of overpriced products
Was it worth it? Yes, although I am obviously sad that my situation didn’t improve and kept worsening. The fact that I went through a major psychological trauma could be at least partly responsible, as well as my struggle to achieve optimum ferritin levels.
Institute of Trichologists:
I went to this place about six months before I went to Kingsley. They are sort of an overarching institution for everyone who identifies as a trichologist in the UK and they conduct a lot of the specialised training.
The major plus of this place is that they are three times cheaper than the other two I consulted.
They asked to see the blood tests and really thoroughly examined my scalp and my hair. Their conclusion was that I had chronic telogen effluvium and not androgenic thinning (which I would be diagnosed with six months later by Kingsley).
They said that my ferritin levels were a bit lower but found it unlikely that fixing them would stop my hair problems.
The doctor said that if I get into a psychologically more stable place, there might be an improvement but that I will likely always have hair shedding. She said that I would not get bald but that my hair might get shorter (in other words, it’s just going to get worse).
To sum up:
Pluses: The low price. It’s probably a good place to start with just in case you have obvious issues that might be mitigated. The ability to be honest with the opinion rather than selling products.
Minuses: I didn’t leave with any actionable information
Overall, I definitely do think that seeing a trichologist is worth it if you are dealing with persistent hair loss. The one thing that I absolutely believe in is regular blood testing and it’s a shame that it is so difficult to persuade GPs to do those tests. Frequently, you might need to pay for those by yourself and that gets costly. However, issues like vitamin D or thyroid problems, that trichologists look for, affect your overall health and not just your hair.
The fact that nothing of what I have learned from these consultations solved my problem doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t solve someone else’s hair issues. Hair loss is very multi-factorial. And I seem to be one of the difficult cases.
The caveat for me is the severe emotional stress that I was going through in those past years and, in fact, ever since my childhood as I am a child from a severally dysfunctional family.
My last test still showed sub-optimal ferritin levels despite supplementation and in fact, insufficient levels of vitamin D, again despite supplementation
I still have hope that perhaps a miracle might happen and that whatever bad genes got activated because of the trauma I’ve been through might switch off again. I am certainly not prepared yet to give up.